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Place-Maker Panel: The Tale of Two Cities in Dallas

“The punch line for me is that it has to have a DNA,” says Mike Ablon, principal and founding partner of PegasusAblon, while describing what makes the Design District a neighborhood. “That’s what really matters. If you can tell that something has a DNA, then it exists. Until you can tell somebody what the DNA is, it doesn’t exist. And that goes for people and it goes for cities.”

Ablon was seated next to David Spence, founder of Good Space, who was seated next to Scott Rohrman, founder and owner of 42 Real Estate, in the boardroom of Crow Interest’s Old Parkland. With a warm fire at their backs and Lincoln’s death mask on a windowsill on their right, Ablon, Rohrman, and Spence answered D CEO executive editor Christine Perez’s questions about the work they’ve done in Dallas the past few years. The group touched on the history of the Design District (Ablon’s project until Wednesday, when it was announced PegasusAblon had sold its share), Deep Ellum (where Rohrman owns 39 properties), and the Bishop Arts District (Spence’s area of focus), before discussing the role they play in their respective neighborhoods.

When Rohrman first went into Deep Ellum, he was told he wasn’t wanted. “I wear button downs,” he says. “I don’t have any tattoos.” That’s when he had to ask his company: was 42 Real Estate going to impress its developer mindset on Deep Ellum? Or would 42 Real Estate let the community have a say? “We tried to open up a canvas and let the community paint it. We have a few guiding principles, but they’re very few and far in between. … We’re working on being a part of the community. We consider it a community endeavor not a real estate endeavor.”

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How A. Maceo Smith High School Develops a Different Kind of Student

Two years ago, during D’s literacy program, Big D Reads, we tricked the students at A. Maceo Smith New Tech High School into thinking that their history books were being removed from their school—and burned. At an assembly, we explained that the initiative was being launched at their school first because they’re into technology and would understand why books are no longer needed. The longer we discussed the initiative, the more the students grew concerned. Finally, they started voicing their opinions. They said that not everything on the internet is true. That we need books to learn about mistakes we’ve made in the past. That reading was important to their education.

Finally, a student in the front row got up and stormed out. As she ran past me, I saw she was crying. At this point, we decided to tell the students that it was all a trick, and in reality, we were giving the students a copy of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, provoking a discussion about a world without books.

The great part about this whole thing: it was the librarian’s idea—and the principal, Lisa DeVeaux, supported it.

I’ve been a fan of A. Maceo since then, but today was the first time I spent significant time with Principal DeVeaux as part of Dallas ISD and the Chamber’s Principal for a Day program. Today, 160 people from the community spent time at Dallas ISD schools eating cafeteria food, performing spot observations, and making announcements.

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‘If You Cry, I’ll Kill You,’ and Other Advice From Dallas Women Executives

On Monday, we invited 100 businesswomen (and a few good men) to D’s office to hear from three of D CEO’s Wonder Women. On hand were Elaine Agather, chairwoman of Dallas Region, JP Morgan Chase; Matrice Ellis-Kirk, managing director, RSR Partners; and Melissa Reiff, president, COO, and director, The Container Store. The goal for the evening was to get some frank, honest assessments of women in leadership. The panelists did not disappoint

Elaine Agather, hysterically blunt, shared some of the advice she gives women in her office: “If you cry, I will kill you,” she said. “I don’t mean for it to sound flip, but if you don’t get honest feedback early, you never know, and then you never move up and probably leave because you didn’t get the promotion.” She recounted the time when she had just been promoted at a bank in Fort Worth, and she showed up for a sales call in a pink Escada suit. “I was going to make some calls with a cowboy over there,” she said. “I walk in, and he goes, ‘Ohmygod, what do you have on?’” The man (who worked for her) informed her she looked like she was wearing Pepto-Bismol. She thanked him, ran home, and changed.

Matrice Ellis-Kirk also got a lesson in fashion when her husband, Ron, was first elected Mayor. “I went to the grocery store after working out, and to tell you I looked a hot mess was…I didn’t even have a hat on. It was that bad,” she said. An elderly woman walked up to her and said, “Honey, you cannot come out looking like that. You represent this city.” Ellis-Kirk heeded the woman’s advice.

While fashion faux pas were a part of the discussion, so was discussing how to find balance. “Life is all about the mixing and the folding of everything that’s important to you on a daily basis,” Melissa Reiff said. “It’s a choice to be positive. It’s a choice to look at the glass half full. I think that really makes a difference in just making your life happy and full and centered.”

The women also discussed key strategies for success, how to handle change, and how to get more women to serve on boards.

