Black Label – another urban walkabout.
While in Dallas I’ve tried to visit some of the local hotspots to get a feel for the local vibe and to learn something new. Although there are several attractive places in the Dallas area, in two of their hotspots (Addison Circle and Uptown Dallas) I was surprised by the lack of humans on the street. Addison Circle and Uptown Dallas are wonderful neighborhoods with urban housing, office space, retail, beautiful streets and sidewalks, and all of grandeur described by New Urbanists as the requirements of quality urban places. But, there were no people… No dogs being walked… No joggers… No moms on walks with strollers… No small business people at tables with laptops… No laughing groups of urbanites sharing stories… No fun times had by people on patios…
Yes, it was a Wednesday, but it was lunchtime (1:00 p.m.) and the weather was splendid, 85 degrees with a light cool breeze flowing. There were no shortage of cars moving about – yet the sidewalks were dead, the patios barren. This struck me as amazing because here in my home base of Denver at lunchtime you rarely find an unused urban patio, you rarely see urban sidewalks without runners, strollers and walkers – Denverites use their urban space. If there is sunlight, people get out, people get moving – by foot. This is also true of many other places outside Colorado which Black Label has explored in other urban walkabouts.
Perplexed, I stopped into a local bar/restaurant in Uptown Dallas to inquire about what I was seeing and talked to a man in the know – Michael Casteel of Three Sheets bar. After sharing my observations I learned that the local vibe is mostly driven by happy hour, to which I followed with the obvious question, “Why are any of these places open for lunch?” It seems Three Sheets just started opening for lunch a few weeks ago and most of the places weren’t open midday at all. It remains amazing to me that such high quality urban places go underutilized until it’s time to drink a cocktail. I think of all of the urban planners, architects and engineers, developers, venue owners, landscapers, etc. that work to create and maintain these attractive places simply to be reduced to happy hour.
Addison Circle and Uptown Dallas are wonderful. The streets are comfortable, the landscaping is well-maintained. They are both places I will continue to visit – and ultimately, I don’t think they are the problem. My observation is that the culture in Dallas, if it is truly just a happy hour vibe, is missing the boat. I would encourage Dallas urbanites to take your laptops to any one of those unused patios and use that space to generate new ideas. I encourage office working groups to leave their cubicles and occupy the streets and local venues, during the workday, and translate that urban energy into productive results. I encourage the people of Dallas to show their culture and spirit midday, on the sidewalks, where people were designed to be. Happy hours are nice, but those streets are made for walking’ those patios are made for talkin’.