This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
” Creating One Dallas, World Class
“Southern Dallas is not a charity case. It is an opportunity.” -Mayor Mike Rawlings
By: Chequan A. Lewis
Winter Term in the Office the Mayor of Dallas January 2012
“Southward, Grow!” Creating One Dallas, World Class In 1839, a man named John Neely Bryan set foot on the land that would one day become Dallas, Texas.1 Officially incorporated as a town in 1836, Dallas grew into an attractive location for businesses and southerners in search of opportunity over the next few decades.2 By 1890, Dallas began to show signs of its now-trademark aggressive growth personality as it began annexing surrounding areas.3 Over the next century and a quarter, that ambitious personality resulted in a sort of civic schizophrenia: the dueling destinies of Dallas. I use the term “dueling destinies” to capture an unfortunate truth about the place I love. At this point, Dallas is really two cities (one north and one south) separated by the Trinity River. Northern Dallas is a shining beacon of light replete with booming businesses, population growth, and a diverse housing stock. In this Dallas, median incomes continue to soar, educational opportunities abound, and employment prospects are high. But there is a very different Dallas that looms to the south. Southern Dallas is largely forgotten and underdeveloped. In “that” Dallas, there is an eye-popping unemployment rate, schools are struggling, and massive tracts of land remain undeveloped. Dallas began as a promising novel. With a bright beginning and energized early chapters, the city seemed destined for a limitless horizon. Somewhere along the way Dallas got trapped in its own tale of two cities. Increased disparities in wealth, educational attainment level, and health characterize this seemingly interminable chapter. It is time to
From the archives of the Dallas Historical Society. http://www.dallashistory.org/history/dallas/dallas_history.htm 2 See id. 3 See id.
turn the page in Dallas and write a new chapter. That horizon for which Dallas seemed destined is still attainable. Yet, this can only be true if the “Dallas dream” is made available to all of its residents. One word best characterizes the city’s ambition: growth. It is high time that this word finally includes the city’s southern rim. If Dallas will ever realize her full potential, she must grow southward. Only then can she create a unified, world-class city. What is Southern Dallas? The part of the city to which this paper refers has been called many things over the years: Sunny South Dallas, the Southside, Southern Dallas, the Southern Rim, or the Southern Sector. No matter the moniker, the geographic area under discussion remains mostly the same. As depicted in the map below, Southern Dallas is the area south of Interstate 30 out to the city limits bounded on the east by Interstate 635 (all of which is south of the Trinity River).
The Story of Southern Dallas: By the Numbers and Beyond Southern Dallas is home to more than 516,000 residents. It is an area overwhelmingly populated by people of color- 50.77% of residents are Hispanic, 37.58% are Black/African-American, and 10.08% are White.4 Southern Dallas residents have a median income of $37,228 (compare with a statewide figure of $48,259) and less than 10% of them have attained a bachelor’s degree or higher (compare with a statewide figure of roughly 25%).5 This area contains 154,551 households6, 45% of which are renter-occupied (compare this with a statewide figure of only 35% renter-occupied)7. More than 85% of all Dallas’ vacant residential tracts are in Southern Dallas.8 Sitting on 196.63 square miles, Southern Dallas is large enough to contain all of Atlanta-proper, it is twice as large as Seattle, and it would be the 34th largest city in America. As massive as this area may be in size, its economic contributions to the city are noticeably tiny. Southern Dallas represents roughly 54% of Dallas’ landmass and around 40% of the city’s population, but only about 12-15% of the city’s tax base.9 These figures obviously suggest that Southern Dallas is being effectively “carried” by the rest of the city. In the minds of many, this has relegated this part of the city to second-class status- as if Southern Dallas is the poor, annoying little brother who cannot hold his own. All is not lost for Southern Dallas, however. In a city that is completely landlocked by thriving suburbs, this area houses more than 70% of the city’s developable land. This means that businesses looking to come inside the city limits to enjoy business-friendly
Overview of Southern Dallas (2007). Pg. 4. Presentation by State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas). Id. Pg. 15. 6 Interim Team Report (2009). Pg. 75. Mayor’s Southern Dallas Task Force. 7 Overview of Southern Dallas. Pg. 5. 8 Id. Pg. 8. 9 Reinvesting in Dallas’ Southern Sector (1997). McKinsey pro bono study for Mayor Ron Kirk.
