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GUEST OPINION -- David Shein

Downtown Dallas is about to get a makeover.Within a few days, work will begin on major repairs and improvements to the sidewalks and public fixtures on Main Street in front of the Polk County Courthouse and the next block to the south. Anyone who has walked these areas in recent years knows that this restoration of our historic downtown is long overdue.Here are some of the improvements to look forward to:* Replacement and widening of the sidewalks.* Installation of new benches and other sidewalk furniture.* New, carefully chosen trees.* Installation of historically appropriate light poles and fixtures.* New banners and hanging baskets.Project completion is expected within six to 10 weeks, subject to weather and other variables. The project is funded entirely by the Dallas Urban Renewal District. No city funds are being used to finance the work.This project did not come into being overnight. It's the culmination of years of planning, addressing every aspect of attractive and functional streetscape design, as well as extensive public involvement and feedback. For example, urban forestry experts are being consulted to help select trees that will be eco-friendly, not damaging to the sidewalks and infrastructure, and, oh yes, attractive.From the outset, it has been obvious that success in revitalizing our downtown will require a partnership between the public and private sectors. One example is a new fa‡ade grant program to assist downtown businesses and building owners to improve the appearance of their buildings' exteriors. Depending on the type of fix-up, the program will fund up to 75 percent of project costs, to a maximum of $4,000 per building.When the new streetscape is fully realized and the historic buildings are spruced up, the two blocks should shine like new pennies.Coordination of construction activities has been thoroughly planned to hold disruptions to an absolute minimum. Only one side of the street will be worked on at a time, and access to businesses will be carefully preserved throughout. Downtown Dallas will be open for business.Thanks in large measure to the great teamwork and creativity contributed at every stage of the project, all involved are confident that this investment in our future will result in a more inviting, more engaging, more vibrant downtown.--David Shein is chairman of the Dallas Urban Renewal District Advisory Committee and is vice president of the city of Dallas Planning Commission. He can be reached at

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