Monday, May 05, 2008

Columns sight previously unseen

Author's Note: Since I have no clue whether anything I forward to the Dallas daily paper, as a guest columnist, ever makes it into print, or why it doesn't, this seems to be the only outlet to get them into public. Very unsatisfactory but politics seems to trump humor or common sense ot taste, here they are.
Where the streets have no (right) name
A recent “Sounding Off” question in the pages of the Dallas Morning News concerned street names, possible changes and confusion that could be avoided with a name change … or 10.
My answer was quite simple: choose one of the three names currently in use for Plano’s 15th Street (Whitsitt Parkway, 15th Street, FM 554), settle on one of them and remove the others.
Yes, it IS confusing, but no more so than scores of other places in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where you need more than a road map or Mapquest or the latest GPS tracker to find the proper route to your destination.
For example, if you live out-of-town and want to visit Dallas … and I supply you with the following directions, “Take the Julius Schepps to the Woodall Rodgers, then proceed up Stemmons to the Airport Freeway, but cut over at Walton Walker to John Carpenter,” could you do anything but get terribly lost?
As a Collin County resident, do you know the locations of either the Marvin D. Love Freeway or the Gus Alexander Freeway? (Answer: They’re both U.S. 67, south from Interstate-35).
That’s because none of those thoroughfares have signs identifying them as being named that way. Seriously, check it out; you won’t find anything designating those freeways for visitors … or even longtime residents. Yet, rush hour radio traffic reporters employ these names to tell you where the three-hour backups exist.
Oh yes, my directions were to go north on Interstate-45 South, take the I-35 connection through downtown to I-35 North to Denton until you reach Highway 183, going to Irving. Get off on Loop 12 North for just a very short bit and head north on Highway 114 … like you’re going to Grapevine.
Those are the names you understand every day. It makes more sense because it’s part of our normal language. Until Jerry Jones discovers a means to sponsor Central Expressway (I imagine someone in his office is doing just that). DART unsuccessfully tried a decade ago to sell sponsorships on the overpasses, but that’s another story …
In Plano, Greenville Avenue is called K Street and other streets have often seen name changes. In 1976, for the Bicentennial, Armstrong Parkway became Independence Parkway, and later, Carpenter Drive turned into Legacy Drive for that development. In 2001, an attempt to rename Parker Road to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was discussed at a public hearing, but was taken off the board.
Which brings us to the Texas Gulf Coast community of Lake Jackson; population 27,000, and hometown to Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul. I spent half a year in that delightful city before moving to North Texas and driving there was an adventure to say the least – purposely planned that way by the town’s architect.
Lake Jackson was constructed as a company town for the new Dow Chemical plant built in the early 1940s. The man whose vision was used was Alden B. Dow, who thought himself to be the second coming of Frank Lloyd Wright … for cities. He didn’t want an ordinary community for his employees; he wanted something special and different.
So he did three unique things when he laid out Lake Jackson. First, none of the streets are straight; there are curves at least every quarter mile and everything winds and bends their way through the town. This helped preserve as many trees as possible and Dow wanted to give people a sense of adventure (“not know what was ahead for them”) as they traveled through.
Second, all the original street names are based on something that grows – plant, fauna, tree and flora. Hence, it is not unusual to find addresses with the names Sycamore, Acacia, Nasturtium, Hybiscus or Ligustrum. Giving directions could be quite a mouthful.
Finally, the “downtown” area was totally unique. It is shaped like a pinwheel or the spokes of a bicycle wheel and they all possess the word “way” in them. Circle Way encircled that part of Lake Jackson, West Way travels (naturally) westward, Parking Way leads to a major parking lot and Winding Way does what the name implies – it winds. Center Way cuts the city in half. A church is located on “His Way” and you might wind up on “Any Way” ... anyway you turn.
There is literally, and figuratively, a “This Way” and “That Way.” When I was there, it would drive people batty when you answered the question, “Which way did I go?” with the response, “The corner of This Way and That Way.”