policies put in place by former mayors must look to Southern Dallas as their potential home. The same story goes for the scores of Dallas-based companies that have outgrown their current digs. A Look in the Mirror The City’s Office of Economic Development (OED) recently conducted a SWOT analysis (below)10-- a method of assessing the current state of an area and identifying the potential that exists for improvement- of Southern Dallas. A SWOT analysis examines the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in a given area. OED’s assessment paints an honest picture of the good, bad, ugly, [and promising] in Southern Dallas. Strengths Land prices and availability Transportation network Strong business nodes Workforce Proximity to high employment areas (e.g. downtown) Higher education system (area colleges) Mega churches Existing, fast growing businesses as models Dallas Executive Airport Natural beauty Magnet Schools Diversity Weaknesses Image and perception No advocates for small business Crime/security Access to capital Shortage of equity Purchasing power Lack information about resources Individuals do not use the resources they have Code compliance Lower incomes Undeveloped road systems in Inland Port Lack of neighborhood retail Lack of vocational training Lack of financial literacy training Little understanding of positive submarkets Threats Security National economy Contract finance
Opportunities Enterprise zone incentives Awareness of growth action items More bank involvement with Corporate Realty Advisors Return on investment Develop a Hispanic-themed market
Interim Team Report. Pg. 76.
place (Mercado) Entertainment Retail Market Land and access Skill training Trinity River Spin-off possibilities Potential branching- new business locations Innovation center for business (Eco Park) Green movement Southern Dallas Task Force Dallas Morning News advocacy Relocation incentives I will not explore each item in this space. However, I will highlight some key
observations. First, the weaknesses in Southern Dallas are very real. To citizen-investors, image and perception are everything. When you turn on the evening news in the DFW area, you do hear about crime and blight in Southern Dallas. For decades, this has reinforced beliefs about the area that have scared off businesses and new residents. To say that image and perception largely drive the rest of the weaknesses OED lists is not an overstatement. Second, opportunities really do abound in Southern Dallas despite its reputation. The Southern Sector has a wealth of untapped physical resources in the forms of developable land, a malleable, underemployed, and relatively young workforce (median age is 30.8 years)11, and an underserved consumer base. Third, there are some success stories in Southern Dallas. Recognizing the opportunity for unparalleled returns, a forward-thinking group of investors has developed three new southern Dallas business parks in the last several years (Pinnacle Park, Mountain Creek and Dallas Logistics Hub) creating over 7
Id. Pg. 75.
million sq. ft. of industrial space, 700,000 sq. ft. of retail space, 100,000 sq. ft. of office space, 532 apartments, and 6,500 jobs.12 One Area, Many Characters There is an important lesson many have learned (sometimes the hard way) about Southern Dallas: it is not a monolithic “sub city.” Redevelopment crusaders, even if well intentioned, often mistakenly look at Southern Dallas as one massive, struggling neighborhood. They believe that a “one-size fits all” approach can be implemented that will cure what ails this part of the city.
These thinkers simply could not be more wrong. Southern Dallas is one geographical area made up of many distinct neighborhoods, each with its own character. The ritzy retail that would be a hit in one place could very well be a disaster in another. The
Realizing Potential: A Framework for Enhancing the Southern Portion of Dallas (2008). Pg. 7. Dallas Office of Economic Development.
“boho” shops that have brought North Oak Cliff to life might fall flat in Fair Park. With this understanding as a backdrop, the Mayor’s Southern Dallas Task Force13 divided the southern half of the city (see the map above) into 10 manageable planning areas. However, even after dividing Southern Dallas into 10 areas, the average area is still nearly 20 square miles, with 52,000 residents, 1,600 businesses, 14 public schools, and 13,000 jobs. (This frames just how big the area is that this paper discusses). Ten teams, of 13 community stakeholders each, were dedicated to one of the unique subsections of Southern Dallas, designed according to historical, natural, and economic boundaries. Each team is challenged to develop strategic plans for its dedicated area based on the following topics: economic development policy, small business, and finance/funding sources.14 This approach has allowed for a narrow tailoring of solutions, by planning area, which has begun to make a meaningful impact in Dallas. As laudable as this innovation has been, there is still much to be done and desired in Southern Dallas. 30 Years of Plans One of my tasks in the Mayor’s office was to help OED by reviewing all the economic revitalization plans that had been drafted for Southern Dallas. Wow. It was amazing to see that for more than three decades now, we have been talking about turning things around in Southern Dallas. Even more disconcerting was seeing that the 2008 plan was still talking about addressing the same issues with the same ideas as the 1981 plan. Through the exercise of looking at all the old plans for Southern Dallas, I was able to identify 7 recurrent themes throughout the years:
An entity organized by Mayor Tom Leppert (now a candidate for U.S. Senate) in 2007. Interim Team Report. Pg. 11.
