From French to Farsi, Hindi to Haitian, and Thai to Tagalog, Dallas residents speak a world of languages. Now Dallas is putting a big accent on its growing diversity—by establishing an International District in one of the city’s most prime locations.
On Monday, the Dallas City Council’s Economic Development Committee advanced the district initiative in the 450-acre Valley View-Galleria area, located north of LBJ Freeway between the Dallas North Tollway and Preston Road.
The new district will provide a unique home for international businesses of all sizes. Its attractions will include an “iconic” park, one-of-a-kind international festivals, and community gatherings where worlds can collide year round.
Dallas mayor: ‘Immense untapped potential’
“Dallas is already an international city with a diverse population, major attractions, and two world-class airports,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in a statement. “But we still have immense untapped potential, and we can do more to promote and enhance our unique assets, strengthen our global business ties, and increase international tourism.”
“The International District is a wonderful opportunity to boost our city’s presence on the global stage while also transforming an underutilized area into an amazing gathering place that all of our residents can enjoy,” the Mayor added.
Naming the International District
Before the city could announce it, it had to name it. In the last decade or more, Valley View Center had become what some called a “zombie mall.” One name proposed for redevelopment around it was Midtown; others proposed Valley View-Galleria.
In early 2021, feedback was gathered from local residents and visitors at DFW Airport and Love Field. Midtown and Valley View-Galleria got limited positive responses. But “International District” got high marks—with 86% positive views from visitors and 78% and 71% positive views from recent and long-time residents, respectively.
Funded by a public-private partnership
A public-private partnership will fund the International District initiative, with support from the city of Dallas, local developers, businesses, and private foundations and individuals.
Dallas’ chief of economic development and neighborhood services, Dr. Eric Anthony Johnson, believes the district will fuel new commercial opportunities for the city.
“This thriving district will provide a tremendous opportunity for international businesses and cultural groups to showcase cultures and grow commerce in the City of Dallas,” he said in the statement. “This is just one of many opportunities we will continue to be able to offer Dallas communities.”
20-acre ‘iconic’ central park
At the heart of the development will be a 20-acre “iconic park” called The Commons of the International District. It will be built with $6 million in funds from the 2017 Dallas bond program, conditioned on a $6 million match of private grants or donations.
MIG, a Berkeley, California-based expert in park design, developed a conceptual master plan for the park back in 2016/2017.
The park will solve what the city calls a “severe lack of open space in the area.” Historically, North Dallas has had a low percentage of parks within a 10-minute walk of residents’ homes, so the city sees the green attraction as filling a key civic goal.
The park’s first parcel has already been acquired by the city of Dallas through the purchase of Prism Center at 5580 Peterson, a building that’s now housing the district office of Dallas City Council District 11. The building will also be the proposed home of an International Business Center and Entrepreneurship Center.
A ‘Civic Innovation Smart Zone’
As a Civic Innovation Smart Zone, the International District will leverage best practices in smart cities and eco-friendly design.
The new park will be a “testing ground for park innovation,” and energy efficiency will be a key goal at Prism Center and new developments in the district. “Green walls” and improved concrete will reduce the impact of an urban “heat island,” while drought-tolerant planting and rainwater recycling systems will help preserve water.
Automated “people mover”
One way people may get about the International District is on an “automated people mover.” In November 2020, the NCTCOG’s Regional Transportation Council authorized $10 million in funds to implement an automated transportation system (ATS) pilot in the Valley View/Galleria area.
Last April, the NCTCOG executive board authorized an $850,000 consult contract with Lea+Elliott, Inc., to develop performance guidelines for the ATS system
Montfort Drive to become bike- and pedestrian-friendly
Montfort Drive will bisect the east side of the park as seen in the map above, so it’s getting its own transformation. The city is currently working on a “complete street” project for Montfort—reducing vehicle traffic from six to four lanes, improving walkability, and adding new bike lanes. This street project is set for completion by late 2022.
PreK-12 STEAM ‘school of the future’
Kids from pre-K to 12th grade will soon be going global themselves near the International District. In November 2020, voters approved a Dallas ISD bond package that set aside $75 million to build a new K-12 STEAM school near the district.
The STEAM school (focused on science, technology, engineering, arts and math) will be a 50/50 “transformation school,” with 50% of its seats going to economically disadvantaged students. It will be open to students living within Dallas ISD district boundaries, with transportation provided.
“Dallas ISD is excited to partner with the North Dallas Chamber and Texas A&M University-Commerce on a school of the future,” DISD Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa said in the statement. “The PreK-12 International District STEAM Academy will provide a unique opportunity for students to enter pre-K and study STEAM from a global perspective, with that knowledge building as they progress through 12th grade. As the Valley View/Galleria area becomes the International District, the school will be a genuine reflection of that theme.”
Plan is 10 years in the making
Ten years of planning led to yesterday’s announcement. From 2011 to 2013, a public-private partnership was formed by the city of Dallas, the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce, and area stakeholders. In May 2013, the Dallas City Council adopted the Valley View-Galleria Area Plan. Its goal: create a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood anchored by a public park—one that can drive economic development, private investment, and public infrastructure investments.
In 2017, Dallas voters approved a $1.05 billion general obligation bond program, which earmarked $6 million toward a Central Park in the Valley View-Galleria area. In recent years, the area has also received designations as a special purpose zoning district and a tax increment reinvestment zone.
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