The tightly knit urban fabric of old Dallas was destroyed in the 1960s and 70s in an attempt to adapt to suburbanization. Interstate highways were rammed through the core of the city. City streets were converted to one-way thoroughfares to help commuters speed to work downtown and back. Neighborhoods were cut off from one another; many in Old East Dallas, South Dallas, and Southern Dallas were left to die.
The construction of I-30 in 1964 split East Dallas, leaving desolation in its wake. The building of I-345 required the bulldozing of 54 blocks of Deep Ellum, once one of the nation’s most vibrant centers of black culture and separated it from downtown. Also in 1971, the construction of I-45 as a elevated highway wiped out the thriving community of Spence, described in the Dallas Morning News at the time as a “modest neighborhood of well-kept shotgun houses served by over one hundred businesses.” The North Dallas Tollway connection to downtown – McKinnon and Harry Hines – in 1970 wiped out Little Mexico, and Woodall Rodgers in 1980 destroyed what was left of Freedman’s Town.
Our city must be made whole again. Our problems are many, but foremost among them is the design of the city. Without redoing this design and reconnecting our neighborhoods, all efforts are piecemeal. The key challenge of our generation is to tear down the physical barriers that separate us and restore our urban fabric so our city can once again become the lodestar and bustling center of a thriving region. Until we undertake this challenge, we will be unable to attract the talented workforce we need to compete on the world stage.