The Dallas Innovation District is Bringing Smart Technology to Dallas

The Dallas Innovation District is a bright and promising Dallas neighborhood project spearheaded by the Dallas Innovation Alliance, a public-private partnership between corporations like AT&T, startups, and the city. With the district the alliance aims to elevate Dallas as a “smart” global city by implementing new technology to improve city life. So where’s the Dallas Innovative District and what will that mean for residents?

West End Historic District photo courtesy of Drumguy8800

 Where’s the Dallas Innovation District?

The Dallas Innovation District is centered on the West End, one of Dallas’ oldest neighborhoods in Downtown Dallas. West End is mostly filled with condos, townhomes, and lofts, and it’s known for the Sixth Floor Museum, dedicated to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Some projects of the Dallas Innovation District will bleed over into nearby neighborhoods like Victory Park, home to the American Airlines Center and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.

The West End was chosen by the Dallas Innovation Alliance because of its qualities that make it an ideal breeding ground for innovation: It’s a downtown neighborhood with a growing urban residential district, it’s the site of new and upcoming redevelopment projects, it’s accessible by DART and other public transportation systems, it’s a gateway between downtown and South Dallas, and it’s a historic preservation district.

What’s been completed?

In 2016, the Dallas Innovation Alliance established a Living Lab to test smart cities technologies. A year later in March 2017, the Living Lab implemented the first technological changes to the Dallas Innovation District: smart LED lighting, environmental sensors, and an interactive kiosk. The smart LED light bulbs were put in streetlights; they will be energy efficient, adjusted remotely, and notify workers when they burn out. They could also eventually gather data related to traffic congestion, crowd gatherings, and even crime. The LED lighting saved more than 870 kW of energy in quarter two of 2017, according to Smart Cities Dive.

The kiosk offers high-speed USB outlets, a selfie station, map displays, directions, DART arrival and departure information, voting information, and city updates. The environmental sensor will test air quality in the neighborhood.

In January 2018, the Living Lab also installed technology that monitors parking options, allowing drivers to reserve parking ahead of time in the hopes of decreasing traffic congestion and CO2 emissions. Smart Water metering was implemented the same month to monitor usage, leak detection, and other elements remotely, while Smart Irrigation technology was installed in Dealey Plaza to manage water usage for the vegetation. The area also has public Wi-Fi.

West End Plaza rendering courtesy of BOKA Powell

Other Plans for the Dallas Innovative District

The Dallas Innovation District is set to receive additional perks like a smart park. The smart park will be called the West End Plaza and will occupy a block between North Market Street, Corbin Street, North Record Street, and the Spaghetti Warehouse Building. Isabel Castilla—head designer for James Corner Field Operations, which designed New York City’s High Line linear park—is designing the plaza. The plans and timeline for the parks are expected to be released to the public on Sept. 20 and 21 by the Parks for Downtown Dallas nonprofit. For now, we know that the West End Plaza will be a traditional park with tech features, which may include air-quality sensors.

The Dallas Innovation District also plans to implement an illuminated path between West End and Victory Park, which currently has a path going underneath a dark and gloomy highway. With a $25,000 grant secured from Downtown Dallas, Inc., the Dallas Innovation Alliance will put a series of programmable, illuminated metal arches, providing plenty of lighting between the two neighborhoods.

What does this mean for the West End?

The improvements made in the Dallas Innovation District are just the first of many goals for the Dallas Innovation Alliance. According to the Dallas Observer, Jennifer Sanders, DIA executive director, explained that the Dallas Innovation District hopes to improve the life of Dallas and West End residents. “The ultimate goal is around improving the quality of life. It's really about organic, community-driven pieces enabled by technology serving as catalyst for future development,” she said. 

Yet the innovations and testing of the services in the West End could expand beyond the neighborhood. Mike Zeto, general manager of AT&T Smart Cities, told Government Technology, “The City of Dallas is doing important work, testing solutions that can lead to improved public safety, citizen engagement and environmental sustainability. Key learnings from the Living Lab will prove invaluable as we work to scale these types of solutions to more cities across the country.”

In addition to the Dallas Innovation District, the Dallas Innovation Alliance has set their sights on bringing smart technology to South Dallas, an area that’s considered a food and medical desert. Initiatives like GrowSouth are also helping to bring the neighborhood more access to healthcare and food.

“Starting in the [West End] made a lot of sense for a lot of reasons, in terms of having a microcosm of the city, in terms of having more density,” Sanders told Government Technology. “But it was always about how do we bridge gaps and maximize resources when tackling some of these issues of transportation and public safety and digital divide.”

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