Dallas has aspired to be an “international” city for a long time and always looked to other cities for inspiration. Now New York is looking to Dallas.

The New York Times has run extensive coverage of the Arts District and the opening of the Ma Bell Performing Arts Center:

Verdi’s Moor, Edgy in Cyprus or Dallas

Cool or Classic: Arts District Counterpoints

Dallas to Dazzle With New Performing Arts District

A Curtain as Ambitious as Its Stage

Despite Dallas’ outsized claims, New York is taking notice.

Outsized claims? Here’s the claim: Dallas has the largest arts district in the country.

True if you count acres of parking as part of the arts.

Not true if you count venues.

Dallas has three museums in the Arts District. Washington’s Smithsonian includes 19 museums.

Dallas has three performing arts buildings (five venues if you add the City Performance Hall that will open in a few years and the Annette Strauss Artists Square outdoor space that will reopen next year). Broadway has more than 30 theaters.

But it’s not all zoned for the arts in those other cities, the argument goes. There are other things between the theaters on Broadway.


But my point is how other cities, particularly New York, are sitting up and taking notice. And not just about the iPhone Service Provider Performing Arts Center.

Last year, New York opened the High Line. Built on an abandoned elevated subway line that runs down the West Side through Chelsea and the Village, the High Line now is a long, landscaped, elevated park designed for walking, skating and bike riding. Sound familiar? They credit Katy Trail for inspiration.

No one thinks of Dallas as a model for public transportation. No one, apparently, but the granddaddy of public transportation in the United States — the MTA.

New York’s subway system is over 100 years old. But with the opening of the Green Line, which actually pushes Dallas to the top tier of cities in miles served by rail, New York is again getting inspiration.

A new plan to close New York’s 42nd Street to cars and run a street-level light rail line cross-town cites DART and surrounding developments:

Without Cars, a Different Sort of 42nd St.

In the article, they note, “light rail lines in Dallas had stimulated more than $1 billion worth of development.”

New York has always suffered from a superiority complex.

(And before any one calls me out on that, I grew up in New York. Graduated from Roosevelt High School in Yonkers and SUNY Albany. Still have relatives on Lawn Gisland. Still lapse back into my Bronx accent when I’m tired.)

Manhattan residents really don’t know what’s beyond the Hudson or East Rivers and I was raised believing Times Square was truly the center of the world.

New York has never looked at other cities (other than maybe Paris or London) for ideas or inspiration. I find it fascinating that they’re taking such a close look at Dallas.

So as someone raised there and for the last 30 years lived here, here’s my suggestion for their next close look:

Tear down those three crappy airports and start over. A decent airport in the city would make a difference.

And here’s my hope for the Arts District — continue adding museums until we have more than Washington, invite the Design District’s galleries to move down to fill space all around the area and build more theaters until we surpass New York. I’d love Dallas’ claim to be true on all accounts.

— David Taffet

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