The American Dream City and its growing pains. A place that exudes as much potential as it does frustration. A city whose freeways and main arteries have been in surgery for what seems like a decade now.
That’s what I think when I picture Arlington.
A place caught in an awkward spot in its development, caught between grand ambitions and the realities that hold it back. A place that aspires to one day be a grand cosmopolitan city made in the image of other, more generic cosmopolitan cities, a conundrum in identity that it projects onto its university and residents.
Arlington residents have always shied away from the things that make us, well, Arlington.
Our size, our beginnings as a suburb and our diverse population do not have to work against us.
In fact they’re what make us interesting.
Yet decades-long disinvestment in downtown and the university have little by little stifled and prevented the city’s reputation from flourishing.
So why is Arlington still more of an Irving than an Orlando or a mini-Austin?
Low civic pride? A lack of public transportation? Being incredibly diverse but politically conservative? Always trying to become more like Dallas? Bad marketing that fails to be self-aware of how people perceive us?
Arlington is, to provide a rather specific reference, like the Miller-Urey experiment. This experiment sought to replicate the conditions that scientists believe created life. Throw gases in a flask, try to replicate the temperature/pressure of the early Earth and hope these elements rearrange themselves into life.
Arlington has all the proverbial gases it could ever need to become the A between D and FW: An educated and diverse population, entertainment and relatively inexpensive housing.
We have a comparative advantage in location, human capital, experience attracting industry to move within city limits, and now we can add future-proof freeways.
But the guiding hand has not been there until recently.
It is no wonder these gases are taking so long to become bacteria.
For now, Arlington will do best to rigorously implement its new Downtown Master Plan.
Both UTA and the city need to warm up to each other more. UTA must become the reason why the city comes together.
UTA is the best hope Arlington has to becoming a place known, if not around the world, then certainly to the country.
Sadly, as of today, we still offer so much more than other places in the Metroplex, yet somehow nobody wants to stay in Arlington longer than they have to.
Downtown Arlington needs to foster a stronger relationship with UTA and grow from the inside out before wanting to attract people from other places in the Metroplex.
Our identity needs to be based around our strong legacy of attracting business, our ethnic richness, the legacy of sports and most importantly, our university.
That’s how we will become our own little thing and get people to stay and spend money here.