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Making Dallas Even Better

Dallas Street Stories Hopes to Give Voice to the City’s Homeless

Yasef was the first person we spoke to. After meeting him, I scribbled in my notes: “sad guy; red hat.” He was soft-spoken, downtrodden, and defeated. When I asked what he needed, the 6-foot-8-inch man said one thing: “clothes that fit me.”

We visited with a handful of other people in Tent City that day. And, when we left, Yasef and his group of friends called to us as we walked away. “Are you leaving?” one of the guys asked. “Yeah, but we’ll be back,” we promised. And then they all waved as we walked out.

I’ve lived and worked downtown for nearly six years. Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of social media chatter about the homeless in my neighborhood. The homeless have been called aggressive, carpetbaggers, and freeloaders. This all led to a crackdown on panhandling.

That hasn’t been my experience with the homeless downtown.

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What Is New Urbanism?

As Peter mentioned last week, more and more people are getting involved with the conversation about how our city should be built. That was obvious on Friday when the Sixth Floor Museum filled with people for AIA’s DFW Urban Summit, and Main Street was overtaken by people activating parking spots for Park(ing) Day.

If you’re still wondering what New Urbanism is, or how you can take part in it, check out The New Urbanism three-week series presented by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Monte Anderson, president of Options Real Estate, and Patrick Kennedy, partner of Space Between Design Studio, will be teaching the classes. The Institute has made the first class free, so you have no excuse for not going. Register here for the three-week series.

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Forest City Sues Headington Companies

The writing’s been on the wall for a while now, but today it’s official: Forest City has sued Headington Companies. As I told you a couple weeks ago, the new Forty Five Ten will be very close to its neighbor, the Wilson Building (where I live). The new building’s height and proximity will block the windows in eight of the units facing west.

Both companies have spent a lot of money and a lot of time developing the core of the city (Headington with his work along Main; Forest City with its residential buildings). I guess it was only a matter of time until the two giants clashed.

The video above, prepared by Forest City’s team, shows their reasoning behind the lawsuit and the possible impact of the new building.

You can read the lawsuit here.

UPDATE 4:40 p.m.: Headington’s people respond.

“Our client believes the lawsuit grossly mischaracterizes the facts related to this project,” says William A. Brewer III, partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors and lead counsel for Headington. “The project, which has enjoyed widespread support from many city leaders and community stakeholders, brings a significant new business to the downtown district.”

Brewer continued, “Although our client has attempted to work cooperatively with Forest City, they have rebuffed those efforts and instead chosen to file a lawsuit which we believe lacks merit. We believe the release by Forest City of a professional video in conjunction with the filing of the lawsuit should be viewed as what it is – a desperate attempt to disparage Headington and to extract value to which Forest City is not entitled.”

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Apply to D Academy

Care about your city? Want to learn more about it? Apply to be a part of D Academy. It’s a nine-month immersion course in everything Dallas. It’s a time commitment, but you learn a great deal about the city, meet incredible people, and make a difference. Plus all these Dallas’ leaders take time out of their day to come talk to you.

You can learn more here. Apply here. Or send me a question at [email protected]

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New Buildings Vs. Old Buildings: The Battle for Downtown

I’m sure you remember a couple months ago when a few of Dallas’ oldest buildings downtown were demolished. After the community’s outcry about the buildings’ demise, the Downtown Historic Preservation Historic Task Force was created to prevent such events from happening again. Though we never heard from Tim Headington about why his company tore the buildings down, we did know what would replace them: high-end boutique Forty Five Ten.

I’ve been hearing about the plans for the new building for a couple weeks but was unable to get my hands on anything concrete. On Friday, Robert Wilonsky did what I was unable to do, and we finally got our first look at the plans. There’s a motor court in the back, disengaging with Elm. The fence around Tony Tasset’s Eye is still standing. And Headington Company is asking for $916,000 in TIF to do the project.


