Dallas Morning News Column on development in Southern Dallas

In today's Dallas Morning News, an opinion piece that I wrote appears in the Viewpoints section (If they build it, make sure you come).  I don't really like the title or the tagline as that was only part of what I was trying to convey. 

Thanks to Sharon Grigsby who edited the story and offered me the opportunity to share my views regarding development in Southern Dallas.  If you like what you see please contact that Morning News (click here) and let them know.

Almost every elected official in Dallas County has come out publicly supporting economic development in southern Dallas. But it will take much more than hollow campaign promises if the area is to ever realize its true potential.

Southern Dallas is the most scenic part of the city, and with all due respect to Cedar Hill, Oak Cliff is where the Hill Country truly begins. And, according to the J. McDonald Williams Institute, crime in the area is not that much different from that of other parts of Dallas.

So why does the city have such a hard time recruiting businesses south of Interstate 30? What keeps families from making the move? It's going to take some creative measures to reverse years of neglect and misperceptions.Stakeholders from all parts of the city must engage in unique partnerships to bring the vision of a holistic Dallas to fruition. Businesses, churches, neighborhood associations and government entities are all vital parts of securing a brighter future for those who live south of the Trinity River.

These groups have traditionally worked independent of one another to achieve similar goals. But moving forward, everyone would benefit from synergistic collaborations that could be formed between these various groups.

In 1999, a partnership between Dallas' African-American Pastors Coalition and Ryland Homes provided an early example of a successful collaboration between two unlikely groups. Together, they built 285 single-family homes just off Interstate 20 at a time when such a development was unheard of in that area.

The success of Unity Estates is evident in housing projects that followed, as well as churches, car dealerships and restaurants. Target is building a store that backs up to Unity Estates and reportedly will be joined by Ross, Office Depot and Aldi. This is all the result of an atypical alliance that produced exceptional results.

Another noteworthy association occurred between the Dallas Parks Department and Hawaiian Falls. The two groups came together to construct a water park (formerly known as Bahama Beach) just off Highway 67, which they bill as "the country's first inner-city waterpark." It's a stretch to say that the park is in the inner city, but its urban locale is noteworthy.

Southern Dallas residents are looking for wholesome, family-friendly entertainment venues, and Hawaiian Falls has more than held up its end of the bargain. Last summer the company invested $250,000 in the park and has promised more improvements in the near future. Its owners also employed young people from the area and committed to partner with the community whenever possible.

But if companies are going to disregard their business models to invest in the south, other city stakeholders must do everything in their power to ensure that, once located there, those operations remain viable. It may seem like enough to recruit a new store to the area, but a more comprehensive approach is required to ensure its sustainability.

If pulpits are going to be used to solicit potential investors, then they should also encourage their congregations to patronize entities that have incurred a certain amount of risk by locating south. Residents should go out of their way to do business with those who build in the area.

Finally, I would urge the city of Dallas to link up with its prodigal sons and daughters who inhabit the suburbs of North Texas. Many of these former residents worship and send their children to school in Dallas. How much more could they benefit from living in the city?

Believe it or not, DISD produces many successful students who pursue careers as professionals, artists and entrepreneurs. So many of my friends who graduated from Skyline, Kimball, Carter and South Oak Cliff now live in Plano, Grand Prairie, Mansfield and Duncanville. I believe their perspective would be valuable in crafting Dallas as a city where families can prosper through the generations and success doesn't have to equal skipping town.

Numerous factors have contributed to the economic disparity between southern Dallas and our northern brethren. If there are any hopes of increasing the tax base in the south, all potential options must be examined. That includes unlikely associations and partnership between stakeholders from throughout the city. At the end of the day, when southern Dallas wins, all of Dallas wins.

Shawn Williams publishes Dallas South Blog; his e-mail address is shawn@dallasouthblog.com.


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