Sunday, January 31, 2010

More donations for CityWalk


Since the opening of CityWalk@Akard, the donations we’ve received for our residents have not only continued, but they have increased. A very special thank you goes to Colleen Lujan and Rose McElyea for their diligence in collecting donations from their co-workers and friends. Because of these two ladies, we have received several items of furniture and lots of clothing to help get our residents started.

Also, we’d like to send a big thank you to Andrew Foster, and Scott and Lori Beth Harrison for purchasing CityWalk Home Packages.

If you’d like to purchase a CityWalk Home Package to help furnish one or more of our 142 studios at CityWalk, please contact me at or 214.573.2570 ext. 2133. If you’d like to donate household goods, food (non-perishables) or toiletries, please let me know when you’d like to bring your items by 511 N. Akard and we will be happy to receive them!

Photo: Colleen Lujan carries donations to CityWalk as Naquanna Comeaux and Rose McElyea sort the rest of the items.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The CDC and Me


I have been working for Central Dallas Community Development Corporation now going on one full month and currently have several different projects in the works including purchasing artwork for the new building, revamping the Central Dallas CDC web site, and creating a new pamphlet for the CDC.

Prior to this I had been living in Los Angeles for the past five years working as both an actor and an Independent film producer. However, I am thankful to be back in Dallas and consider myself lucky to be a member of such a great team with great people like the folks at the CDC.

Friday, January 29, 2010

They’re Taking Building Restoration to New Heights


For the record – the highest roof on CityWalk is 17 stories above the ground.

One of the “biggest” things about the building are the two 511 signs at the top. One is 14 feet tall, the other is 8 feet tall. I have heard that when they were lit, they could be seen for miles. Being a historic building, it has become a given that we will restore these signs to their original splendor and operation.

Today, two workers from Chandler Signs had the pleasure of examining these numerals close-up.

They had to remove the existing glass neon tubing so that exact replicas could be made for re-installation in a few weeks. At that time, all of the 50 year-old internal wiring and transformers will be replaced as well, and the faces will be repainted. This will all be done while the 511 signs remain on the building.

Now, being 17 stories above ground, it means that the only way to get to them is from the roof. This requires that they tie-off to something (hopefully) substantial and secure on the roof and lower themselves over the edge.

It is all in a day’s work for them (they’ve done this on taller buildings), but it scared the heck out of me just watching it. Ronnie, the one going over the edge, said the important thing is not to think about it, just do it. That’s easy for him to say!

Gladly, it was completed in several hours without incident. In a few weeks, our 511 signs will shine brightly once again!

Oh, and by the way, we learned that the original neon was turquoise (how 1950’s).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Oh Canada, Oh Canada


OK – truth. I know almost nothing about Canada, and have never really given a lot of thought to visiting Canada. However, my husband was sent to Calgary recently on business, so I met up with him late in the week, and we went to Banff for a long weekend. I now know only a little more about Canada than before, but here is what I learned/observed on my winter vacation.

1. The Canadian Rockies are different than the Colorado Rockies. The peaks seem much steeper and more jagged. Picture the mountain in the Paramount pictures intro, or the rock of Gibraltar in the Prudential ads.

2. If you take the gondola to the top of Sulphur Mountain, you really do feel like you are on top of the world. And, from the top of Sulphur Mountain, you can get to Houston, Texas by traveling in a southeasterly direction for 1,807 miles, or 2,908 kilometers. Please refer to picture if you want to know the same information about Buenos Aires.

3. What we call pitchers of beer here in the US are referred to as jugs of beer in Canada. Not that we had any, I’m just sayin’ I saw it on the menus.

4. Last, but not least, snow tubing is great fun! I am not sure you could really call it a sport since there is no skill required, but definitely an awesome snow activity. Especially if some aspects of snow skiing don’t appeal to you – you know, the awkward, uncomfortable boots; the need for some amount of skill just to stand up on skis, much less go down a mountain on them; the drain on your energy level and the severe pain inflicted on those muscles that you never use any other time; and of course, the dreaded ski patrol sled. I can almost guarantee you that you do not have to worry about any type of injury or being rescued from the slopes by the ski patrol while snow tubing, even though you go really, really fast!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

When We Were Young

Relatively young, that is, compared to now. Almost exactly 11 years ago Ken Koonce and I left the private practice of law to start Legal Action Works, Central Dallas Ministries’ public interest law firm, about the time this picture was taken. Ken is the handsome looking fellow on the right who, besides running Legal Action Works, is also the General Counsel for Central Dallas Ministries.

When we started our new law practice we were new not only to each other but also to working in low income communities. Over the years we learned a lot—mostly to be less naïve, but many other things as well. The time has passed so quickly. When we started his older daughter was just beginning elementary school and now she is driving. My daughter was just beginning middle school and just this month she was accepted to law school.

