Goodbye, Groovy East Dallas

How Jim Schutze forsook his hippie-dippy days and learned to love the snout house

Minnis doesn't think her group brought a unique political quality into East Dallas. It was the other way around. She thinks East Dallas and the threats it faced from City Hall instilled unique qualities in them.

"When we all moved into the inner city and on Swiss Avenue, that group of people all moved in because there were great houses and they were affordable. We didn't know anything about zoning, but we just decided we were going to fight. What I learned about City Hall in those years I couldn't have learned from $100,000 worth of college.

"What went on in Old East Dallas was the classic Western movie. We owned the land. Somebody wanted the land, and they wanted to get us off the land. That's still the way I think about it.

George Sanchez and the staff of the Gold Rush Café are keepers of the flame for Old East Dallas.
Mark Graham
George Sanchez and the staff of the Gold Rush Café are keepers of the flame for Old East Dallas.
Neighborhood warrior Avi Adelman is adamantly dry-eyed about the imminent departure of his neighbor, Whole Foods.
Mark Graham
Neighborhood warrior Avi Adelman is adamantly dry-eyed about the imminent departure of his neighbor, Whole Foods.

"The people who always want to throw in with the developers and be nice, I think of them as the Vichy Government in World War II."

Minnis was a congressional aide during much of her East Dallas period. She is now a mortgage banker and lives in a mid-century modern house farther east near White Rock Lake. She thinks she and others who have moved on to other parts of the city have taken the Old East Dallas spirit with them in a kind of East Dallas diaspora.

"This area out here around the lake is now feeling the development pressure that we felt in Old East Dallas. They're tearing houses down here too. There's one just around the corner from us."

A controversy over a proposed mid-rise condominium tower on Emerald Isle Drive near White Rock Lake has drawn Minnis' new neighborhood together, she said, and some of the very people I am so quick to castigate as ninnies and McMansionites are becoming active in neighborhood politics.


Bob Weiss, the brand-new chairman of the City Plan Commission, described for me an elaborate process of meetings and consensus-building going on now among residents and business owners in Norma Minnis' area near White Rock Lake, which we might call Far East Dallas. The process, called an "Area Plan" by City Hall, is billed by city planners as an integral part of a citywide "master plan" that City Hall calls "Forward Dallas!" (please don't forget the exclamation point).

I would describe the process in Weiss' part of town differently. I would describe it as the people who live in neighborhoods around the lake trying to protect themselves from Forward Dallas! (please don't forget the exclamation point).

Forward Dallas! (please don't forget the exclamation point) calls for a bunch of dense high-rise development all along Garland Road, just like the Emerald Isle project that already has people's eyes bugging out of their heads in dismay.

Weiss, who is vice president for administration of the Meadows Foundation, is the plan commission member for the district where the Emerald Isle project is located. He was appointed to the plan commission by city council member Gary Griffith and was named chairman just a few weeks ago by Mayor Laura Miller.

Surprisingly, given Weiss' impressive credentials, he and I have a few things in common. We're about the same age, and he's from Newark. I'm from Detroit. Our hometowns went up in flames the same year—1967.

"Our cities were like sister cities," he said when we visited recently at the Meadows Foundation headquarters on lower Swiss Avenue.

Isn't that special?

But it's why he's enthusiastic and I'm conflicted about Dallas. We both know what a wonder it is that the inner city in Dallas has gone up in value and the outlying areas are also increasing, because we both know how bad it can get in the other direction, and how quickly.

"After University Park and Highland Park, we in Lakewood in District 9 have one of the highest retentions of value and appreciations of value in the area," he said. "And I think that's true because there's a whole confluence of factors here.

"It's easy to commute. It's residential. The landscaping is mature. Why wouldn't you want to live there? Crime is decreasing at a rapid rate. And you have the lake in your backyard. I can walk to the lake. This is good. I mean, why wouldn't I want to live here?"

That's the real estate happy talk—houses going up, up, up, lots going up, up, up and so on. But Weiss also talked about the inner life of the area—the internal values that have to be in place before the real estate stuff can happen.

"What makes community?" he asked. "Do we want to have a mix of ages? Do we want a mix of lifestyles? To me, the question is, 'How do we define who we are?' What do we perceive ourselves to be, and where do we want to be in 50 years in terms of church, house, neighbors, schools, all these things that make community? That's the discussion that's going on."

He said he thinks the physical process of those discussions—neighbors getting together and talking it out—can provide an essential political glue that people don't get anywhere else.

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