1) Marketing and myth-busting (seen in plans from 1981, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1997, 1998): Multiple Southern Dallas plans began with the idea that misconceptions about Southern Dallas were artificially depressing redevelopment activities. For example, despite the fact that crime in Southern Dallas is comparable to most major cities, citizens and investors have always had the idea that the area is a war zone. Through media management and strategic marketing, the story goes, the tide of perception can begin to turn in Southern Dallas. 2) Assisting developers to secure large tracts of developable land for industrial use (seen in plans from 1991, 1992, 1998): Despite the fact that Southern Dallas has had the majority of the city’s developable land for decades now, an inability to secure large enough tracts that would lure major developers had plagued the area. Fortunately, the tide began to turn in the early 2000s as the city made large tracts available for business park development. 3) Partnering with educational institutions (seen in plans from 1992, 1993, 2004, 2008): The City of Dallas, admittedly, has no formal role in educational institutions (K-12 or higher). Nonetheless, many plans have viewed partnerships with these institutions as vital to success. The city can serve an important function by shining a light on the progress made in model schools and by making public calls for improvement by other schools. The Dallas Independent School District is a separate entity operating under a state grant of power. However, the district is not impervious to the political pressures of any public entity. As such, it relies on support from and a solid relationship with the city for legitimacy as well. In this
respect, the future of Southern Dallas schools, including colleges and community colleges, must truly be a shared responsibility. 4) Improving workforce readiness (seen in plans from 1993, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2008): This concept goes hand-in-hand with education. An educated population attracts businesses to an area because they see a pool of talent that can staff its operation. Workforce readiness can be accomplished through the school system and innovative job training programs targeted at the “post-school age” population. 5) Fostering community engagement and participation (seen in plans from 1993, 2008): All too often, powers-that-be look at areas in need of urban renewal as lost causes. They think the area is blighted and the people are hopeless. This misapprehends the fact that these areas often harbor proud and distinct neighborhoods with generations of character. Ideal plans activate the passions of those living in communities targeted for renewal by seeking their input and bringing them to the table. The solutions that result hold more long-term promise when a diversity of decision makers exists. 6) Stimulating retail development (seen in plans from 1989, 1998, 2001, 2004): An important aspect of catalyzing meaningful growth in an area is attracting people to come who do no live there. Enticing retail serves this key function. With Harlem’s Retail Renaissance as an example, underdeveloped areas can use retail as a means of stimulating interest. Moreover, this can help with another key problem impoverished areas face: a dearth of recycled dollars within the geographic area. For example, only about 18 cents of every dollar spent by southern Dallas consumers stays in that community.
7) Encouraging small business assistance and development (seen in plans from 1981, 1989, 1993, 1998, 2004, 2008): Big box retail and Fortune 500s cannot be expected to carry the day in a place like Southern Dallas. While the City Council debates their presence (such as the ongoing debate whether to allow a new WalMart to be built), politicians and thinkers on both sides of the aisle laud the role of small business development. These establishments create durable jobs in communities and empower local areas with “home grown” purchasing options. Along with this empowerment comes increased local pride- another key feature in sustained changes an area’s collective psyche. Southern Dallas faces real challenges. The recurrent themes I uncovered in looking at Southern Dallas plans were both refreshing and disturbing. It was refreshing to see that people with power have a firm handle on the real issues that plague this part of the city. Often times, it is a fundamental misunderstanding of the problems that stunts progress. That does not seem to be the case in Dallas. However, it was disturbing to see little progress in some discrete areas for over 30 years now. In order to really grow southward, Dallas will need transformational leadership that understands its problems and can forge the political will to confront them head on. This is a truly Texas-size task. A Man with a Vision, A City with a Hidden Treasure Dallas is fortunate because it has an ace in the hole: its mayor. Mayor Mike Rawlings has had a distinguished career in the public and private sectors (serving notable stints as the CEO of Pizza Hut, the President of the Parks and Recreation Board, and the City’s Homeless Czar). As such, he employs an interdisciplinary framework for developing Southern Dallas solutions; he recognizes unique roles for the private sector and the public
organs of government. Mayor Rawlings has more than just ambition and sensitivity for Southern Dallas. He has a real plan (see below).
