Arts District Makeover

Dallas Arts District plots makeover to better connect with downtown

Dallas Arts District plots makeover to better connect with downtown

Winspear Opera House in Dallas Arts District
The Dallas Arts District seeks a new plan to better connect hallmarks such as the Winspear Opera House (pictured) to the rest of downtown. Photo by Tim Hursley

The Dallas Arts District is giving itself a makeover, and it is searching for an urban planning firm to help with the design. This would replace the Sasaki Plan, which has guided development in the Arts District since the early 1980s.

Four firms have been selected as finalists:

  • NBBJ, Boston
  • Sasaki Associates, Watertown, Massachusetts/Fregonese Associates, Portland
  • Shop Architects, New York
  • Stoss Landscape Urbanism, Boston/Interface Studio LLC, Philadelphia

"This is a very exciting time to be in Dallas, especially with the growing and changing dynamics downtown," said Max Anderson, chairman of the board of directors of the nonprofit Dallas Arts District organization. "These four firms seem best able to capture the vision and spirit of the Dallas Arts District and provide a realistic and visionary platform for the decades of opportunity in front of us."

Key projects for the winning firm include finding ways to make Pearl Street more pedestrian- and visitor-friendly; finding safe connections between the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, the Arts District cultural venues and Klyde Warren Park; and making connections to all adjacent districts. The district contains approximately 138 acres.

The Sasaki Plan has been the current planning guide for the district for more than 30 years. It has not been updated since its creation. Updates were recommended in a plan created by Fregonese Associates in 2007; while accepted by the Dallas City Council, the plan never became law.

Property development in the area is expected to be brisk over the next 10 years, making a planning effort critical. Already, Lincoln Property is plotting a 23-story office tower at the corner of Woodall Rodgers Freeway and Pearl Street in the Dallas Arts District. That property sits next to the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center and is currently a half-acre green park with a giant red metronome. The land was sold rather secretly by the Dallas Symphony Foundation.

There were submissions from 11 firms, including OMA (founded by Rem Koolhaas), Bjarke Ingels Group, H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture, SHoP Architects and Stoss Landscape Urbanism.

The four finalist firms will come to Dallas August 20 to make presentations to an community advisory committee. The committee will make a recommendation to the Arts District Infrastructure and Planning Committee. The Infrastructure Committee and the Arts District Executive Committee will make the final selection in late August.

Once the firm is selected, the planning process will include the cultural, business, residential, City of Dallas, artist, transportation, urban planning, educational and religious communities in and around the Arts District. This will be done within the framework of the current Downtown Dallas 360 Plan adopted by the Dallas City Council in 2013, and in conjunction with the 360 Plan update process that is currently underway.

The Dallas Arts District, which is leading and funding the project, wants the selected firm to create a planning foundation to continue that momentum in a way that enhances the district's cultural assets, improves the urban infrastructure and connects with surrounding neighborhoods.