What’s wrong with these pictures?

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…

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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.

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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’.


FasTracks Looming Heart Attack

We all love FasTracks.  For some it is happening slower than we’d like, for others it’s costs are hard to accept, and for many of us the ongoing construction is bothersome.  Generally, however, we know this is a good thing for Denver Metro.  When we look at FasTracks and all of its corridors reaching into places like Lone Tree, Aurora, Lakewood and Westminster, we see an emerging comprehensive system that provides us with more choice for moving around our great city.  The East Corridor offers one of the more regional attractions in the airport of course, and I, for one, could not be more excited about this.  As a transit advocate, and specialist in transit-served commercial real estate, I have always believed serving DIA is an all too important component for a comprehensive system in Denver.  Clearly, we are getting there, but with all progress comes new challenges.

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Courtesy www.Denvergov.org

One particular item that was once just a small enhancement to FasTracks is now becoming a huge missing link in the system – the Central Corridor Extension (CCE).  Described in the FasTracks plan as a 0.8 mile light rail extension along Downing Street connecting the rail on Welton to the East Corridor at the 38th and Blake station, it seemed somewhat minor when compared to the West Corridor or I-225 Corridor, and rightfully so.

Central Rail Extension Map
Courtesy www.rtd-fastracks.com

The scale of the CCE was small, it’s connection to communities underserved by transit was small and the story of the CCE not poised to be politically charged in comparison.  Today, however, the world is a different place.  We now have an operating West Corridor, an I-225 Corridor under construction, East Corridor, Gold Line and part of the US36 Corridor under construction, and ground was recently broken on the North Metro Line.  All of a sudden transit mobility is happening everywhere and the fingers of FasTracks are beginning to extend for more and more people.  We can now see a day when suburban Thornton residents will be able to access jobs in Downtown Denver without a car, a day when bicyclists in Lakewood can access a Central Park bike event in Stapleton, a day when the region can move in and out of DIA without a car.  A day of a true transit circulatory system.

This day is coming, but is now haunted by what may become a heart attack – completing a robust and intelligent CCE.  With all of the transit access coming, with all of the new trips that will be generated throughout the Metro area, the focus quickly becomes what was missed.  CCE, albeit small, is a vastly important piece of FasTracks.  The CCE is the missing link to make Downtown Denver a more fluid environment for offering us the ability to leave our car at home.  Without the CCE, we must access Downtown in only two places: Denver Union Station from the north and east and through the Convention Center area from the south.  Without CCE there is no regional access into northeast Downtown Denver.  No regional access to Civic Center Park, to Broadway, to Uptown, to RTD’s Civic Center Station, to the light rail tracks already serving the middle of the city.  Further, without a robust CCE, even having rail on Downing Street presents undesirable challenges for regional mobility.

RTD is working to resolve this problem by studying alternatives for the CCE and moving forward with a short term and long term strategy.  Continue to look to DenverUrbanism and blacklabelre.net for continual updates about the CCE project and some of the other exciting and original news about Five Points.  To dig in deeper, check out this video of RTD’s first meeting about the CCE provided as a link from the Central Corridor project website:

Denver Union Station Nearly Complete

BLACK LABEL was part of a walking tour of Denver Union Station recently as part of the TOD Committee of the Urban Land Institute Colorado.  After several years and nearly $500 million, the underground bus facility and rail platforms are nearly complete.  In a few weeks AMTRAK service will begin, and in a few months the Union Station building will celebrate its grand opening.  It is truly an exciting time to be in Denver now that we will enjoy a major metropolitan transit hub offering higher mobility choices to us all.


Enjoy these exclusive photos taken inside the underground bus facility and grounds around the rail platforms.  Be proud of the City of Denver, the Regional Transportation District, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the State of Colorado.

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BLACK LABEL is proud to be a leader in TOD and excited that Denver Union Station will bring tremendous value to our clients.