This plan recognizes that city government, community members, and private capital are all required to grow Southern Dallas. Taking each point in turn, I will briefly offer a snapshot15 of the Mayor Rawlings’ vision for these 10 concepts. 1) Strengthen and engage neighborhoods: This is about creating an ownership of the community. This involves making friendly neighborhoods with a focus on living,
Based on the Mayor’s actual words during his unveiling of this plan to Dallas residents in February.
learning, and working. Thirty new neighborhood associations will be added in the area in conjunction with this. 2) Culture of clean: The city must get Southern Dallas “market-ready” by creating the mindset and ethos that cleanliness is next to godliness. This will involve eradicating graffiti and litter as well cracking down on code enforcement and holding negligent property managers accountable. 3) Strengthen schools, strengthen communities: Mayor Rawlings will adopt four public schools (2 middle and 2 high) in Southern Dallas. The plan is to work to ensure these schools have “world-class” principals committed to shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leading citizens. 4) Debunk myths and rebrand Southern Dallas: Historically, people have looked at Southern Dallas as an obligation instead of an asset. Calling on his marketing background, Mayor Rawlings intends to “re-educate the city about the southern sector.” This will involve creating a “dedicated brand manager” position (a city employee who will work at City Hall) who will re-train audiences on how they should view Southern Dallas. 5) Create financial and investment fund: Mayor Rawlings aims to create a $20 million investment fund from dozens of investors. Every project “will be evaluated on a double bottom line: will it offer a good return on investment and will it be good for the community?” 6) Continue downtown momentum and push for more growth: This primarily involves drawing business to the green line of DART (the Dallas Area Rapid Transit).
This will increase traffic in the areas capitalizing on an increasing amount of people who are choosing to live in downtown- the City’s window to Southern Dallas. 7) Implement West Dallas Design Plan: A state-of-the-art bridge has already been constructed to encourage traffic into West Dallas (technically a part of Southern Dallas). This will also involve a creation of a new food and retail district designed to create “1,000 new jobs and an impact of $100 million annually.” 8) Make Jefferson Blvd. “The Main Street” for Southern Dallas: Jefferson Blvd. sits at the center of an area in Southern Dallas enjoying tremendous revitalization. Unfortunately, this street is littered with pawnshops and payday loan places. Mayor Rawlings has called on Dallas to make this a true gathering place that encourages other centers of activity in Southern Dallas. 9) Build out Lancaster Corridor: This key area involves a VA hospital that draws 30,000 visitors a day to the area. The City needs to capitalize on this traffic and develop to encourage more of it. 10) Infrastructure for Education Corridor: University of North Texas at Dallas and HBCU Paul Quinn College sit in Southern Dallas. The city will create a “University Park for Southern Dallas” (harkening to a model area in Northern Dallas that is home to Southern Methodist University). A Brighter Day for Southern Dallas Mayor Rawlings believes Southern Dallas can be revitalized and will not rest until this part of the city is squarely on that path: "I think one of the reasons I decided to give back for the next four years of my life is because I believe southern Dallas is something no other city in the country has," Rawlings said. "Right in front of us is the biggest growth
opportunity for the next two decades. All we have to do is buckle down and get it done. I know we can."16 Southern Dallas has natural resources, human capital, and a mayor that thinks about it every day. These factors, among many others, make this writer bullish on this sector’s future. Like Mayor Rawlings, I believe we can grow southward if we buckle down and get it done. Project Perspective: An “Epilogue” I write this epilogue to add brief perspective to the contours of this project. During the month of January, my charge was to advise Mayor Mike Rawlings’ office on ways to redevelop Southern Dallas. Fortunately, the office already had many ideas in place such that I was actually able to study them. Part of my responsibilities involved working with the City’s Office of Economic Development, which plays a key role in revitalization efforts. This paper sketches some of the issues facing the southern half of Dallas and surveys the decades of efforts to address them. It ends with what I believe is a note of reasoned hope based on the current leadership of the city. Working in the Mayor’s office everyda y gave me an opportunity to see the people on the front lines of battle to “save” Southern Dallas. My time with them gives me genuine optimism. Perhaps the most exciting part of my time in the office was an exclusive, 30-minute interview with Mayor Rawlings in the setting of his choosing- his office. I submit this interview (via jump drive) as a companion piece to this paper. Viewing this video highlights Mayor Rawlings’ feelings on Dallas and the issues it faces. If this paper is Part I of my project, this interview- for which I intensely prepared- is surely Part II. I hope you find both as enriching as I have.
Remarks to a group of investors (Feb. 13, 2012). By Mayor Mike Rawlings.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.