But what I’d like to talk about is how tall and how close to the Wilson this building is going to be.

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The Prettiest Minute of Your Day

I once spent 12 hours with local photographer James Langford as we chased storms around Northwest Oklahoma. I admire him not only for his ability to get us out of a tight spot without any hail damage, but also because he’s amazing with a camera. Take one minute out of your day to check out this gorgeous time lapse from the other night.

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Dallas’ Gritty History: A Discussion on Race

The future Rev. Peter Johnson was bloody. He had tear gas in his eyes. And he was fed up. He had made a decision: the police chief of his hometown didn’t need to see the next morning. “I was going to send him on wherever he was going,” Johnson says. “I was on my way to kill the chief.”

The then 17-year-old was stopped by two mentors, who wrestled the gun out of his hands. One of the men who took the gun turned to Johnson and said, “Think about this, Peter, you have to buy your bullets from the white man you want to shoot back at. That ain’t gonna work.”

Johnson realized violence wasn’t the way. This was in the early ’60s. Johnson took his lesson from that evening and applied it to his work fighting alongside Martin Luther King Jr. for the next few years, practicing peace while spreading the civil rights movement.

After MLK’s assassination, a group produced movie about his life. It was to premiere in 800 cities around the world. It was Johnson’s task to ensure that Dallas was one of those cities. “Seven hundred and ninety-nine cities around the world welcomed the movie on Martin King’s life. There was only one city in the world that rejected the movie on Dr. King’s life,” he told a group at Gilley’s Dallas last week. “You live in that city. Only city in the world.”

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How You Can Save Western Civilization by Reading True Grit

In April, we’re asking everyone to read Charles Portis’ True Grit as part of D Academy’s literacy nonprofit Big D Reads. D Academy fellows raised enough money to purchase 17,000 copies of the book and will be handing them out at more than 60 events during the month of April.

The fellows have spent the last few months talking about “grit.” One alumnus of the group, David Hopkins, recently shared his own thoughts on the word’s meaning:

I want to discuss a popular TV show my wife and I have been binge-watching on Netflix. It’s the story of a family man, a man of science, a genius who fell in with the wrong crowd. He slowly descends into madness and desperation, lead by his own egotism. With one mishap after another, he becomes a monster. I’m talking, of course, about Friends and its tragic hero, Ross Geller.

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A Less Than Objective Recap of the Festival of Ideas

On Saturday, I, along with 700 or so other people, slipped and skidded my way to the Arts District for the Dallas Institute and DMN’s Dallas Festival of Ideas. Because of ice, snow, and everything else Mother Nature threw at us last week, the conference went from a $90, two-day extravaganza to a free-to-all afternoon of talks (what it should have been in the beginning).

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Nominate Your Favorite Librarian for the Librarian of the Year Award

You may have heard of this thing we do called Big D Reads. We try to create a citywide book club. This year, we’re asking everyone to read True Grit in April. We’ve got a whole slew of (free) events for you to attend, and we’re passing out 17,000 copies of the book (12,000 of which will go to ninth graders at Dallas ISD). Even Brad Oldham has gotten in on the program and created these coins for us to pass out.

This program would be impossible without the support of our city’s librarians. Whether with the Dallas Public Library, DISD’s media services, or at hospitals, the librarians are the backbone of our efforts. That’s why we started the Librarian of the Year award. We wanted to honor the unsung heroes of the library systems. If you, like us, believe in the power of a wonderful book and want to thank those who help so many find those books, help people find jobs, offer counsel, and complete a million other tasks, please nominate them now. But, hurry, nominations close tomorrow!

And if you need some inspiration for what to write, check out these nominations (you can read more nominations here):

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Justin Terveen Strikes Again

You know we love local photographer Justin Terveen. Recently, we’ve been following his adventures on the lakes in Oklahoma, but today he brings us this beauty from Bank of America. Wanna purchase this for your home? Terveen has a sale going on right now. Send him a note at [email protected]

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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