Lisa Goolsby in CDM’s Development Department discovered this picture as part of our move to CityWalk and was kind enough to pass it on to us. I don’t feel any older than I did back in the last century when we started this work, but looking at this picture makes me realize the time that has passed. I do feel that we’ve made good use of the last 11 years; worked hard; helped a lot of people; enjoyed life.

It’s only because I feel that way that I am at peace with the passing of the years.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

“The World Is Too Much With Us”

Last week I was driving home as the sun was setting. The new moon was the slightest sliver cradling the old moon in its arms. The sun reflected in waves of pink and mauve off the clouds and I could dimly see white birds flying in the night sky. This poem came to mind:

The World is Too Much With Us
by William Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

One side effect of the decade I spent studying English poetry (most of my twenties) is that fragments of poetry or sometimes whole poems often come unbidden to my mind. I think that when they do I am being told something. Here, I think it was simply that I am too caught up in my work and the excitement of opening CityWalk. I am missing the great world going by while I concentrate too much on finances—on getting and spending.

For example, a bald eagle has been spotted at Sunset Bay ( and the white pelicans have returned to White Rock Lake to winter over, but I haven’t been out to see either of them.

Soon they will be gone for another year and if I don’t want to miss them then I need to take at least a few hours to go look.

White pelicans are enormous, prehistoric-looking birds. I benefit, perhaps anyone would, from spending some time watching them and contemplating their place in creation. Time spent like that makes me more in tune and less forlorn.

Monday, January 25, 2010

bcCorps in Dolphin Heights

If you follow this link, then you can read a bit and see a short video about the work of the bcCorps in the Dolphin Heights neighborhood of South Dallas:

The work is also ours; we’re funding the building of the nine homes through a grant we got from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program; and it’s also Central Dallas Ministries’ work as well; most of the people you see in the video are AmeriCorps members working in Dallas through the program administered by CDM. Finding a way to pay for a project isn’t always the most glamorous part of a partnership—and usually doesn’t get you in the news, but nothing can happen without someone footing the bill.

In any event, our work isn’t limited to helping fund this project. We spend a lot of time working on budgets, cash flows, compliance, legal requirements and all the nuts and bolts of the work that are necessary. Sometimes we even get to participate in the fun.

Last Friday I was one of two reviewers to which the bcCorps presented the penultimate version of its presentation of its home designs—the final reviewers will be the community in Dolphin Heights. The designs were excellent, which doesn’t mean we didn’t have a lot to say about them. As a real estate developer I always have to think of the end use and the bottom line—a house doesn’t become a home until someone buys (or rents) it and moves in. Thinking that way gives you a different approach to a project. Some of the designs were brilliant as designs, but probably would not appeal to the target community.

Architecture is an applied art (except perhaps for museum projects) that always has to compromise between beauty and use. Most young designers are more concerned with beauty—even Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs are infamous for problems with constructability and livability. So part of the job of the reviewers is to put a reality check in front of the designers.

If you can’t build a design, and if nobody wants it, then nothing else matters. Fortunately, the real critique is yet to come. Community members know what they want, and if the designs presented to them don’t fulfill their needs, then it will be back to the drawing board.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

AmeriCorps Visits CityWalk@Akard


On Monday, January 18, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we were blessed with a group of about 50 AmeriCorps members who were providing a day of service. We all met in the basement of 511 N. Akard, and then after a short presentation about the project, they all got busy working. We had bags and boxes of clothes, children’s games, books, and toiletries that had been generously donated for the new residents of CityWalk. In addition, we needed 200 Welcome Home bags assembled.

It was a great day. The Reverend King’s memory was definitely honored by this awesome corps of volunteers all working together to make our community a better place for everyone.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Word Is Out


People are still coming to 511 N. Akard to sign their names on the waiting list for an apartment. When the first residents moved into 511 N. Akard all the television stations covered the event. With the publicity came a greater interest from potential residents. In the two days after making the evening news, there were lines of people trying to sign up.

There isn’t a line anymore, but people are still stopping by to place their names on the list. When they sign up, there are usually a thousand questions – “How long before you call me?” “When will the building be completed?” “How long is the waiting list?” “Can I see the apartment?”

People are in desperate need to call some place home and CityWalk is a great opportunity. People are excited about CityWalk. The location is ideal. You are in the heart of downtown Dallas and close to social services, the trains and buses. It is a great place to start over.

The reality is there is only so much space available at CityWalk; therefore, many of the people on the waiting list will not be afforded the opportunity to live here. But CityWalk can be the starting point for other initiatives for affordable housing for low income residents. There is certainly a need. The waiting list is evidence of that fact.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Unsung Heroes Part II – A Dream Becomes A Reality


There have been literally thousands of men and women who have worked on the rehabilitation/construction of the 511 N. Akard building. Since there is probably not any practical way to thank them all individually, this shout out goes to them –“Thank You!” Every single person who has taken part in this project has been part of making history in Dallas and they have also been part of making a dream come true for our community.

