AT&T pushes Dallas toward more walkable, productive streets

(AT&T building in Dallas. Source:  Luismt94 )

(AT&T building in Dallas. Source: Luismt94)

Dallas News just reported a promising story about AT&T’s push to transform the Dallas downtown through narrower streets and the conversion of one-way streets into two-ways:

AT&T made the call in October to keep its headquarters in downtown Dallas by spending $100 million on its revamped campus. 

But the decision to stay in the city rather than flee to the suburbs was contingent upon several major requests, chief among them the significant alteration of some major downtown streets for a so-called "Discovery District" filled with shops, restaurants and other pedestrian-friendly amenities. [...]

All of the changes are significant, but the shrinking of Commerce Street will probably have the greatest impact. From Houston Street to Cesar Chavez Boulevard, the downtown thoroughfare will go on a so-called road diet, shrinking from four eastbound lanes to three.

A major corporation bends the will of a city to build safer, more walkable streets that will encourage economic growth? Three cheers for that. AT&T is one of many large companies choosing to locate in a downtown rather than on the suburban fringe as corporations once commonly did, in order to provide a more attractive environment for their employees. It’s indicative of a broader shift in America. Dallas News shared this quote from an AT&T executive about the effort:

 "We're grateful to Mayor Mike Rawlings and the Dallas City Council for their vision to improve downtown Dallas by supporting the AT&T Discovery District," said John Stephens, AT&T's chief financial officer. "We believe the Discovery District will be a welcome destination for future visitors, Dallas residents and downtown employees and bring multiple benefits to an area that's daily seeing positive changes for everyone."

Of course, let's not forget that there are also plenty of corporations that ask our towns to build low-value fast food restaurants and dangerous streets wide enough for semi-trucks, and local leaders are all too happy to bow to their wishes if it means immediate money in their pockets (not to mention a failure to calculate the true long-term costs.)

I hope more companies follow the lead of AT&T and other downtown-based corporations in deciding to locate in urban centers and helping to craft more economically productive downtowns by nudging local government in the right direction. I'm also thankful that it doesn't require the sway of a national company like AT&T to make that happen everywhere. As Strong Citizens, we should use our voices to advocate to build the sorts of streets, neighborhoods and towns we want to live in, knowing that it will benefit businesses, residents and generations to come.

(Top image from Google maps)

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