Sunday, May 17, 2009

Potential Redevelopment of the Dallas Business District

The Dallas Area has a number of community and business related issues. In many ways, the Dallas Area has become a "bedroom community" with business and jobs outside of the local community. In addition, the area was developed following older engineering and environmental practices.

The Dallas Area and Back Mountain Areas are great places to live and enjoy the outdoors, but the Community needs some significant improvements and we need to establish more business and light commercial or industrial development. The area did not experience the adverse impacts of coal mining, but has been impacted by weakly planned urban growth as a result of flooding events in the Wyoming Valley.

The following is a summary of the major infrastructure issues:
1. Lack of stormwater management and control systems - many older developments have no systems let alone systems that attempt to recharge or renovate the stormwater.
2. Heat island effects because of the excess amount of pavement and lack of vegetation.
3. Empty Commercial Buildings and probably commercial buildings that are not energy efficent.
4. The business directory is not very attractive or appealing as a destination. There are minimal family friendly destinations and there are no local foot paths, some biking trails, or other softer means of getting to the business district without driving.

Options for the Community and Business District to Consider

1. Stormwater - Older Residential Developments
a. Develop a program to encourage individual homeowners or homeowner associations to implement on-site stormwater management systems. This first approach could be a targetted approach to create a number of demonstration projects. For example, the housing development where I live has zero stormwater management system other than a paved ditch that goes to a pipe that discharges to the stream. This uncontrolled stormwater discharge is partly responsible for the local flooding and damage to stream channels, roads, etc. To this end, I have installed some best management practices to limit the amount of stormwater runoff.

b. Encourage new homes to install individual stormwater management systems and to utilize green roofing systems and to use stormwater cisterns as a water source for irrigation and possibly geothermal systems.

c. Existing Commercial Areas need a significant facelift - These commercial areas should be redesigned to make the best use of space and to green up the space. In addition, the local zoning ordiance should be modified to permit a lower number of parking space requirements and or to great a parking area that is just outside of the business district. A local shuttle bus could be used to move people and families in and out of the business district. For every 1 acre of pavement converted to green space, we can recharge water equivalent to the water that would runoff from up to 36 acres of forest

2. Community Facelift - Change to a more Sustainable Community

1. Redevelopment - this effort should not only include the rebuilding or updating the downtown or requiring the use of Green Building Design Elements, maintaining and improving historic structures and features, and building new residential or commercial ventures, but integrating new approaches to stormwater management and landscape ecology.
Besides converting the downtown into a "safe-accessible-functioning community", the downtown most be converted into a "Village" that supports multiple commercial, community, and recreational opportunities. This approach would require the integration and development of additional "green areas", "gardens", and alternative landscapes features that are not present in the existing downtown community and living areas- An urban destination !

2. Creating a more woodland - greener urban area - The redevelopment efforts should include transforming abandoned lots and buildings, "brownfields", and other urban areas to more native vegetation, interconnected greenways (walking trails), and curbside bioretention systems that could incorporate stormwater BMPs. This would help to change the feel of the downtown and aid in controlling and treating stormwater and allow people to move more freely through in the business districts- That is why it is called Foot Traffic !

3. In some cases - it may be necessary to relocate businesses to areas that are more cost effective. In the long-run, it may be cheaper (long-term cost) to move a business than to attempt to protect it from flooding. These businesses owners should be given significant local support, tax credits (etc) and recognition to help promote their new location.

4. Encourage groundwater recharge and consider the implementation of a system that uses stormwater and potential treated wastewater as a means of recharging the aquifer and as a water source for large volume irrigation water- such as for golf courses. The Tobys Creek Watershed is a target watershed under Act 220. In order to maintain the current level of development and to provide future growth, the area will need to either implement a groundwater recharge system or implement significant water conservation measures. These groundwater recharge areas could be set a-side as community forested areas or parks with hiking and walking trails.

5. Introduction of Green Building Design -Use of more energy efficient lighting, recyclable building materials, alternative heating and cooling systems (geothermal, solar, wind), water reuse, and building material selection. In addition to the stimulus money and tax credits, it may be possible to help offset the cost of this program or approach using Carbon Credits, Energy Credits, or Pollution Credits. These credits could be held by the local municipalities or school district to help lower taxes.

6. Apartment Buildings - Offices - University Campus - etc - It may be advisable to consider the development and use of green roofing systems. These systems will not only improve energy efficient, decrease peak stormwater flows and runoff volumes, but also create unique landscape settings for the urban areas in the city. It may be advisable to require new or renovated sites to increase the infiltration capacity of the site by 10 to 20% either on-site or by creating a local "green bank".

7. Introduction of Porous Concrete and Use a Modified Porous Pavement System and subsurface infiltration systems. In the implementation of these infiltration systems - the material selection should include materials that will increase the alkalinity of the water.

8. Creating bioretention islands within parking lots to decrease the heat island effects and create landscape features, but also to management stormwater runoff.

9. Landscape Irrigation Systems and Possible Reuse Systems - stormwater could be used for landscape irrigation, flushing toilets (commercial applications), and other non-drinking water reuse.

10. Consider the development of local energy resources, such as small scale solar, wind, or natural gas to help support the local community and school district.

11. For school busing, it may be advisable to consider the use of a CNG or electric bus system. May be grants to facilitate this conversion.

12. For local schools, it may be advisable to consider the use of geothermal systems or biomass heating systems. A great program is the Fuel for Schools program for more information on this program - go to

These initiatives would put the local community to work rebuilding the community where they live.
Source of Information
Mr. Brian Oram (me)
previously published article at

This article was updated to discuss issues for the Dallas Area.

Pdf file of Powerpoint Presentation

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