The staff of Central Dallas Ministries and Central Dallas CDC began working on this project in December 2005, but the dream goes back much further than that. I can remember when I first began working at Central Dallas Ministries in December 2000, and the dream was already taking shape back then – a dream to build a community in Dallas that would be unlike anything else - a place where people of different ages, from different backgrounds, and from all walks of life come together to live and create a unique community.

So thank you again to everyone – every single one of you who hammered a nail, painted a wall, laid a brick, welded some steel, installed plumbing, swept debris, and worked through heat, cold, snow, and rain. You have had a hand in making a dream a reality in Dallas, Texas.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

On the right path


Now that residents have finally moved into the building, I realize they are the vision of 511 N. Akard. My question to them is, “How can I be of assistance to you in making your future aspirations become reality?” Their responses are as varied as their aspirations. As Community Outreach Assistant, my job is to be of assistance to the residents.

I am truly impressed with the caliber of residents we have now. They all seem to be focused and have clear goals. They are energetic and full of motivation. I sit at the front desk and see them come in and out of the building working to find resources to meet their needs.

The vision for community outreach is to form a partnership with residents in helping them meet their goals. This is going to require effort on the resident’s part. If what we have now is an indication of what future residents will be like, we are on the right path. Change comes from within and not without.

While interviewing residents, I was able to hear of many obstacles that were in the way of residents fulfilling their goals. It is going to take a concerted effort to overcome those obstacles. I am eager to be an asset to residents and to assist them in brainstorming new ways and strategies to overcome those obstacles.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We’re officially moved into CityWalk


So, we’re all moved into the building now and I must say it’s a really good feeling. I had been wondering what it would be like to finally be working inside the 511 building and yesterday was our first official day.

There’s so much to look forward to now. For instance, it will be very convenient to be able to walk down the hallways of the CityWalk building and speak to someone from CDM about projects or resources for our residents. It will also be nice to be able to fellowship with our CDM brothers and sisters on a daily basis.

Pinnacle, our property management company, works inside the building as well so it is going to be a lot easier to communicate with our property manager and leasing consultants when we need to. It’s also great to work in the same building where our residents live. This makes it easier for us to connect with them as we work on creating a close-knit community at CityWalk.

So now that we’re here the real work begins. And it’s a really good feeling.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Cold Has Passed in the Lobby of 511 N. Akard


When I began monitoring the front doors of 511 N. Akard, I had no problem staying alert. The lobby was freezing cold. It seemed to be colder than the outside temperature. I kept my hooded coat on and greeted the residents, construction workers and contractors.

I endured, and now there is heat in the lobby. There have been times when it was so cozy that I found it hard to stay awake. With the rise in temperatures, there is a rise in activity in the building. Today, Central Dallas Ministries and Central Dallas CDC employees will move into their new offices at 511 N. Akard. There is now non-stop movement.

The computers, printers, copiers, boxes full of office supplies, wall pictures and paintings, and office chairs are all coming through the doors. As fate would have it the construction elevator started having problems, so there was a line to use the elevator. Thank God it has been fixed now.

The warmth in the lobby has come with change in activity at 511, and much anticipation of a dream becoming reality. Can you imagine the activity at 511 when it is 80 degrees outside?

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Have a Dream

August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington D.C.

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Kids will have fun, learn at CityWalk


As we continue to develop our activities calendar for CityWalk, we are getting responses from several organizations and ministries that want to provide activities and programs for our youngest residents. CityWalk has 22 two-bedroom units that will be home to families with children.

Last week, Johnice Woods, Kevin Flagg and I met with the staff of Rainbow Days, where the mission is “to provide children living in high-risk situations with the skills and support they need to overcome adversity and stay drug free.” Kelly Wierzbinski, Family Connection program manager, and Brandon Dawson, Children, Youth and Family Services Specialist, sat down with us to explain their program and its successes. We were inspired and very impressed by their passion to encourage and empower children through creative and effective group sessions, camps and community activities. We left the meeting extremely excited about offering the Rainbow Days program and are looking forward to offering many more programs like it to the kids at CityWalk. You can find out more about Rainbow Days here.

We can’t wait to see the Kids Room at CityWalk full of children playing, building friendships and benefiting from the programs and activities we have planned. It’s very important that we invest in our youngest residents and we hope to make an impact in their lives while they are living at CityWalk.

If you, your organization or your church would like to offer a program or host an activity for children at CityWalk, please contact me at or 214.573.2570.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Moving Forward

By Johnice Woods – Director of Projects

Walt Disney stated “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” For me, this day begins a new journey down a new path.

I completed packing up my office on Main Street for the move to our new downtown office at CityWalk. I must say, I had lots of stuff that I had accumulated over the last two years. I have been with Central Dallas Ministries, our sister organization, for 11 years so I have become quite accustomed to moving. However, it is something about this move that breeds the “curiosity” as stated by Mr. Disney.

