Methodist Dallas Medical Center this week requested expanding the boundaries of the proposed medical district in the Oak Cliff Gateway plan and automatically allowing for sky bridges on two major streets.

The Oak Cliff Gateway proposal goes to a formal City Plan Commission hearing Oct. 23, and commissioners held a workshop Tuesday to hear from neighborhood associations and other stakeholders.

Methodist executives told the planning panel that the hospital wants the Gateway ordinance to allow automatically for indoor pedestrian sky bridges crossing Colorado and Beckley. That would mean Methodist could build sky bridges between its buildings without any special permitting. Only the architectural plans for a sky bridge would require approval by the City Plan Commission.

Plan commission chair Glora Tarpley said that legally couldn’t be written into the code and is a matter to take up with the city attorney’s office.

Sky bridges are necessary for the growing hospital because patients sometimes need to be wheeled from one building to another, said Duncan Fulton, vice chairman of the Methodist Health System board of directors.

Transporting trauma patients across city sidewalks would be inappropriate, Fulton said.

East Kessler Park Neighborhood Association president Will Pinkerton responded that he understands the need for sky bridges, but he worries they could create a dead space below that would kill any pedestrian-friendly aura. Pinkerton asked the hospital executives for sensitivity in planning and design of the future sky bridges.

The proposed Gateway ordinance requires all new building plans within the boundaries to be critiqued by a panel of architects and designers before they can be approved.

The hospital, which first opened in Oak Cliff 87 years ago and is the largest employer in southern Dallas, also wants to expand the proposed medical district (see the latest map below) to reach to Greenbriar and Zang. That approximately would double the medical district.

The Gateway plan proposes form-based zoning, which does not deal with how buildings should be used as much as how buildings should address the street; it encourages high density, walkability and complete streets.

Form-based zoning causes difficulties for hospitals, Fulton said. The hospital wants to “strive for traditional new-urban strategies” on Beckley and Colorado but would “need help” in some other areas, he said.

OCG Septermber 2014