(For more photos, go here.)

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1611 Main Street, R.I.P.

Sunday afternoon, while the Cowboys were losing to the Rams, I heard a loud bang and went to investigate. It was the sound of a wrecking ball hitting the 129-year-old building next door to ours. I walked out to Main Street and saw people standing in front of Neiman’s, their phones pointed toward 1611 Main Street. I had missed the first few swings of the crane, but I got there just in time to see the top portion of the building crumble to the ground.

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North Texas Giving Day, Cont.

Tim has mentioned it. Chris has mentioned it. Now I’m going to mention it: North Texas Giving Day is happening right now. So far, 40,944 gifts have been made for more than $10 million. (Yes, I’m addicted to the leaderboard as well.) There are many wonderful and deserving organizations that you should put your dollars toward. I’m going to reiterate what Chris said and mention one of them, because it’s near and dear to D‘s heart: it’s Big D Reads.

The goal is simple: we want to make Dallas a city of readers. Therefore, we’re going to purchase 20,000 copies of Charles Portis’ True Grit and hand them out in April. We’ve got big plans this year: we’re developing curriculum for teachers to use to teach the book, we’re expanding to new neighborhoods, and we’re bringing in Matt Damon. (Actually, we’d like to bring in Matt Damon. His people haven’t called me back yet. If you have a connection to him—or Jeff Bridges or the Coen Brothers—let me know.) All we’re asking for is $5. That buys one book. Go here to give.

K. Pitch over. And, in the time it took me to write that, 285 more gifts were given. Way to give, Dallas.

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D Academy Announces 2014-2015 Fellows

You may not know this, but D Magazine Partners has a leadership group called D Academy. It’s a nine-month immersion program that takes its participants through a series of crash courses on a variety of topics, including healthcare, the arts, education, criminal justice, the environment, poverty, infrastructure, philanthropy, and the city’s brand. Some of Dallas’ most influential speakers generously give of their time to talk about these topics with our fellows while Robin Pou provides leadership training.

The class also spearheads the Big D Reads program, a city-wide reading experience. The goal is to get Dallas involved in the ultimate book club through lectures, book discussions, street festivals, movie screenings, and performing arts events, with a special focus on Dallas ISD ninth graders.

D Academy is a lot of work. But it’s also a lot of fun. Therefore, we had many applications. The selection committee spent many hours arguing over the applicants and finally narrowed the field down to 24. They are:

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Judgmental Map of Dallas

I love maps of Dallas. I can’t read a traditional map to save my life, which pre-iPhone days, made for many hours lost somewhere between point A and point B. But I love maps that tell me something about my city. One of my favorites is this map by David Harman, which is screen-printed and hand made. It’s pretty, and I’ve seen it framed and hanging in various coffee shops around town. (David created these maps while in Dallas, but is now pursuing an MFA in Painting in Knoxville.) My other favorite is this one, created by the folks at bcWorkshop. This map portrays the 318 communities in Dallas. I printed this out and put it on my desk for a few days. I heard, “I didn’t know that part of town is called that” multiple times while people studied the map. It also led to an argument or two.

Both of the above examples were made with love and lead to a better understanding of the city. I don’t think this Judgmental Map of Dallas was made in the same vein. And while I don’t condone most of the stereotypes, it does make for an interesting read.

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New Cities Summit: Cars Are Bad

As Peter has mentioned, Maxwell Anderson was a driving force behind bringing the New Cities Summit to Dallas. When Anderson called John Rossant, chairman of the New Cities Foundation, and Mathieu Lefevre, executive director of New Cities Foundation, and told them to check out Dallas, Lefevre was doubtful. “It’s pretty bad,” was his first thought of Dallas, but by the end of his first trip, Lefevre was sold. “Actually, [Dallas] is awesome. There’s a dynamism,” he said. “Not every city is willing to reimagine itself.” The selling point? The Arts District.

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Meet Nelson, the Coolest Dog in Dallas

The first time I saw Nelson, it was from my apartment window. I saw his parents on the silver Vespa first. Then I saw the sidecar. And then I saw Nelson, the Goldendoodle, in the sidecar. It was one of the greatest sights I’ve ever seen. (I realize I need to get out more.)

The second time I saw Nelson, he was at Klyde Warren Park. His dad had just put his goggles on, and he had just been loaded into his sidecar. I ran over like a madwoman and asked if I could take a photo.

