Downtown Dallas Preservation Task Force Recommendations
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Late last year, several significant historic structures were demolished in downtown Dallas along Main and Elm.  One dated back to 1885 and was one of the oldest buildings downtown.  Landmark Commission Chair and former director of Preservation Dallas Katherine Seale was chosen to head a Task Force to explore ways to keep this from happening again.  

The task force has released their final recommendations on ways to better address the issue of the lack of protections for non-designated historic buildings in downtown Dallas. In January 2015, a task force comprised of downtown developers, property owners and representatives from local organizations within the preservation, planning and architecture community began meeting weekly to look at the current programs and policies of Dallas’ preservation program. Their charge was to evaluate current preservation programs for their effectiveness protecting Dallas’ heritage while allowing for new development to take place downtown and in surrounding areas. During their meetings they heard from local experts, researched best practices from other cities around the country, and developed a set of recommendations for the City of Dallas to better protect its historic resources. During the task force’s April 1 meeting, the group voted unanimously to approve a three-phase set of recommendations that will result in benefits to all downtown stakeholders. The recommendations include:

Phase 1: Immediate Solutions (0-12 months)

1. Advocacy: Establish broad‐based Preservation Solutions Committee to advocate for historic fabric and be its voice as the City grows and evolves. Its first order of business is to help implement the following recommendations.

2. Simplify Designation: Streamline the landmark designation application and process.

3. Assess Staffing: Broaden staff capabilities to include planning and provide a new focus on public education. Review staff priorities to expedite landmark designations, file certificates of appropriateness, field inquiries, and assist owners with incentives. Fund two additional planners.

4. Demolition Delay: Enhance notification and expand staff review time for proposed demolition of historic buildings in Greater Downtown to foster dialogue and consider alternatives.

Phase 2: Near Term Solutions (1 to 3 years)

5. Education: Educate the public about the goals and accomplishments of preservation.

6. Downtown Survey: Conduct a new, state of‐the‐art survey of Greater Downtown as a base layer for direction, to establish reservation priorities, and to provide a tool for existing and future planning. Explore funding sources such as Community Development Block Grants, Certified Local Government money, and private foundations.

7. Incentives: Identify strategies and incentives that address market conditions and barriers to redevelopment to re‐animate vacant and underutilized buildings, such as: more flexibility in preservation criteria, parking requirements, permitting, and code requirements.

Phase 3: Long Term Solutions (3 to 5 years)

8. Preservation Plan: Prepare and adopt a new Preservation Plan for Dallas to address the programs and policies that impact the City’s historic urban fabric. Explore funding sources such as public/private partnerships, private foundations, and private sector money.

9. Planning: Create a forum for strategic interdepartmental partnerships where a common interest is being pursued such as Capital Improvements, Tax Increment Finance Districts, and Use/Zoning, and certain aspects of Economic Development.

The executive summary of the recommendations and the full report, with more detailed information for each recommendation, are available by clicking on the links below:

Downtown Historic Preservation Task Force Final Report Executive Summary 4-1-15

Downtown Historic Preservation Task Force Final Report 4-1-15
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We, the citizens of the City of Dallas, petition the City Council of Dallas to adopt the recommendations put forth by the Downtown Dallas Historic Preservation Task Force.

The Downtown Dallas Historic Preservation Task Force derived their recommendations by carefully studying current preservation practices in Dallas, along with the best practices from other cities. The result is a set of well-balanced recommendations using a phased approach.

We ask that all of the recommendations be adopted in their entirety to have the maximum effect in preserving the historic fabric of our city with potential to become a catalyst for new development.


Jefferson Median Beautification Project
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 Trees, Trees EveryWhere!!!!

altThe Jefferson Median Beautification Project (JMBP) started by Van Johnson in 2010 continues to thrive today.  The Project started out with Burr Oaks and Red Maples beginning with the east median at the intersection of Hampton and Jefferson.  The second planting continued west and consisted of Burr Oak and Texas Ash.  So we have had two successful plantings and a maintenance planting to replace damaged and dead trees.  The maintenance planting replaced sixteen trees that had been lost.  Pomykal’s Tree Farm (Red Oak, Texas) generously donated the Red Oaks and Live Oaks. 

The trees from the original planting are now four years old.  The Texas Ash from the second planting across from the Rio Grande grocery have grown strong.  The trees from the maintenance planting remain small but the abundance of rain this spring is helping them.  The Maples from the original planting struggled and we lost many however the Burr Oaks are wonderful and they already produce an abundance of acorns.  The birds are visiting the medians frequently – and not just the grackles!!!

This fall, we have planned another planting, using the monetary gift made by Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia via Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, to expand our efforts.  We will have a “tree care” day on May 16, 2015 from 10:30 until noon to add soil, mulch, and stakes to various trees to prepare them for our Texas summer.

We have Challenges and Accomplishments:


Weed eater and lawn equipment damage
Litter, trash, and petty destruction
Past drought damage


50% of trees from planting 4 years ago have survived
65% of trees from planting 2 years ago have survived
79% overall success rate
No tree damage from vehicular vandalism in 3 years
Original and new members make contributions
There is now a water truck available to help us water



Adopt a tree (water and maintain it!)

Contribute financially to our efforts...your grandchildren will love you.  Mail checks to 2830 West Jefferson Blvd Dallas Texas 75211

Help with our planting efforts...we need folks to put trees in the ground and we will have the holes ready!

Pick up trash in the median and discourage your friends from littering

Join our group! We have a FaceBook page. Jefferson Median Beautification Project.  Bring your ideas.