I am so excited to start next week walking through the doors of 511 N. Akard. I can remember two years ago walking through the door with John Greenan and looking at the remnants of pigeon waste and feeling the cold darkness of the stairwells. (On a side note, I remember feeling like there were many beady eyes peering at me. I would later find out it was the huge rats that were residents of the basement.)

Even though there is still ongoing construction, the building boasts such a refreshing newness, not only inside but outside. I am so blessed to be a part of opening new doors and to begin my journey of doing new things in my new office.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Your donations make a difference


When Donald Giddens moved into his fully furnished CityWalk studio on Jan. 12, he had nothing but the clothes on his back. Little did he know we had received a generous selection of men’s clothing from some caring people in the community to begin building our clothes closet for our residents.

Colleen Lujan, who has been helping the homeless for years, had come to the Central Dallas CDC office the day before with boxes of toiletries, bags of men’s clothing and a passion to do more for our formerly homeless and low-income residents. Just a couple of weeks before that, we received a huge donation of men’s clothing from Melvin Traylor. Because of their donations, we were able to meet Donald’s immediate need.

The first item Donald picked up was a red plaid jacket. “Oh, I like this,” he said, admiring the jacket’s perfect fit. After a little more shopping, Donald was headed back to his apartment with shirts, jeans and jackets.

Johnice Woods, director of projects, and I were able to be a part of this wonderful moment, which was captured by Dan Finnell, one of our architects.

Donald was so grateful and appreciative. He smiled all the way home.

Thank you Colleen and Melvin!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Unsung Heroes – Part I


As you can imagine, most of us have been spending a fair amount of time at 511 N. Akard. I have had the opportunity to capture some of the behind the scenes activity, so I will be writing several blogs giving some “Shout Outs” to some of the people working at the building to bring all the details together for our big move.

First is Robin Loving – “Hey Robin!” Just look at this smile. Robin works for Pinnacle Realty, our property management company, and she, along with two other ladies, has been working non-stop on tenant files. The ladies from Pinnacle, as we now refer to them, are in charge of the entire process for residential tenants. This process starts with an interview in which the potential tenant fills out an application form. Pinnacle staff then begins processing the application, which requires a criminal background check, rental history, credit report, and verification of all income and asset sources. Not every potential tenant makes it through this compliance process – the rules are the rules. But the ladies from Pinnacle can handle every situation with a smile. Thanks Robin. Thanks Arnetta. Thanks C.J.

Next is Kevin Flagg – “Hey Kev, we miss you and can’t wait to join you at 511!” Kevin was hired to assist Naquanna with community outreach and resident services at CityWalk. However, he has spent the past couple weeks manning the front door at 511 N. Akard. Do y’all remember how cold it’s been lately? Kevin was at the building Monday through Friday, next to the front door, and without central heat. Thanks Kevin!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is Retirement a Good Idea?

I recently read an article on baby boomers (like me) postponing retirement. Both the article and the comments were interesting. Some comments, as always, were pretty far off base:

The baby boomers are the ones that ruined this country and put it in the position that it's in. When they entered the work force there were so many jobs open due to the deaths from WWII. Then they trashed the economy. NOW they won't or can't retire! There are so many younger people trying to provide for their families with young children who can't find jobs because these baby boomers won't retire. It's not fair!

This is sad, simply because it’s embarrassing just how little so many of us know about our history. The first baby boomers were born in 1946—children of the soldiers that returned home after World War II. World War II would have been over for about 18 years by the time the first baby boomers graduated from high school (the accepted birth years for the baby boom generation are 1946-1964). In addition, deaths from World War II were a relatively small factor in post war labor shortages. The United States lost a little over 400,000 soldiers out of a population of over 130,000,000 in World War II. That’s only a population loss of .3% (granted, mostly men of working age), not enough to have a severe impact on employment rates. Other countries, though, lost much higher proportions of their population. Poland lost more than 16% of its entire population in the war.

Other comments were much more perceptive:

It really irks me when people with interesting, non-physically demanding jobs (i.e. journalists, economists, politicians swilling at the public trough, etc.) tell Americans that they shouldn't retire until they are 70 or older. They seem unaware that millions of aging Americans work physically demanding, mind-numbing jobs -- jobs that become more unbearable as the workers get in their sixties.

No question about it, some jobs are hard to keep doing when you get older. Any job that requires physical labor and manual skills—plumber, roofer, carpenter—is going to become difficult by the time you reach your sixties. The second part of this statement is much more problematic to me. Many jobs are mind-numbing, while exerting a relatively low physical demand. I think it’s wrong to characterize those jobs as unbearable when you reach your sixties.

I don’t think anybody deserves a free ride. Work is a duty so long as you remain capable of doing it. You consume so long as you are alive; if you can you need to produce. So even if you don’t like your job, then I don’t have much sympathy for paying for your retirement at a relatively early age.

