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Direction of Dallas and Urban Growth

New Geography

Originally Posted: Feb. 23, 2019

Should the direction of Dallas urban growth continue to grow north? Does inserting low-income housing in North Dallas create an inclusive urban growth direction for Dallas? Does the direction of Dallas and its current goal of moving low-income wage earners closer to higher wage jobs in North Dallas increase or decrease wealth for low-income families? The SMU/George W. Bush Institute Conference, Policies to Promote Inclusive Urban Growth, was a meaningful conference on the direction of Dallas and cities and gave clues to all these questions.

The information and insights provided built on and went beyond the New Cities Conference held a few years ago in Dallas, the Festival of Ideas Conference in Dallas, and the 2.0 Cities section of talks at the main TED Conference. Cullum Clark, Director of the Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative and adjunct professor of Economics, along with Joel Kotkin, Executive Director, Center for Opportunity Urbanism, and Joseph Cahoon, Professor, Director of Folsom Institute of Real Estate, did a remarkable job of curating the speakers and participants along with presenting a preview and summary of the key points of the discussion regarding urban growth and the direction of Dallas. I have always thought that the success of Dallas came from the city pursuing best policies for growth rather than replicating other cities’ best practices for bad policy. This conference reconfirmed this thought.

Here are some of the ideas that resonated with me, provoked questions, or validated my previous ideas about the direction of Dallas and how best to achieve inclusive urban growth.

Middle-Income Neighborhoods are Fragile and Should be the Highest Priority

I have been very aware that all city neighborhoods are fragile. This conference made me even more acutely aware of the fragility of middle income neighborhoods.

Having been raised in Hinsdale, a village west of Chicago, the first session featuring Chicago was of particular interest to me and a good starting point for discussion of cities and the direction of Dallas.

From 1990 to 2010, the number of low-income neighborhoods in Chicago rapidly expanded, high-income neighborhoods expanded and stayed strong, and middle-income neighborhoods almost disappeared. An economic neighborhood map of Chicago was the perfect way to begin the conference. It was the foundation of a subtle theme expressed throughout the day. Middle-income neighborhoods are the most fragile, the most difficult to create, and the most important to a city. It is the middle class neighborhoods that are the lobby for schools, parks, services, and amenities, areas often ignored by those in the poor and rich neighborhoods. Middle income neighborhoods are made up of people that make a city run: shopkeepers, small business owners, tradespeople, school teachers, firemen and police. It is interesting that Chicago is third in the nation behind New York and Seattle for its number of construction cranes, but in my mind still a failing city. READ MORE