In Your Community…

As part of the Rowlett Comprehensive Planning Charrette, one of the items that came up in our group as we considered Area E (which includes the downtown, the Water’s Edge, the Waterfront Entertainment District, and several others) was an idea to move some or possibly a majority of city functions to a new City Hall building to be incorporated into the city owned land of the Water’s Edge Development.  My initial take was with some apprehension, because I rather think that any significant financial investment by the city in new construction should go for a new attraction or amenity for the citizens that might help in drawing people to Rowlett.  Thus, I’m not convinced that including a new City Hall in this development would act as the kind of magnet we are all hoping for.  Most of our group agreed, but not unanimously.

This then got me thinking about what civic and non-civic uses do act as attractors within the community.  I recently posted a poll on to help.  Now, most of the 64 people that responded are Twitter users (which is how I got the word out – see a recent report on the demographics of Twitter users here) and so this probably isn’t a terribly accurate or appropriately broad scientific sampling.  Disclaimers aside, I still find it illuminating.



(Note: comments provided for levity sake.  I censored them in no way, nor do a take any responsibilities for them or for any rioting that occurs as a result)

Each query in the survey was preceded by the preamble: “In Your Community…”

Ok, so for this first one, in the words of my wife “Well Duh!”. Clearly the vast majority of people do not canvas City Hall regularly.  Some are a little more involved than others, but for the most part very little activity.  I suspect the heavy users in this poll actually work there.  Just a guess.

Comments included:

To obtain building permits

I have never gone to City Hall

I work for municipal government so it’s a function of my job, I’m not a City Hall “groupie”.

Unless I have a project and has meeting at at zoning dept, I don’t have the need to go there.

Usually, I’m escorted by the city’s finest

Geeze don’t know where it is…and even if I knew, why I would want to?


I was a little surprised with this one.  Every time I go to the community center it’s full of people.  Now, with so many fitness centers and and the like, I suppose this makes sense, but still, surprising.

Comments included:

Fitness class thru parks & rec


Most old people don’t carry enough cash, boosting them is pointless

Do we have one? Me? Senior? Okay I’m on medicare, but certainly not a senior…

Rarely. Most of the outdoor activities we take part in are funded by the same pot of money, but are spread across the city/county


Wow.  How things have changed with the internet generation.  I can’t say that I didn’t expect this, especially from a Twitter sampling that may well have skewed a little DINK heavy, but it is encouraging that there’s an increase here over the previous two.

Comments included:


Love the public library!

What’s that?

Nope don’t go there…have an iPad…which is kinda like a colored Kindle


I was completely thrown by this result, especially when you consider a sampling that may well have run a little tech-geek savvy.  I do think this is an important item to note, however, because even when people can replace City Hall with online bill pay, and the library with a Kindle, the digital world is no replacement for a place to walk your dog, a playground to send your kids to, or an adult softball league to break your ankle at.

Comments included:

Used to go to parks more when I lived in NYC – not as much now, in VA

We use the Parks and Public Swimming Pools a lot.

Most don’t allow smoking or open containers of alcohol.. #buzzkill

Dang, sounds like work…hiking, biking….nope very sedentary.

Mostly for jogging


Clearly, this one is more of a bipolar split, in most cases, either you are a church goer or you aren’t.  Conventional knowledge might suggest that non-tax revenue generating Church properties are not much of a boon to a City’s bottom line, but when 35% of people go to a place of worship regularly, that may offer a lot of foot traffic for a development.

Comments included:

I am decidedly non religious

All churches here should be Protestant! Damn it!

Only for weddings and funerals.



Here is another result that rather astonished me.  With a clear majority of people frequenting festivals and community events, accommodating for this certainly would appear to have great significance in creating a lasting and endurable draw.

Comments included:

We have those?

Hmmm..went to a farmer’s market several years ago…does that count?

Living downtown has its perks!


Again I was intrigued by this result.  The data would suggest that over 40% of people surveyed regularly use their performing arts center.  This is something that has specifically come up in our charrette discussions and it would seem to hold some merit should such and amenity be incorporated.

Comments include:

Work in the non-profit arts arena. 😉

Arts is for liberals

They shut down the only exotic performing arts bar before I had a chance to attend.

Many are under construction, but are within walking distance to my loft, or mass transit stops.


I think that in today’s society this result is certainly of little surprise.  People eat out more and more, especially on the weekends, and if you get this sort of foot traffic anywhere, you definitely want to capitalize on it.

Comments include:

Don’t cook much for 2 people.

Proper ‘sit down’ restaurants. Sometimes I unwrap my food, sometimes don’t have to.

I’m a canivore and the wife is a herbivore…need I say more?

That sounds bad but it’s about 2x / week. 🙂


This still surprised me a bit.  I’d have thought unless 60% of the respondents were teenagers I wouldn’t have gotten this result but, nevertheless, there it is.   Of all the results here, however, remember that this and the arts center are the only ones that a resident must leave the community in order to engage in.

Comments include:

We save money by doing netflix.

Not enough adult theaters around

Only if the grandkids make me.

Only if childrens movies count

Renting is the way to go


Clearly this is why retail centers often consist of the classic mall formula of combining a dinner, movie and shopping in the same place.  They feed off one another for mutual sustenance.

Comments include:

‘Shopping’, right.. checking out babes and 5 finger discount, baby!

I’m allergic to malls.

I love you



In the effort of full disclosure, I went into this research, at least in part, hoping to prove that my feelings toward the inclusion of a new city hall were valid, and that inclusion in the master plan of the Water’s Edge development could not be justified simply on the bases of being a ‘draw’, and I believe that was shown out.  Consolidating city services into one facility is a separate issue, and may well be the right thing to do either here or at any other location, but I don’t see it as anything other than offering a few daytime workers to populate a lunch crowd.  The same can probably be said of moving the library as well.

My impression is that if any municipal money were to be invested in this development with the goal of helping foster the project’s success, that investment should come in the form of unique parks and outdoor spaces, a performing arts center, and the venue to engage in seasonal festivals and art shows.  I rather like the notion of all of these because they are not only a local draw but because they possibly offer a broader regional appeal.

This also may show that for any successful development to emerge, we need a solid mix of uses, both retail and otherwise, to help it.  Restaurants, shopping and possibly a theater will be key, but I think that programs to engage the high school and future churches will be as well.  There is a solid nucleus of activity here already, especially with the high school, community center and Wet Zone, and if we create an engaging experience that offers more entertainment options to keep residents from bleeding out to Firewheel and The Harbor, and create a teenage-friendly development for the high school to spill into, and link it to the existing downtown and DART rail station, we could have something very special.

Oh, and to whomever you are, I love you too.




07 2011