The final lesson in this discussion to me is that almost nothing in life is more important than finding work that you want to do. Other than, perhaps, sleeping, you will spend more of your life working than doing anything else. Find something you enjoy and you will be happy. If you don’t, then you will only be counting the days towards your death when you no longer need work.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Poverty Living

By Johnice Woods – Director of Projects

January is National Poverty in America Awareness Month. You might be thinking the same thing I thought, “Who knew there was such an observance?” Many of us who are fortunate to have full-time employment, reliable transportation, decent housing, adequate clothing and food, may not be aware that there are 39.5 million people who live below the poverty line, 12.9 are children (Source: U.S. Census Bureau). To bring this data closer to home, in Dallas County there are approximately 408,000 persons who live below the poverty line.

I would like for us to take a closer look at a typical person who is seeking housing at CityWalk@Akard. Despite what the media has reported (which is that CityWalk is a development for persons who are currently homeless, not true), the majority of our prospective tenants are employed. Their employment wages range from what is considered poverty wage, $5.04 per hour to the state minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Studies have shown that a “living wage,” which is what a person needs to earn to adequately support a quality lifestyle, is $8.88 per hour. The following is a table list of expenses for a person earning a living wage in Dallas County (Source: – Living wage calculator)

Monthly Expenses

Food $237
Medical $93
Housing $718
Transportation $275
Other $199
Taxes $20
TOTAL $1,542

A food preparation specialist at a local school district earns minimum wage which is $1,257 a month. As you can see, it is difficult for a person earning minimum wage to cover basic living needs. Many of them receive minimum federal assistance because they either don’t qualify because they work or the government bureaucracy is not worth their time to continue to reapply.

So what is the point of this blog you ask? There is a huge need for more quality and affordable housing for those persons who are often overlooked because they are not homeless and are not eligible for government assistance. Fact is they want to work and contribute to their communities but are struggling to maintain day to day needs. Coincidentally, January is also International Quality of Life Month.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Positive, Productive and Purposeful


Kevin Flagg, our community outreach assistant, and I are in the process of developing our activities calendar for CityWalk at Akard, and we’re very excited about all of the wonderful resources that will be available to our residents.

We’re also happy to have already received commitments from several local organizations and individuals that will be donating their time to CityWalk by teaching classes, providing programs and conducting workshops in areas such as career development, financial planning, health and wellness, and life skills.

With a variety of enriching activities and programs available on a weekly basis, CityWalk living is sure to be a positive, productive and purposeful experience for our residents. If you, your organization or your church would like to work with our residents in areas that promote personal, professional or spiritual growth, please contact me at or 214.573.2570.

This is a new beginning for many of our residents. Come and be a part of it!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

NIMBYism Gone Wild

I should have reached that age by now when nothing surprises me. Dealing with the rumors and misperceptions involved in finding a place to build housing for the homeless gives you a pretty close up view of some of the darker sides of our society (and I mean that in several different ways).

Still, I can understand why, no matter how strongly Housing First may be supported in principal, it can be difficult to explain to people that it fits in their neighborhood; that it isn’t a shelter. But an article in Unfair Park on Friday ( makes me wonder if we all haven’t gone stark raving mad.

Now, apparently even vegetables are a threat to property values. One short quote from the Comments sums it all up for me:

We all need to be honest with ourselves. How would you like it if a community garden were placed right next to your home?

Well, I guess I would be scared. You never know when a rampaging zucchini might invade your yard or the pole beans might launch a surprise attack.

Of course, you could always build a wall:

There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.

(From Robert Frost’s Mending Wall.)

I’ve always considered gardeners a particularly unthreatening group of people. Just about as dangerous as fly fisherman or birdwatchers.

Clearly, if I want to keep in step with the times, I need to ramp my paranoia up a few notches. To be honest, my life isn’t all that difficult most of the time, but I can’t quite imagine just how trouble-free you would have to be to worry that someone might be gardening in your neighborhood.

I’m afraid my first reaction would be to try to make friends with the gardeners in hopes one of them might see fit to give me some homegrown tomatoes. Talk about out of step with the times!

I do not understand what has happened to us.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

CityWalk currently accepting donations


Do you remember when you moved into your first apartment? There were many things that you wanted to buy for your new place, but there were some things that were absolutely essential for comfortable living. Now imagine that you were moving into your brand new apartment after living in a shelter or even your car. Furnishing your new home would be nearly impossible.

We’ve put together a package of household items needed for each CityWalk studio that can be purchased for $750. Several individuals, families and churches have already sponsored studios by purchasing a CityWalk Home Package, but there are several units that still need furnishings for the bedroom, kitchen and bathroom areas. You can sponsor a CityWalk Home Package by going to our Web site,, and clicking on “DONATE,” or by contacting me at or 214.573.2570. We’ve already received several calls and e-mails from people in the community who want to help and we’re extremely thankful for what we have received so far.

