For Dallas, Could Looking to the Past Provide Keys to the Future?

Dallas in 1939, looking as radiant as I think it ever has. All I know is that it makes me wonder what if? What if we hadn’t buried our retail, what if we hadn’t torn everything down and built a parking lot?
— Robert Wilonsky

In April, Dallas Morning News' Robert Wilonsky and Dallas Historic Preservation Officer Mark Doty unveiled some rare footage of a Dallas that is unknown to most of us. The two-minute clip shows a 1939 version of Downtown Dallas and surroundings, revealing the pre-Central Expressway and pre-Mixmaster city core as an energetic nexus of commerce, shopping, and entertainment (and Downtown movie theaters!). 

Insight from Doty in the video's introduction reveals that this era in Dallas was the "time period where Downtown Dallas matured and reached a zenith of density and scope and scale", and that the introduction of Stemmons and Central Expressways were really the harbinger of Downtown Dallas's future decline. 

Recently, our office has been conducting research into the history of our neighborhood, and the central Dallas area in general. I believe, as many others do, that Dallas is at a critical point in its development. We've seen already what the expansion of the highway system and disinvestment in the city core does to the life and vibrancy of not only downtown but also the surrounding neighborhoods such as Deep Ellum and the Cedars. 

It's interesting that found in the talk of reviving Downtown and Deep Ellum are embedded visions of what Dallas could be: a city where people want to live IN the city, able to walk or take transit to areas of entertainment, shopping, and food, and living close to work.

Is it possible that in looking at what Dallas used to be, we could find pieces here and there that perfectly match the vision of what Dallas could be?