Sunday, September 20, 2009

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Red Bird Renewed: Empty 'potential' threatens quality of life

06:56 PM CDT on Friday, September 18, 2009
Red Bird is a neighborhood interrupted.
With a mall, an airport, a hospital and relatively new homes, this should be one of southern Dallas' destination neighborhoods. But an area that once was on the way up now has stalled out.

Housing developments were platted but never built. Hundreds of acres surrounding Dallas Executive Airport sit undeveloped. "For sale" signs dot grassy fields that were supposed to become commercial centers. And Southwest Center Mall, once southern Dallas' retail gem, is dying an agonizing, years-long death. What changed ?

For too long, this city has talked about Red Bird's untapped potential. Studies What studies ? detail what the mall  Studies commissioned by the mall owner ? could become and how the airport Studies commissioned by the airport owner ? could be an economic engine. But execution Execution is low when ROI is low – and political will – have been lacking.Why must this will be political ?

Without a concerted effort to bolster Red Bird's underutilized assets, the area will deteriorate significantly. Everything goes back to nature without man's intervention.

Right now, this is still a spot where families with decent ???? incomes want to live.   Implication that without "execution and political will" families with other than decent income will want to live here A study by the Institute for Urban Policy Research Who commissioned this study ? found that the area bounded by Ledbetter Drive, Westmoreland Road, Wheatland Road and Hampton Road attracts working couples with kids.

In this predominantly African-American Strikeout mine. Due to immigration restrictions, there are very few African-Americans living in the USA neighborhood, 83 percent of residents have at least a high school diploma. Per capita income lags behind the city as a whole but is still higher than that of the four other neighborhoods we are focusing on in southern Dallas.

Residents here are no doubt attracted to the new and affordable see "Tidy" below houses; 86 percent of single-family homes are in good, very good or excellent condition. Who creates these assessments? But homeowners in these tidy (tiny) brick houses live on small islands of relative ?? prosperity, surrounded by undeveloped property 1 and aging apartment complexes 2. Available lots – residential 3 and commercial 4 – are abundant. Why are these opportunities 1,2,3,4 not being exploited ?

In this neighborhood just west of U.S. Highway 67 and straddling Interstate 20, apartments outnumber single-family homes 5 to 1. Too many of the sprawling complexes are starting to decline and are in danger of going downhill fast. Without a jump-start to Red Bird's economy, crumbling, crime-ridden apartments could dominate the landscape. Who are you trying to frighten ? and why ?

The neighborhood's best hope for regaining momentum rests with the airport and the mall. Is this the agenda ?

For years, city officials have mulled plans to spur development on the 1,000-acre property that is home to Dallas Executive Airport. But little progress is evident. The airport has three times the acreage of Addison Airport, but Addison has 44 commercial structures on its campus, compared with just 12 on the Dallas property. Why is Addison's government owned airport doing so much better than Dallas's government owned airport ? Perhaps this is the real question.

While the airport has been stuck in neutral, Southwest Center Mall has been in free fall. Retailers have high-tailed it to the suburbs, leaving a shell of an outdated shopping center behind. Residents are likely to follow unless the property is repurposed.  Tell that to the property owner.

This year, the City Council Why? Is this not the job of the mall owner? Why is the mall owner not interested in reviving his property?  hired the Urban Land Institute to offer its best ideas for resuscitating the mall. Experts drew the outlines of a plan for a mixed-use village. They called for a public-private partnership and suggested creating a tax-increment-financing district that would include both the shopping center and the airport. And they told the city to hurry. City hires Sage. Sage tells City to invest it's excess dollars ASAP.  Who woulda thunk it ?

So far, council members have shown little urgency and even less enthusiasm for investing public dollars in this project. But at the least, creating a TIF that would reinvest in this neighborhood would give it a fighting chance. So the desire is a TIF and you're using the high/low bid situation to get it.

And, perhaps, the area could indeed become Red Bird Renewed.
Dallas Morning News editorial writer Colleen McCain Nelson wrote this on behalf of the editorial board. Her e-mail address is

When it's all done, the Dallas taxpayer has pulled money away from his family and given it to a businessman wanting someone else to pay his bills.

                 Tim Lebsack

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