There are others who have donated much-needed toiletries and clothing for our residents. A couple of weeks ago, Melvin Traylor donated $300 worth of men’s clothing for our CityWalk Clothes Closet that will be available to our residents. Many of them are moving in with only the clothes on their backs, so our clothes closet will be a huge help. If you have any garments that you would like to donate, please contact me. If you would like to organize a donation drive for food (non-perishables) and/or toiletries, just let me know when you’d like to drop the items off.

Remember, CityWalk has 200 units so we will need a constant flow of donations to effectively meet our residents’ needs. No matter the size of your gift, please know that your contribution will truly make a difference in the lives of our residents.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Housing for the Homeless In Unfair Park

Today’s edition of Unfair Park has a piece about Mike Faenza’s and Mike Rawlings’ presentation to the City Plan Commission on locating Permanent Supportive Housing. The whole article is here:, but I’m interested in a few comments by Mike Rawlings and a reply from Bill Holston. Here are Rawlings comments:

Reaching the city's permanent supporting housing goal is "all about politics," Rawlings says, as the city council faces tough calls with constituents unwilling to allow affordable housing in their neighborhoods.

"When those neighbors say, 'I don't care what you say. I don't want 'em,' as a kid would say, they've got to say, 'Look, it's the right thing to do.'"

He doesn't expect zoning to be an issue; it's approval of the tax credits that end up being the stumbling block. "Without those, we don't have the economics to do it," Rawlings says. "That's the power the citizens have."

Another concern is the power council members have over their own districts, which was exposed in the recent City Hall corruption trial. "We've got to figure out how we can do a better job of checks and balances," he says.

This is the comment in reply from Bill Holston:

"Reaching the city's permanent supporting housing goal is "all about politics," Rawlings says, as the city council faces tough calls with constituents unwilling to allow affordable housing in their neighborhoods."

and if the affordable housing units that have been in my neighborhood weren't the biggest eyesores around, I'd be all for it. When Dallas Housing Authority is a good neighbor, I'll say, bring on more Section 8 Housing. But they aren't.

I love my Casa View Neighborhood, very diverse, hard working people. I will oppose more 'affordable housing' in my neighborhood until they convince me they will take care of those units.

The interesting thing here, for me, is that I know both Mike Rawlings and Bill Holston. They are both well-respected, hard-working men who spend a lot of time working for the betterment of the City of Dallas. If Bill Holston is opposed to affordable housing in his neighborhood, then people like Mike Rawlings and I who are working in this area have a lot of work to do before we’re welcomed in neighborhoods, because Bill Holston is a reasonable person.

It also shows just how easily one bad project can poison the entire well. Affordable housing projects have to be more than cheap. They have to be well-designed, well-maintained, beautiful projects. That isn’t a waste of money. That’s a necessity if we are going to be able to build more affordable housing.

[Maybe tomorrow I’ll get around to completing my piece on why we can’t get along anymore.]

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Compromises and Shared Sacrifices

Maybe it is a trick of perception but it seems to me that we are losing our ability to work together to solve our problems, both as a city here in Dallas and perhaps in the country at large. Granted, I am now in a position where I’m trying to locate housing for people now homeless, which many people would rather not have in their neighborhood, so the entire issue may just be more important to me now.

I seem to remember, though, when the culture was different. When we fought a war, then there was a draft. Whether or not you went to war, at a minimum you shared the risk of fighting with everyone else. Important national issues were examined and dealt with on a bipartisan basis, which seems impossible now. The two political parties are so divided that I can’t imagine that they would agree on any significant legislation.

Some years ago, I think the culture was different. We weren’t so self-obsessed. Nobody was famous for being famous. Conspicuous consumption wasn’t nearly so conspicuous.

It’s hard to trace the changes in our culture, but I think many of them resulted from the Vietnam War and the protests against it. The Vietnam War provided a great incentive for those of us old enough to fight in it to become politically active. There is little like the threat of being drafted and sent to fight, and perhaps die, halfway across the world for reasons that you don’t understand to make you get up off the couch and do something. With that incentive, the New Left developed a whole new technology for protests and asserting individual rights.

Like any technology, once it has been developed, then it can be used for multiple purposes, often with unexpected consequences. Drift nets were not invented to eliminate fish populations, only to make catching fish easier. Once an extremely effective technique for fishing was developed, however, the loss of entire populations of species of fish became inevitable.

I think the same pattern took place once better techniques to assert our individual rights were developed. Now that we know how to stage effective protests, media events and the right way to file lawsuits, we can all assert all of our rights and the unforeseen result is paralysis. That’s not at all what most of us probably have in mind when we try to assert our individual rights, but good or bad, I think it’s an inevitable result, as I’ll discuss tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Third Great Place—The Laundry

About 20 years ago, the author Ray Oldenburg wrote the influential book The Great Good Place:

Oldenburg calls one's "first place" the home and those that one lives with. The "second place" is the workplace — where people may actually spend most of their time. Third places, then, are "anchors" of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in modern times is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to current societal needs. Oldenburg suggests these hallmarks of a true "third place": free or inexpensive; food and drink, while not essential, are important; highly accessible: proximate for many (walking distance); involve regulars – those who habitually congregate there; welcoming and comfortable; both new friends and old should be found there.

