Welcome to CityWalk Talk! If you’ve read the introduction, then you know Central Dallas Community Development Corporation (forever after “Central Dallas CDC”) will be opening CityWalk@Akard, its rehabilitation of a fifteen-story office tower at 511 N. Akard in the center of Downtown Dallas this summer, and we wanted to create a place to talk about that development and the related issues we work on—urban redevelopment and the “Housing First” model for ending homelessness.
I will get to explaining most of this over the next week or so, but I think I should begin with a brief explanation of how Central Dallas CDC got started, what we do, and why we do it.
Ten years ago, I left the private practice of law to start a public interest law firm at Central Dallas Ministries [link], along with my partner Ken Koonce who still runs Legal Action Works. Our inspiration came from Larry James, CEO and President of Central Dallas Ministries (CDM) and his unique approach to urban ministry. Larry James may not put it quite this way, but CDM takes the idea of service more seriously than most organizations. That means the people who work at CDM aren’t in charge, but the people we work for, our neighbors, are in charge of what we do. Our neighbors told CDM they needed access to lawyers, so Larry James found Ken and me, a couple of lawyers willing to work for them.
Not long after I got to CDM, our neighbors told us that they needed help with housing. Too many of our neighbors couldn’t afford decent housing, and poor quality housing made all of the services provided by CDM less effective. CDM gave people food, but they needed a place to cook; provided medical care that was less effective without a healthy place to live; helped with education, but children need a place to study. So we created Central Dallas CDC as a nonprofit real estate development company to increase the supply of high-quality, affordable housing in the central areas of the City of Dallas.
Soon my legal assistant, Johnice Woods and I were not only practicing law, but building housing. After a couple of years the demands of running Central Dallas CDC had become so great and the time available to practice law so limited that I decided that I would have to stop practicing law in order to devote myself to working on developing housing, and Johnice (who had just completed her certification as a legal assistant) agreed to take up a new career in real estate development.