Tell your City Council people, Commissioner, and Mayor they need to assist us in growing our efforts to improve our neighborhood.


Pocket Neighborhoods:
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A Day with Author and Architect Ross Chapin

April 28, 2015
by Karen Ray

altWhat does a small community with a population around 1,100 people on an island in the greater Seattle area have in common with Oak Cliff?  More than you might think.  The small town of Langley, Washington has a rich history, architecturally distinct character and strong community involvement where residences have definite opinions about the development within their town.  So when Architect and Developer Ron Chapin proposed putting in a “pocket neighborhood” they were both curious and concerned.  Sound familiar?

What is a pocket neighborhood? With all the current development in Oak Cliff, you may have heard the term.  The concept has been around for ages but Ross Chapin has idenitified the components and nuances that make a successful Pocket Neighborhood in 21st century America.  After spending his architecture career designing well crafted and meaniful homes, he began to see the bigger picture of "fitting into a larger fabric of community," as Susan Susanka, author of The Not So Small House, puts it.  His book, Pocket Neighborhoods:  Creating Small-Scale Community in a Large-Scale World, outlines his personal and professional observations of successful Pocket Neighborhoods while also demonstrating his own variations of well designed and award winning communities. Mr. Chapin states in his introduction that his purpose is, "[to] offer guideposts and inspiration to help restore the coherence of vibrant, small-scale communities in our large-scale world."

With the need to increase housing city wide, density developments are a part of the approach.  Pocket Neighborhoods are one way toalt add density housing but with the community in mind.  This has become rare in the typical American residential development but common to traditional older built communities.  In an effort to bring enlightenment and discussion about the potential of Pocket Neighborhoods, Council Member Scott Griggs, Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, Dallas Homeowners League, and North Oak Cliff Residences for Responsible Urban Development sponsored Ross Chapin and invited him to spend a day in Oak Cliff and present his key design principles, understanding of human social interaction and experience in designing and developing Pocket Neighborhoods.  I was privileged to join Dr. Joseph Beckham along with his wife, Angie Mobley, in accompanying Mr. Chapin around our great city.  Meeting in the morning, we took him on a tour of the greater Oak Cliff area and gave an overview of all the neighborhoods from north to south discussing the beauty and diversity that is Oak Cliff as well as our current callenges.  Mr. Chapin was really impressed and inspired by what he saw in the fabric our neighborhoods.  He complimented us on our speech patterns; always referring to our neighbors in Oak Cliff as "we" instead of "us versus them.”  We ended our tour in the Bishop Arts District and enjoyed a late breakfast and uplifting conversation at Oddfellows.

The first presentation that afternoon was at Dallas City Hall to City Staff, Council Members and select developers and business people.  The presentation was geared towards the implementation and zoning ordinances for sucessful Pocket Neighborhoods.  Following the presentation was a meeting exclusively for City Staff where Mr. Chapin conducted a brainstorm session and offered his recommendations for adopting the best of combined city zoning ordinances across the nation for Pocket Neighborhoods.  It was agreed that a single zoning ordinance should be written versus specific ordinances written into particular Planned Development areas.  This would allow the development of Pocket Neighborhoods, conceivably, into any zone as long as it follows the prescribed list of requirements.  In addition, the developer must meet with the city staff and surrounding community for a prelimanry and final design review to ensure it meets the vital qualities and spirit of a Pocket Neighborhood.

The day came to a crescendo with Mr. Chapin's presentation at TeCo Theater which was open to the public.  This presenation was much more comprehensive and detailed, concluding with questions from the audience.  Mr. Chapin covered both the dos and don’ts of Pocket Neighborhood developments.    

A few of the notable characteristics we learned are the following:

·      Though an entire development may be large, each grouping of houses should be no more than 12 – 16 households with 8 – 10 being more ideal.  Each cluster should be its own pocket with its own communal building and commons.  Less than 4 households and the cluster loses its cohesiveness; lacking identity, diversity and the activity of a larger group.

·      Each cluster should have a mix of home sizes, mixed income level and demographics.

·      Pocket Neighborhoods are not about architectural style but a carefully planned built environment; a pattern language that addresses human interaction and the human life experience.

·      Layering elements are key to creating necessary privacy within a very open community.  Landscaping with various size plants, low fences, yard and porch railing with flower boxes are part of the layered elements from the sidewalk to the front porch, and ultimately, the front door of every house.   

·      Every house must have a livable front porch that is a minimum 80 square feet and have a minimum depth of 8 feet.

·      No house has windows that look into the private spaces of the adjacent house.

·      The automobile is properly corralled but not turned outside to the adjacent neighbors or viewed from the street in disregard or disrespect.  The path one takes from their automobile to their front door is a pleasant experience. 

·      Adjacencies to existing neighbors are respectful, having creative inviting views and interface. 

·      Walkable connections between Pocket Neighborhood developments and existing adjacent residences are highly desired.

·      Clear access and readable signage for emergency services are top priory, especially fire and medical.

·      A Pocket Neighborhood doesn’t have to be a new development.  It can be a group of neighbors who share an alley or adjacent yards and they start by tearing down the fences that divide them to create a shared space.

Mr. Chapin’s complete description of the qualities and measurable elements that make for good Pocket Neighborhoods can be found in his book which can be purchased on or at Barnes and Noble.  Further resources, tools and ideas can be found on his website:

Mr. Chapin’s visit and interaction with our community, I believe, was of great value and a success.  As a community we need to continue a relationship with the City of Dallas development staff to ensure the pursuit to institute the best possible zoning ordinance and procedures for Pocket Neighborhoods and other density development approaches.  Our community and neighborhoods matter!


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