It turns out, to my surprise, that one of the important “third places” in high rise apartment buildings is the laundry. When we first designed CityWalk, I had a small laundry facility put on each floor. To me it seemed the most convenient of solutions. No need to carry your laundry up or down the elevator. The laundry would be right outside of your door, or just down the hall at the worst.

The more I talked to people who ran similar projects, the more I learned that instead we should just build one large laundry facility. So we did.

It turns out that laundries are important meeting places. They satisfy most of the requirements for a great third place--inexpensive; highly accessible: proximate for many; involve regulars; welcoming and comfortable; both new friends and old should be found there.

While laundries may not serve food and drink (although vending machines will probably be available), laundries are important social spaces. Everyone in the building has to go wash clothes sooner or later. They are a comfortable, informal space in which to meet your neighbors.

So if I need to make contact with my neighbors, I guess I’ll just join everyone else and hang around the laundry for awhile. After all, we built such a nice laundry room - who wouldn’t want to spend time there?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Bright and Cold

Today dawned bright and cold. It’s the kind of day that I never remember seeing growing up. In Michigan cold weather meant clouds and snow. When I first moved to Dallas these kinds of days amazed me. I remember the energy I felt upon seeing the sun in winter. How could one ever be depressed when the sun shone year round? I was used to waiting through the dark months of winter until spring to see any sign of the sun.

I wasn’t as startled by the combination of sun and cold as some people, however. Quite awhile ago now, probably 25 years ago, I was told a story by an older attorney, Russell Mann, in New Mexico. Mr. Mann would be in his nineties now if he is still with us.

In the 1920s his father had moved to New Mexico from the Midwest and bought a ranch. One day in December, Mr. Mann’s father went out into the bright sun to do his chores. By the time he was done he had almost frozen to death.

The temperature was 20 below. It never entered his mind that such a beautiful sunny day could be so cold. In the 1920s New Mexico was unknown and mostly unsettled territory, full of surprises.

I understand. Even after 25 years in Dallas a day like today is still a delight and surprise to me.

Monday, January 4, 2010

CityWalk@Akard Bowl

By Johnice Woods – Director of Projects

For you college football fans (I am one), nothing is more exciting than College Bowl Week, especially if your team makes it to a bowl game. Occurring post-holiday, this week features the best collegiate teams across the U.S. competing at various business sponsored games. The teams enjoy the host city’s hospitality and the great gifts from the titled sponsor. But most of all, they all look forward to being named the champion of the bowl game.

Last week, the opening of CityWalk was like Bowl Week. Preparing for our first four tenants to move in involved a great deal of planning and coordinating. From getting security in place to finding the correct keys, we were moving from sun up to sun down. Then there was the media frenzy - Fox 4, Channel 11, Dallas Morning News, and others descended upon 511 N. Akard to document the residents’ move into the building. Our championship moment was seeing the eyes of the tenants as they opened the doors to their units. But unlike College Bowl Week, we still have a great deal of work to do beyond the game.

Lou Holtz, former head football coach and the only coach in NCAA history to lead six different programs to bowl games, stated, “How you respond to the challenge in the second half will determine what you become after the game, whether you are a winner or a loser.”

I know 2010 will bring forth equally great challenges and great successes for CityWalk.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dwell with Dignity

One of the most amazing things that happen when you do a project like CityWalk is that you suddenly find out about all of the wonderful people in our city who are doing good works. Today I talked to Lisa Robison, founder of Dwell with Dignity, a nonprofit whose mission “is to help families escape poverty and homelessness through design; one household at a time.” Here’s Dwell with Dignity’s website:

Amazingly enough, Dwell with Dignity is already working with one of the families that will be living at Citywalk:

We just met our next Dwell with Dignity family- and, it is so fun because we usually don't meet the families we create homes for before they move in! This time, we are putting together a two bedroom apartment for a mom and 6 year old daughter who are graduating from the Interfaith Housing Coalition program. They will be moving into a new, mixed use building in downtown dallas with 200 units dedicated to low income, previously homeless families, and condo buyers. This new project, Citywalk at Akard, is really innovative and amazing!