They thought I was either a fool or a liar.
Or that I lived in Dallas.
In defense of Allen, Texas
As a resident of Plano, I have no horse in the May 10 Allen (Texas) mayoral race between incumbent Steve Terrell and challenger Mark Pacheco. But as a former employee who spent more than two years working in the city of Allen, I take some offense with some of the language used in Sunday’s endorsement editorial (in the Dallas Morning News) about the community.
First, Allen does not suffer as “image-deficient” – a terrible choice of words to say the least. If you ask people outside of Texas, or outside of North Texas, what imagine is conjured by the words, “Plano, Texas,” few are seen as positive. Terms like “snobbish” are often employed and images of children dying from heroin overdoses (rightfully accurate or not) are first to be brought forward.
The discussion of how to bring DART’s light rail service to Allen did not begin yesterday. It has been subject to ongoing community and council debate for more 10 years. It was a regular part of council agendas when I was covering those meetings at the turn of the decade.
However, it was always the insistence of DART of retroactive tax payments for Allen’s non-inclusion that kept the city from even considering transferring one of its sales tax options from community use to DART. Besides, the will of the citizenry was that sales tax fund usage remain within the city of Allen and produce exactly what it was originally meant to do – enhance community developments such as one of the best new library-community center facilities in North Texas and a parks system second to none in Collin County.
While we can debate the quality of “transit-oriented development” along DART’s Red Line, Allen is NOT without its retail and commercial growth. The Allen Premium Outlets is one of the best retail attractions in Collin County, having tripled its size and number stores since opening in 2001. A new retail megacenter (Village at Allen) is in the construction process across U.S. 75, which will also house a sports complex and arena.
This newspaper recently did a major business section story about Watters Creek at Montgomery Farm, a major urban mixed-use development, which will sport many retail names (Cheesecake Factory, Borders, Banana Republic, Sephora, Chico’s, Ann Taylor Loft, Eddie Bauer) not seen a few miles to the north in “spiffy” McKinney. In fact, this new Borders will be the only major retail frontline book store located on U.S. 75 between the Collin-Grayson border and south Plano.
A closer examination of Allen also reveals several major corporate employers, including Sage Telecommuni­ca­tions, Experian, Color Dynamics, Sanmina SCI, Celerity and Photronics. HIT Entertainment, located on Greenville Avenue, in the heart of Allen, is the original home to children television’s characters, Barney and Wishbone. These businesses might not have the pizz-zazz of EDS or Frito-Lay, but they form a strong backbone for the Allen community in terms of employment and tax base. They ARE major “high-end” employers and they are already located in Allen.
Just because Allen is not the size population size as its neighbors does not mean its growth is less dramatic. In 1990, the population sat at 19,000; increased a whopping 122.6 percent in that decade and then another 68.2 percent to 2006’s estimate of 73,248. The estimated median household income in 2005 stood at $82,001 (up from $78,924 in 2000) and the estimated median home value in 2005 was $177,300 (up from $142,400 in 2000). It is obvious even higher in 2008.
Almost half the city’s population above age 25 holds college degrees and 85 percent of those who live in Allen do so in what can be called traditional family households (two married spouses with children).
This has been due, in most part, to the steady, conservative, controlled growth and strong adherence to the city’s master plan, overseen by one of the best city managers in this state, Peter Vargas. His hiring from the city of Laredo in the early 1990s can be directly linked to Allen’s growth and maintenance as a fine place for families to live, work and shop.
Allen has never wanted the runaway expansion of a Frisco nor has it possessed the boundary capacity for growth of either Plano or McKinney. It has chosen its developments carefully, and, in my eyes as an outside observer, wisely. It has always been a wonderful place to work and visit.
Who ends up becoming mayor makes no difference to me. However, Allen, Texas is not second-stringer as a community – socially, economically or culturally. It deserves far more respect than to be seen as standing in any other city’s “shadow.”

1 comment:

Jodie said...

Thanks for posting!