What is Dallas’ obsession with building useless crap downtown?

Proposed Fair Park tower, from a pdf of a City of Dallas Landmark Commission agenda

The latest piece of useless downtown architecture is a ferris wheel approved by Dallas County Commissioners Court at Tuesday’s meeting. Another ferris wheel? Really?

First Dallas built that hideous new 1980s glass box of a hotel that’s attached to the Dallas Convention Center. How much more would it have cost to tell the architect to make the building attractive? Make it a place people will say, “Hey, I wanna stay there.”

OK. The lighting at night is interesting. But the architecture is as updated as the city’s other half-empty decades-old reflective-glass office towers.

Next, there’s The Bridge to Ray’s Gun Shop. That’s not the official name, just what the people at the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League are calling it.

Impressive close up; a meaningless non-golden arch from a distance. Iconic? Only because the Trinity River will be recognized around the world as the smallest trickle of water ever crossed by suspension bridge. And it’s destined to become a traffic nightmare each evening when six-lane Woodall Rodgers crosses the mighty Trinity River and backs up onto two-lane Singleton Boulevard in West Dallas.

For the same money we could have had two or three new bridges that crossed to where much of the traffic is actually going — Oak Cliff. Hopefully Ray, operator of the oldest sporting goods store in Dallas, will see an increase in business.

Now the Dallas Commissioners Court has approved a new ferris wheel for Founders Plaza.

Daniel Cates and GetEQUAL will have to find a new location for weddings, protests and other demonstrations.

A ferris wheel? Don’t we already have one of the largest — yet mostly unused — ferris wheels in the world a mile away in Fair Park?

OK, this one is being billed as a 17-story “observation wheel.” What’s an observation wheel? Well, it’s round and has baskets and rotates in a vertical circle. Like a ferris wheel. What about it is not like a ferris wheel? The baskets will be air conditioned and a ticket will cost $15. And unlike the Texas Star in Fair Park, it will be a sightseeing attraction. And the Texas Star? Well, that’s just a ferris wheel.

And if downtown is going to have a ferris wheel, then Fair Park must have an observation tower. This planned 500-foot needle will be nothing like downtown’s Reunion Tower. And it will never be built because Fair Park is on the glide path to Love Field and the FAA won’t approve it, but that’s beside the point. And unlike Reunion, this won’t have a restaurant and there won’t be an elevator.

The observation deck itself will ride up and down the spire. To see downtown. Which you apparently can’t do from the nearby ferris wheel — because 49 weeks a year, it doesn’t operate.

—  David Taffet