In 2008, AT&T's regional headquarters, located on Akard Street between Commerce and Wood began renovations on One AT&T Plaza and the plaza adjacent to One and Two AT&T. Around the same time, they also relocated their corporate headquarters to this site. It was completed well over a year ago.
Sadly, the pictures I took of the buildings prior to the renovation were burned to a CDRW and won't load now. But, I will instead post recent pictures and use that as a comparison to the past. Overall, this is a definite improvement over what was there. In fact, in several spaces, it is hard to improve on it at all. Sadly, it is not a 100% improvement and several spots could use a lot more work.
Let's begin with the transportation aspect. There was a bus built into the plaza behind a water feature that had the look of a '50's bomb shelter. During the redo, the bus stop was moved down the street near Field in front of the mostly empty retail spaces of Two AT&T.
The former space looks a lot better. When I told a friend, he was surprised since I normally don't like setbacks and landscaping in urban areas. However, meaningful landscaping in a public space can be a quality to the urban area. This is right on the edge of quality. It has opened up the water feature behind to the front door, visible from the sidewalk.
Golden Boy, the statue that has been at the AT&T headquarters (mostly) since it was commissioned in the mid teens in New York. Now, it is easily viewed from the plaza.
The addition of LEED informational panels over the first floor entrance really sets this area as the focal point of the plaza.
One of the most practical additions to Whitacre Tower fronts Commerce Street. Previously, there was a small convenience store with a chained street entrance with offices completing the block. Now, they added an AT&T store with a beautiful entrance that engages the pedestrian at street level.
On the other side of the main entrance on the Akard Street side is the final positive addition to the plaza. In the elevator wells, there previously was a blank wall. During the renovation, windows were cut and a former blank area was opened up, similar to the main entrance. Also similar, the area has been humanized within the plaza, creating a more inviting space.
Sadly, not everything hit the level thus far listed. The Browder Street side remained virtually untouched. Sadly, this area has some of the most potential of any area in downtown. There is a lot of existing foot traffic. Dogs are walked from DP&L Lofts across from Whitacre Tower. Across the street from DP&L is the Interurban Building. Here residents walk their dogs too. On the first floor are the downtown Grocer store and a cafe. Even on Sunday, there is a lot street traffic in this stretch. Browder serves as the connector for this area to the Main Street District.
Across Jackson sits the final disappointment of the renovation. On the southwest corner was a stand-alone garage. I had my hopes high when the building was starting a demo. Sadly, in its place is a new stand-alone garage for the executives, and therefore has the smallest capacity of any garage in downtown.
In the suburbs, grocer stores are the anchors of strip malls. When a developer comes along, the first thing they do is look to get a grocer to attract customers and then bring in the supportive retail. In downtown Dallas, in comes the grocer, then elected officials pat themselves on the back and move on to the next thing. There is an absolute opportunity in this area, but the landowners are going to have to get past this type of isolated thinking.
This renovation can really be summed up by two corners. On the Commerce/ Akard corner, beautiful additions that help strengthen downtown. On the Jackson / Browder corner, an undervalued yet highly potential corner is wasted. If the same treatment could be applied here as on the other corner, there really could be a home run in this renovation. And this one would serve as the model for towers built in the '80's. As it is, the parts they touched are better, highlighting the parts that aren't.