Hyper Density Hyper Landscape is a strategy and vision for Dallas’s future, one that reunites the city with its river and sets the stage for transformation starting now. HDHL intensifies the existing qualities of Dallas’s urban and natural landscapes and, in so doing, will help to realize the full potential of the region’s development opportunities and economic prosperity. HDHL is about dense city districts full of energy and exuberance, and intense landscapes that play many roles—social, economic, and environmental. It builds off Dallas’ entrepreneurship, natural resources, business acumen, and diverse urban lifestyles. HDHL is uniquely Dallas, re-imagined.
At the core of this approach are three new, dynamic, mixed-used neighborhoods interspersed within regions of variegated, programmed, and sustainable landscape. The expansion of the city grid and the city green has mutually beneficial properties that make Dallas more livable, but also more vibrant, accessible and competitive. At the center of this landscape is the old Trinity River, brought back to life as an innovative series of active public spaces, wetlands and gardens that double as water filters and flood basins. These new spaces will be inter-connected with a new light-rail system along Riverfront Boulevard and a pedestrian promenade suspended along the proposed toll-road, making the Trinity floodplain the most exciting public space in Texas.
This project intensifies the growing energy and vibrancy in the heart of Dallas, where people can live, work, and play, and thrives off the spontaneous and unexpected interactions among one another. It brings the experience of nature directly to their doorsteps, allowing for urban and landscape experiences not possible anywhere else, and filling in spaces (like transportation rights-of-way) that urban development cannot.
Hyper Density. Hyper Landscape. Hyper Connected. Dallas made new.
Along the Trinity and Riverfront corridors, and in the area running north to south along the eastern side of the levee, this proposal calls for an alternating pattern of “grid-green” development. Instead of evenly developing the available land, this project identifies important regions of urban development and open space, overcoming the challenges of developing such a dispersed and large landscape.
The new neighborhoods in this constellation are designed as extensions of existing ones in and around downtown Dallas by building strategic and physical connections across geographic barriers. Traditional infrastructural barriers - such as highways, rail corridors and levees - that block people from the river— are broken by thoughtful physical interventions likes bridges, decks, or air-rights transfers, or by surrounding them with landscaped forests that obscure them from view, clean their pollutants, reduce their noise, and—most importantly—create new spaces for recreation and culture. These new neighborhoods are anchored by signature institutions, including a new Maritime Museum, a high-speed rail station, and a new high-tech incubator campus, and are filled with active public spaces. All three districts have unique identities and profiles, continuing the city’s longstanding development of great neighborhoods.
Starting in the north, these neighborhoods include DeCCo (Design Crosses Commerce), which is a vibrant mixed used neighborhood that connects downtown with the emerging design district. In additional to abundant residential units, it also includes commercial and light-industrial spaces that draw from the city’s emerging tech and arts sectors and a signature urban beach, nestled in the neighborhood and overlooking the River. The Viaduct, which is an intense urban corridor along the Houston and Jefferson viaducts, extends the central business district towards the river, culminating in an outdoor venue, the Pump House Amphitheater. Towards the city, The Viaduct links the existing Union Station with a new high-speed rail station, a signature office tower, a commercial / retail center, a central plaza, a new tech campus, Reunion Tower, and the convention center. Finally, the Riverfront South bridges across the rail corridor to connect the South Side neighborhood to the Trinity and creates a southern anchor for Riverfront Boulevard. Characterized by attractive housing, water and music gardens, and two signature institutions, Riverfront South will become a very livable and attractive place for Dallas residents.
The foil to Hyper City is Hyper Landscape, which refers to a unique and innovative way of dealing with the ecology of the city. Large forest “fingers” extend the natural systems of the Trinity River towards downtown, providing shade and cover that the new Trinity River Park cannot. These are forests for people, to do things they cannot currently do in urban parks or in the bigger natural landscapes further away. The area is ecologically diverse and programmatically rich: it includes playful, active forests beneath highway interchanges; art walks between Dealey Plaza and the waterfront; working forests that clean air and water and double as new habitat; lush and exotic gardens with cafes and trails; and even an industrial zone to the south that cleans polluted air.
The Old River
The heart of these new neighborhoods and landscapes is a revived and revitalized Old River, transformed from lonely flood basins into a beautiful chain of parks and water gardens that re-connect people with the river that originally brought folks to Dallas. This project creates a water-management strategy focused around the Trinity River and flood protection. It re-works the water systems that move through the current “sumps,” holding more water in place; creating new urban amenities; improving its quality; and reducing overall volumes that enter the levee at flood stage. Storm-water runoff will serve as irrigation to the new urban forests. Water gardens with lush islands and floating cafes; water amphitheaters; water playgrounds; wet forests; a swimming beach; floodable sport courts; and new wetland habitats all create new life from Dallas’s ancestral source.
