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“Pay to Play” Stunts Economic Development in South Dallas/Fair Park

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By Michael Hubbard

For years South Dallas/Fair Park has longed for community revitalization and economic development.  Both have been absent in this part of the city for a very long time. Contrary to popular belief, there were once businesses that flourished in the neighborhoods surrounding Fair Park that were not associated with fast food or liquor. I remember running Saturday morning errands as a boy with my mother.  Our jaunts  included trips to  the hardware and shoe stores on Second Ave. and stops at the  furniture, grocery and drug stores  located in the strip mall at Hatcher and Second.  There was not one but two movie theaters to choose from, the Lagow Theater and the historic Forest Theater. But those days are long gone and the businesses I mentioned are nothing more than distant memories.


While neighborhoods in West Dallas and Oak Cliff are getting dressed up for the big dance, South Dallas/Fair Park is the forgotten step child waiting for Prince Charming to invite them to the ball.  The disturbing lack of economic development in the South Dallas/ Fair Park area is puzzling when you consider the close proximity to downtown, I-45, I-75 and I-30. Sure, there are challenges when it comes to attracting businesses to this area, but are they any different from the ones that face The Bishop Arts District, Ft. Worth Ave.  and West Dallas?

The GrowSouth Initiative was an integral component of the campaign strategy for City of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, and I applaud Mayor Rawlings for making southern Dallas a priority during his tenure.  But the omission of South Dallas/Fair Park from those plans speaks volumes to the kind of leadership these neighborhoods have been entrusted to.

For years South Dallas/Fair Park has been known for the “Pay to Play” philosophy of its elected officials and community leaders.   Over the years that philosophy has produced nothing more than scandal and has directly contributed to the stagnant state of the South Dallas/Fair Park community.  What we are seeing today is the decision of developers not to “play”.  They have opted to take their projects and their capital to areas and communities that are easier to work with.  Areas where the leadership is willing to build partnerships that become win-win situations for all those involved.  South Dallas/Fair Park has literally been left in the dust while the rest of Southern Dallas is surging.  There is even talk of making Jefferson Ave. the “Main St.” of South Dallas.  MLK Jr. Blvd. makes more sense to me, but apparently the “gatekeepers” for South Dallas/Fair Park don’t see the value in that designation and the development sure to accompany it.

Residents of South Dallas/Fair Park must realize that much more can be accomplished through active neighborhood associations (i.e. Sunset Hills Association of Neighbors, Westmoreland Heights Neighborhood Association) as opposed to the outdated, strong-arm tactics favored by their “leadership”.  It’s time to implement strategies that include collaborative partnerships.  Maybe then the landscape in South Dallas/Fair Park will begin to change.  I can only hope so.

  • EulaineHall

    Brave words and oh so true, Mr. Hubbard. More power to you getting something done about the abuses of “pay to play” in South Dallas. It is certainly no secret to North, East and West Dallas that new leadership and inspired gatekeepers are needed.

  • AnnaH

    Mr Hubbard I have nothing but Respect for your comments.
    I’m a community leader in East Dallas and president of the association. Some of the gate keepers only pick and choose and others are neglected.
    We are working hard planning and changing our community we have substantial support from various sources including our present and past Mayor, City councils, DPD and developers we strategize and plan for our community’s growth and all residents are involved.
    But, the KEY is, we did not wait to be invited we stepped out on Faith and proved what could be done. Now everyone supports us!
    I feel exactly how you feel. South Dallas needs the entire community to become one and work for the revitalization of inner city South Dallas.
    I wish you well.

  • Betty Culbreath

    Michael the reason South Dallas/Fair Park is not in grow south is because the business community along with City staff have decided South Dallas/Fair Park will return to the white people who gave it up years ago running North.Look at location,in Trinity River Plan appox 7 miles from Downtown between I30 and I 45 plus new Toll Road,Dallas Housing projects are gone,Bexar stree project is coming up Townhomes and retail in walking distance to Trinity Forest.Do you think all that is for Black poor people? No look at all the vacant housing and lots count the red taged houses still standing.That area has lost people and housing that’s why the schools closed no people no kids.Please don’t worry yourself this plan was set in motion some years ago.

  • Ken Smith

    I remember fondly the South Dallas you describe. By choice, I and others still live in South Dallas with the aim to restore it to its former glory. As president of (RSDC), Revitalize South Dallas Coalition, we daily face what seems to be insurmountable challenges. But, positive change IS coming – hastened by the tireless efforts of the few who are working diligently to bring about change. RSDC focuses on the positive. We build up people, places and things. Here are a few constructive things people can do to revitalize South Dallas:

    1. Adopt Lincoln High School. Support its PTSA. Join the newly formed Lincoln High School Alumni Association. Support the school’s new Culinary Arts Academy
    2. Spread the word about living and setting up business at the new Bexar Street Corridor development.
    3. Spread the word about:
    *the new Buckeye Commons housing development that replaces the old Turner Courts projects
    *the new ICDC-Habitat housing on Spring and Hatcher
    *the Hall Family mixed use housing development starting construction soon across from Fair Park.
    *CitySquare’s new job training facility being build on Malcolm X
    4. Support Frazier Revitalization Inc., “Hatcher Square” mixed use development across from the Hatcher/Scyene DART station.
    5. Activate or re-activate your Neighborhood Association. There use to be 15 active associations in South Dallas, now there’s only a few.
    6. Develop a pro-active approach to crime control by working closely with the Southeast Patrol Division’s community policing efforts.
    7. Utilize the South Dallas/Fair Park Trust Fund to acquire working capital for your South Dallas business.
    8. Patronize the businesses that are here already. That allows them to grow and expand.
    9. Move back to South Dallas. Don’t believe the negative. It has a lot to offer and WILL regain its greatness.

    Ken Smith, Revitalize South Dallas Coalition (RSDC)

  • Eulainehall

    Hear this, Betty Culbreath?

  • Geraldlaskew187

    Old attitudes most be replaced with personal ownership and respect each other and ones own destiny. Each of us can change this situation together! No one is greater than all of us.i

  • Ledmonds

    Thanks for this Ken. I agree with your list of things we should do but I personally know that getting capital from the South Dallas/Fair Park Trust Fund is like pulling teeth. We got one-half of what we applied for and then when we submitted our receipts for reimbursement (which was in order) all we ended up getting was a hassle. It was not a good experience.

  • Edward Harris

    St. Paul AME: We don’t just talk about it at St. Paul AME, we are inviting you be a part of it.

    Welcome to:
    St. Paul AME Book Sale
    2300 Metropolitan Ave.
    Dallas, Texas
    Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012
    1 PM until 3 PM

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