I love Nelson and his family, not just because they’re adorable, but because I’ve had a scooter for a year, and every day since I purchased the scooter, I’ve talked to my husband about getting a sidecar and putting our dogs in it. But here’s the thing: it would never work. I love my dogs, but they’re not incredibly smart. Instead of staying away from cars’ bumpers, they try to sniff them as we walk past. If they see a squirrel, they lose it. So I know my dogs could never, ever be as cool as Nelson. Which means I could never, ever be as cool as Nelson’s parents.

I wanted to know more about Nelson and his scooter-riding ways, so I called his mom, Genesis Lee. Below is a Q&A on how the whole thing got started and why Nelson is probably the best dog in Dallas (sorry, Miko and Maya).

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My Weekend With S.E. Hinton

For nearly four days, I drove The Outsiders author, S.E. Hinton, around Dallas as part of our Big D Reads program, which, as you recall, has a simple goal of inspiring the entire city of Dallas to read one book together in one month. The past 27 days, we’ve handed out 20,000 copies of Hinton’s book and created programming around it.
This past weekend, I got to know Susie Hinton (somewhat) well.

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Join S.E. Hinton at Klyde Warren Park on Saturday

Like watching a man work really, really quickly and create something pretty in just 2 minutes? Then you need to watch this video of artist Mike Stilkey recycling 1,400 books by painting on their spines. We brought him here as part of our Big D Reads program (the one where we’re asking everyone to read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders this month). Ryan Hartsell from Reel FX and Dylan Rogers from &Transfer captured the footage. The guys spent six days filming Stilkey work, then took it back to the folks at Reel FX, who cut it down.

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Six Dogs Walk Into Downtown Neimans

Art Ortiz is the pack leader at DogFit Dallas. You can often see him walking around downtown with several dogs in tow. He’s great at identifying dogs with people problems, and is a godsend to many of us downtown dog owners.

He posted this video earlier today. As he explains it, he’d always heard Neiman Marcus was dog friendly, but had never taken his dogs inside. Today, during his normal walk, he decided to see what would happen. The overall reaction was great: everyone was kind and welcoming.

So the next time you’re thinking about making a trip to Neimans, take your dog along, or give Art a call. Either way, your dog will be happy.

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Leading Off (4/2/14)

Mayor Rawlings Apologizes for Handling of Home Rule. Mayor Mike Rawlings has stated the obvious: the rollout for the home-rule initiative in DISD was poorly executed. He asked people to create groups to offer ideas on how a home-rule district could operate saying the “blank page” idea was not a good one.

Plano ISD Employee Steals Millions. Last fall, someone noticed a suspicious invoice that former Plano ISD Kris Wilson Gentz submitted. The invoice was bogus, and it wasn’t the first one. Since 2004, Gentz had been creating invoices for work that was never done and equipment that was never purchased. He stole between $2.5 and $7 million. Though police are trying to recover the money, it looks like Gentz gambled most of it away.

 Oak Cliff Gets Permanent Dog Park. This news happened on Monday, but it’s about dogs, so I’m posting it today. ElmWoof has been popping up monthly in Elmwood, giving pet owners a place to let their dogs run free. With a $9,000 grant from Rawlings’ GrowSouth program, the park will now become permanent.

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Big D Reads Is Here

What’s your “ah-ha” book? Mine was Watership Down by Richard Adams. Christine Allison’s was Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. A lot of people have said theirs was Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, which we honored with a month-long celebration last April. Starting today, we’re celebrating The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

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Leading Off (3/26/14)

Coalition Against Home Rule Forms. The coalition, made up of trustees Carla Ranger and Bernadette Nutall and representatives for blacks, Hispanics, administrators, and teachers, believes that the home-rule initiative for DISD would take away teachers’ and voters’ rights and turn the district over to charter operators.

Teen’s Body Found in Creek. On Monday, two students skipped class and went to play along Five Mile Creek. One, 14-year-old Javar Smith, got in the water where he started struggling. His friend couldn’t swim, so he ran to get help at school. He told a family member what had happened, but that person didn’t believe him. On Tuesday, the kid told a school official. Later in the day, Smith’s body was found.

Bacon Reunited With Owner. Sany Jimenez, 17, lost her potbellied pig on Friday. It was a fretful weekend for the teenager, but finally, yesterday, she was reunited with Bacon. The pig found his way to the home of a man who had to take a picture of him when he saw him because he feared people would think he was drunk if he didn’t. He also had thoughts of putting Bacon on the grill, but instead, turned him over to Arlington police. If you don’t like cute pets being reunited with owners, at least watch this for all the puns the reporter was able to work in (yes, bringing home the Bacon was used).

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