Across from City Hall in downtown Dallas, a sophisticated model for next-generation sustainable urban development is about to rise from a parking lot. The visionary project began with an international design competition, Re:Vision Dallas, organized by San Francisco-based Urban Re:Vision. The 2.5-acre full-block project will supply all of its own renewable energy. It's intended as a model for creating socially, economically, and environmentally healthy and self-sustaining places around the globe; project requirements included enough garden space to feed about 300 inhabitants, 40% affordable housing, and an educational facility. The winning submissions include features such as visible cutting-edge water and energy systems, vertical farming and slow-food restaurants; one has a "grain field providing seasonal vegetation for livestock grazing in the sky pasture."
Three finalist teams – which all created futuristic architectural plans – now have been selected from hundreds of competing architecture and planning firms in 26 countries. (View their designs at www.urbanrevision.com/dallas.) The design jury included two Austinites: Pliny Fisk, director/co-founder of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems, and Sergio Palleroni, director/co-founder of the BaSiC Initiative at University of Texas, as well as Dallas community leaders and other internationally known architects and community planners.
The three finalists awarded cash prizes: Forwarding Dallas (Portugal), chosen for European-style massing, vegetated screens, and innovation; Entangled Bank (North Carolina), selected for striking full-block massing and arrangement of sustainable systems; and Greenways Xero Energy (San Francisco), chosen for creating a sense of community with bold greenway plans. The Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, a "grassroots, faith-based" organization focused on affordable housing, is the project's lead developer. It's now deciding whether to select a single team or pursue a collaborative effort by the three finalists. It also has requested bids from a private developer partner; ground breaking is planned for late 2010.
At the competition kickoff last December, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert hosted leading urban planners and design professionals for an intensive design charrette organized by Urban Re:Vision. He expressed a goal that "Dallas be at the forefront of design, sustainability, and vibrancy of cities." Leaving Austin in its dust, we gather. Could our city do something equally cool and creative with Project Green, the redevelopment of the city-owned water-treatment plant site Downtown? We asked Perry Lorenz and Tim McCabe, the developers selected for that project, for a reaction to Re:Vision Dallas. Lorenz promised to take a careful look. "It was a great process, and the result is stunning," said McCabe, who was familiar with the design competition; he's leading Project Green for Trammell Crow, which is now negotiating with the city of Austin to buy the land.
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