See the Dwell with Dignity blog at

Right now Dwell with Dignity is doing about one apartment every other month—like all of us they have been limited by the time it takes to raise money and coordinate volunteers. You never know, though, maybe if we can supply some of the funding, we can get Dwell with Dignity to help us with the design of a few more of the units at CityWalk—not that Naquanna Comeaux and Johnice Woods have been doing a bad job, but it’s a lot to ask Naquanna and Johnice to decorate as well as do their main jobs.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Questions and Answers about the Formerly Homeless Persons at CityWalk

I participate fairly often (for me) in discussions on the Dallas Fort Worth Urban Forum ( It’s one of the most interesting, intelligent discussion forums I’ve ever seen. If you are interested in the redevelopment of Dallas, then it’s a must. (I probably shouldn’t bring it to your attention, because sometimes it’s a place where I can blow off steam rather than be endlessly polite to my critics). In any event, some time ago I posted an explanation of our role in relation to the formerly homeless persons that will be living at CityWalk (and it was recently reposted there by someone else). I think it has enough general interest to appear on the CityWalk blog, so I’m reproducing it here verbatim, even if on reading it I wish I had been a little more politically correct:

How long do you think those 50 will stay?

I don't know. Some will find a job and move up to a fancier place. Some may stay until they die.

Will you encourage them to have a place of employment and to move on?

This requires a little explanation. Central Dallas CDC, which I run, is a real estate company--our target market is just lower income people. Our job is to try to build a nice place where people enjoy living and to make sure they pay their rent and follow the rules. If they pay the rent, then, as far as we're concerned, they are a good person.

But if they are being subsidized on their rent, then they have to be retired, disabled, or working. So many of the formerly homeless tenants won't have any choice but to work. Central Dallas Ministries will help them to find work. But I'm not about encouraging anybody to move on. I am going to try to make 511 N. Akard such a wonderful place to live that nobody ever wants to leave. No matter how much money they make.

The fact remains is that people can find those who were once homeless who have now put their life back together and contribute to society. I hope that is CDM's goal otherwise it would be a waste. I have family who have donated their time and money to the homeless. There are some who want to make it, others who don't. If there is someone who is not meeting the criteria will they be put out of the building?

The criteria to stay in the building are simple. Pay your rent and obey the building rules. If someone does that, then I'm happy. The government agencies providing rent subsidies have other rules. Central Dallas Ministries will be providing services and has additional goals. But I'm not the parent of the tenant's living at 511 N. Akard. Just like any other building owner, I provide a place to live in return for rent. That's hard enough to do well with a low income population.

Do you set certain goals that they have to meet besides passing a background check? I hope so. My thought is that CDM should turn out people who can now give back to Dallas with their tax dollars like it or not.

Once again, pay the rent and obey the rules. Those are the goals of Central Dallas CDC. Central Dallas Ministries has additional goals--but tenants won't have to meet them to stay in the building. We don't have any interest in establishing a nanny state.

Oh yeah and I was reading an article when the whole project was brought to light. Why did you not notify First Baptist? It would seem to be the right thing to do keeping with your mission statement. I found that quite disturbing - there are children there.

We notified everyone we were required to notify under the state's rules--including posting a 4' by 8' sign in the front window with my name and telephone number on it for about a year--at least 7 months before we were awarded tax credits. The headmaster of First Baptist came and spoke against the project at City Council, so he certainly knew about it. My understanding is that he circulated a letter to all First Baptist parents urging them to oppose the project--but almost no parents did so (and First Baptist now has a new headmaster). We met with people from First Baptist at the church. At least one official from the church will be on the advisory committee we are forming--any person here can also be on the committee if you let me know. The only limit I'll set is if the committee gets so large it's unwieldy.

I might add that both my children attended First Baptist Academy from the 7th through 12th grade, and graduated from it. So I know very well that children are in the neighborhood. The Pegasus Charter School is also located in the YMCA next door. Our tenants will be screened and we will have security, both inside and outside the building. I can't say there is no danger--because wherever you have people there is some risk. But I am confident that our tenants won't pose any more risk to the neighborhood than the residents at the Mosaic across the street. Maybe less because we will have more systems of supervision in place. Poor people aren't more dangerous than wealthier people, they just have less money.

Certainly not everyone agrees, and my academic training was in the liberal arts and law, but my understanding of the gospels is that we are commanded to help the least among us. Sometimes that command is uncomfortable to put into practice.

Even though it may not seem to come off as encouragement I hope you do succeed. Remember, teach people how to fish; don’t give them one.

Thank you for your good wishes.

John Greenan

Friday, January 1, 2010

How CityWalk Looked When We Bought It

Looking at the pictures of our first residents moving into 511 N. Akard (CityWalk) yesterday, and the completion of the year, made me think of how the building looked when we acquired it in November 2006. As you can see (scroll down to yesterday’s entry if you would like to compare), things have changed quite a bit since we acquired 511 N. Akard:

It’s still a sad fact that Downtown Dallas has quite a few vacant buildings, and that many of them are used periodically as shelters by homeless persons.

For example, 211 N. Ervay is vacant except for the convenience store on the ground floor:

Among other vacant buildings is 400 St. Paul (except for the ground floor) and the Statler Hilton.

Of course 508 Park is also still vacant.

One of my wishes for next year is to see work start on restoring these buildings, and to see at least one more of them set aside for housing for people of low and moderate income.

Best wishes to you all for the coming New Year!