Friday, April 02, 2010

New Urbanism in an Old Urbanist Setting

I've lived in Garland for a long time now, but I haven't spent all that much time downtown. The area has experienced various degrees of "deadness" over the years, and when Firewheel Town Center opened back in '05, it appeared that the fake downtown would supplant the original one as the major center for activity in the city.

But Garland's a big place, and downtown always had a few cards to play (the DART station, the Granville Arts Center, the Plaza Theatre, and so on). And about a year ago, when I played a wedding reception at the Granville complex, I was able to observe the rise of a mixed-use development that's certain to help revitalize downtown: It's called Fifth Street Crossing, and it's up and ready to go.

The location really couldn't be better, as it's within easy walking distance (as in two blocks or less) of the three places listed above, as well as the downtown square, which seemed remarkably busy today. (Was it the holiday, or have things improved that much since the last time I was downtown?) I look forward to seeing what types of retail establishments go in the street-level spaces below the apartments, and the square and surrounding blocks are already home to some really good eateries, including Vetoni's on Main Street, where I ate last week, and the Corner Pocket Sandwich Shoppe, which was the site of today's lunch.

There's still a bit of work to be done in the surrounding area (the old freight rail station to the north of the property needs some big-time sprucing up), but the new development is an instant improvement to the area, and despite its new-ness, it blends in just fine with the surrounding architecture. And while the atmosphere is pretty subdued at the moment, as more people and businesses move in, downtown Garland should be hoppin' in a way that hasn't been seen in a long time.

My only gripe about all this? The prices, of course. I've long said that, as an unabashed New Urbanism fan, I'd consider living the lifestyle myself if a few things could happen: 1) I could afford a Wenger module to dampen the sounds of my practicing ( this would be a prerequisite of my ever sharing internal walls with another household), and 2) I could afford the residences themselves. A look at the floor plans for Fifth Street Crossing reveals an unfortunate truth: Their least-expensive unit (an efficiency) is a shade less per month than my mortgage payment, but it's also around half the square footage of my house. Meanwhile, their unit that comes closest to my house in square footage (but still falls short) is $600 a month more than my mortgage. (And yes, I probably wouldn't consider this place specifically since it's all rentals, and, being firmly ensconced in the world of homeownership, I still view renting--where, at the end of the day, you end up with no equity to show for your years of payments--as a step backwards. But it's not like I could afford a Southlake Brownstone or any other resident-owned New Urbanist dwelling, either--not unless my salary magically sextupled overnight.)

So, while I may not be able to afford to live this lifestyle anytime soon, I'm still going to patronize places like this and sing their praises in places like this blog and Twitter. These places are great for the community, and I'll do what I can to walk the walk (often literally) and spread the word.

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