While this proposal is anchored by distinct new urban spaces, it’s also undergirded by a strong sense of how these new spaces are interconnected: with each other, with the rest of Dallas, and with the greater region. For example, The Viaduct site is anchored by a new high-speed rail station on a new public square in downtown Dallas, adjacent to the convention center and the Central Business District (CBD). The HSR will connect Houston and Dallas residents by a mere hour train ride, connecting the two most powerful economies in Texas. Likewise, the highways that fill the Trinity site will remain an important conduit; these new neighborhoods work in tandem with existing and future road projects by locating density in strategic locations, and interspersing water and plantings around the networks of roadways while maintaining their existing capacity.
At the same time, HDHL embraces multiple-modal transportation connection to spread the vehicular impact across many paths and modes of travel, reducing the number of trips and thereby protecting the natural environment. New streets, sidewalks, bike routes, and streetcars will connect the new neighborhoods with each other and with downtown. Along Riverfront, newly designed as a “complete street,” the ride from the Design District to New Riverfront South will be a rich tapestry of urban environments, natural zones, and gathering spaces.
Most excitingly, this proposal makes a bold suggestion to use the future toll-road’s foundation to support a Promenade along the entire length of the Trinity River Basin, characterized by an undulating wooden deck with multiple levels and sizes of spaces. The pathway will allow for recreational uses of all kinds. Anchoring the promenade is a necklace of lightweight “lanterns,” which organize vertical circulation and glow vibrantly at night, bringing Dallas’s attention to the contours of the Trinity River. By leveraging large public investments, the city can realize public benefits that will create economic and social benefits for decades to come.
Finally, the three new neighborhoods will be linked to central Dallas by a set of lightweight policy solutions. DeCCo will form the terminus of an art walk that starts in the Dallas Arts District, moves down Commerce, and concludes in the Design District. By locating large public art installations and attractive pathways to the west, the DeCCo neighborhood will feel connected to the rest of downtown Dallas. Likewise, at the end of the Viaduct is a new amphitheater space, surrounded by a large, sustainable water feature. The destination will help connect Dallas with the Trinity River via The Viaduct neighborhood.
Implementation and Innovation
This proposal is designed with an eye towards implementation. The vision of “Hyper City Hyper Landscape” is one many decades out, but it contains initiatives and projects that are discrete and realizable today. Urban strategy involves the shepherding of resources to projects that will in-turn realize other projects in a snow-ball effect of development and growth.
On top of this list is the promenade, which uses an existing capital project, the toll-road, as a financial foundation. With small modifications to this structure’s design, Dallas could have a new kind of public space that incentivizes new development in the Trinity Area. The outdoor spaces along the Riverfront—first on empty lots along Riverfront Boulevard and later along the Promenade--could be programmed with new festivals and large-scale events to signal a change in culture along the riverfront. The vision is bold and daring, but it will mobilize support and advocates in the regional community. The toll-road is a revenue positive endeavor that will unlock future value-added projects.
Similarly, key investments in public infrastructure, transit, and civic buildings can accrue naturally over time. Public dollars can focus on key improvements and zoning changes while the private sector developers can use these improvements to create livable, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. Small investments such as establishing tree nurseries or urban gardens can slowly build stock in the future while gaining visual improvements to the city today. These future neighborhoods are located on what are largely vacant or underutilized lands and can be developed piecemeal in the coming decades.
The design of these new districts will leverage a sophisticated awareness of sustainable infrastructure. Aside from being compact, walkable neighborhoods, DeCCo, The Viaduct, and Riverfront South can benefit from new technologies. For example, renewable energy development can be easily incorporated into the new buildings, including solar-thermal and photovoltaics, as well as ground-source heating. Each block could be linked via heating and cooling grids. With an eye towards the future, the city could invest in communication and utility corridors to support future advances in emergent technologies. Finally, the city can develop clear policies on building design and energy efficiency to help develop a story around carbon reduction.
The New Old River basins and gardens can proceed under the guise of the upgrade and expansion of the existing sumps—a short-term improvement project already scheduled for implementation. Designed as new public amenities, this initiative will layer in sustainable water strategies atop the flood control measures and will put in place a system of new open spaces that increase the values of the properties around them.
Hyper Density. Hyper Landscape. Hyper Connected. Dallas made new.