By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Jubilee Park was adopted, more or less, by St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church near Preston Center, which decided to mark its 50th anniversary by saving a neighborhood. Much of that had to do with parishioner Walt Humann, a beloved figure best known for helping DART get light-rail off the ground and for spearheading the North Central Task Force that got Central Expressway expanded. As chairman emeritus of the Science Place, Humann was familiar with Jubilee Park and brought it to the church's attention. As a result, Jubilee Park has its own extraordinary master plan, done by a respected Boston-based architect, that shames any of the city's own documents in its attention to detail and execution. Planners used aerial photos to identify every building in the neighborhood.
"You gotta really get in the trenches," Humann says one morning, sitting beneath a tree in the park. "If you just take the broad brush, it sounds great politically, but you gotta get right down to it. That house right there, is it available? Who owns it? You have chain-of-title problems in the community. In this park here, there are 50 to 60 separate parcels of land alone. That parcel right there, where that bench is sitting, had 128 owners." He says many of the owners of property in the neighborhood have died without wills, which means the property is spread among the relatives, who have been hard to find. He hopes to have the master plan executed sometime "before I die." He laughs. "But we were told the park would have taken 10, 15 years. I don't know how long this will take, but we really want to get after it."
If the Cowboys become Jubilee's next-door neighbors, great; Humann's all for it. But this area can't wait that long. What-ifs and maybes won't shut down crack houses and repair dilapidated homes and create jobs.
"Please, let's try to do that stadium," he says. "I hope it can happen, but in a way where it's more inclusive of the communities, the Fair Park institutions, the city, county and the Cowboys. Then we can have something that's going to be dynamite." To that end, Humann has gone to the county and city and the Cowboys and proposed putting together a separate task force, as he did for Central Expressway, that would crunch the numbers and find a way for the deal to benefit everyone involved.
It all sounds very utopian, he is told.
Humann smiles and says, "Which is probably why no one's called me back."