Planning & Urban Design

CityDesign Studio

West Dallas Urban Structure and Guidelines

West Dallas area

The Studio's first major project focused on a portion of West Dallas. Bounded by the Trinity River levee at the North and East, I-30 to the South and Sylvan to the West, this area also sits at the western foot of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. The area is 0.747 square miles with a population slightly over 2,000. West Dallas is in close proximity to downtown, the Design District, and Victory Park. The area has many vibrant neighborhoods and provides jobs to hundreds of people.

Planning Approach

With the completion of an iconic bridge and the area's proximity to the Trinity River Corridor Project, it was clear that change to this portion of Dallas was inevitable. The question at hand was how this change could benefit all involved. The City of Dallas saw this as an enormous opportunity to challenge some of its traditional planning and development models, and work with a community to define a new way of redeveloping our city.

For over 18 months, the City​design Studio engaged in a community-based planning effort. The Studio team met with business owners, residents, landowners, investors and community stakeholders to understand the desired vision for the area. The Dreaming Session was the first step in this process.

The Dreaming Session was led by Larry Beasley at St. Mary of Carmel. A cross-section of people attended. In this initial step, participants had the opportunity to dream: widely, creatively and publicly.

The Design charrette was the second step in the process. Using the ideas generated at the Dreaming Session, the charrette brought clarity and focus to the vision. The participants were broken into groups consisting of a designer, city official, resident and stakeholder.

The next step involved going into the community to involve more residents, business, property owners and community stakeholders. The CityDesign team met with residents in a variety of places from living rooms, churches, community centers, back yards, and even McDonald's. The Studio partnered with the La Bajada neighborhood association and Vecinos Unidos to engage residents; and a second design workshop was also held to further generate ideas from participating community residents. The Studio also partnered with the West Dallas Chamber and Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce to target business owners in area. Using ideas from over 40 meetings held in the community, the Urban Structure and Guidelines were crafted.

The West Dallas Urban Structure and Guidelines have seven fundamental objectives:

  1. Preserve, enhance, conserve the La Bajada community in its entirety;
  2. Allow for incremental rehabilitation and infill redevelopment of properties east, west, and south of new neighborhood spine as demand emerges;
  3. Create a new neighborhood spine street south of Singleton on Herbert Street with high-density mixed-use clustered along it;
  4. Re-create Singleton Boulevard and Commerce Street as handsome "parkway" streets entering the inner city;
  5. Step-down in density from the new neighborhood spine east, west and toward La Bajada;
  6. Development of three to four (3-4) active mixed-use nodes at major intersections and;
  7. Create a high-density, residentially focused neighborhood along the levee with connections into the Trinity Park.

The West Dallas Urban Structure and Guidelines is an alternative to traditional local planning tools. It advances the goals of the city's comprehensive plan, forwardDallas!, and lays out a path for the flexible and dynamic evolution of this part of the city over time. The Guidelines represents a shifting perspective, not only in the process of the planning efforts, but also in the type of development envisioned. Design plays a critical role in developing the fundamental objectives of the Structure.

The Guidelines do not change any zoning. It provides a conceptual rendering of future development and indicates phasing of growth. As potential projects come forward, the City of Dallas will use these Guidelines to determine the project's support for the area's long-term vision. At that time, zoning changes can occur and specific development needs discussed in order to produce the most appropriate solution and benefit for the area. Proposals consistent with these Guidelines will be expedited. Inconsistent development proposals will be reviewed further to determine their contribution toward achieving the vision. This approach strives to strike a balance between the flexibility needed to adapt to market conditions as they unfold and the predictability necessary to create stability in the marketplace. Balancing the interests of current and future stakeholders, while maintaining dedication to the vision, is essential to maintain the necessary flexibility to keep the Guidelines relevant over time. The processes behind these opportunities offer a unique way to achieve the spirit of the vision for this area while allowing consideration of many variations.


The West Dallas Urban Structure and Guidelines was adopted by Dallas City Council in March 2011.

View the powerpoint presentation at the City Council briefing.
View the City Council Public Hearing on March 9, 2011. Urban Structure is item #53; starts at 1:03 on second portion of the video.
Listen to the City Council Public Hearing on March 9, 2011. Urban Structure is item #53; starts at 52minutes on 2 hour and continues to 3rd hour.

Successful implementation to achieve the community's vision will require diligent efforts on behalf of the community and the City.