Dallas eyes boost to downtown core

DALLAS -- A new development code may help open doors to new stores in downtown.

DALLAS -- A new development code may help open doors to new stores in downtown.

The Dallas City Council and Dallas Planning Commission held a joint meeting earlier this month to discuss updating the city's development code. The goal is to modernize the downtown area and to possibly have greater influence over what kind of businesses move in to town.

City Manager Jerry Wyatt said the development code was originally written in 2000 and has since been updated twice. It includes information for those who want to build in Dallas on topics such as land use and zoning designations and allowed retail uses.

Members of the council and the planning commission expressed a desire to use the code to better influence certain retail businesses to develop in the downtown area and create more foot traffic.

"It was good to hear some of the concerns coming from the city council and planning commission in one meeting," Wyatt said. "And some codes do have very strict guidelines about what can be in certain districts."

City Councilor David Shein said examples of the types of businesses they would like to see in the downtown core include a bakery, camera store or ice cream shop. These businesses are sustainable and will draw residents and tourists and offer specialized services not found at big box stores.

Wyatt said the new code the city is working on will not regulate which businesses can and cannot settle downtown, but it could place size and element restrictions and design guidelines in certain zones. For example, placing a size restriction in the area would encourage more boutique stores than big-box stores.

One of the main problems with the current code is that it is vague and can be confusing, Wyatt said. The new one will migrate from its one-size-fits-all policy to focus on influencing certain types of businesses into different areas of the city. Wyatt said there will likely be different restrictions and regulations for north Dallas and the downtown area.

"It will remove some of the barriers to make it easier to get businesses into the places we want them to be in the long term," Shein said.

However, a new code alone will not revitalize the downtown district, Shein said.

A new streetscape planned for Main Street, clean-up crews, tax incentives and the facade loan program are all in place to boost progress.

City Councilor Brian Dalton said the downtown area hit a low point in the 1990s as it had many vacant buildings and lacked appeal.

Dalton has been in the forefront of a group trying to bring the area back to its glory days after World War II. At that time, the area was abuzz with customers milling about self-sustaining clothing, furniture and shoe stores, as well as restaurants.

Despite the current effort, Dalton said the revitalization will take time.

"Fixing a downtown like this is an incremental thing," Dalton said. "It didn't fall into decline overnight and it's not going to be fixed overnight."

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