Yesterday afternoon, the West Dallas Chamber of Commerce hosted what was essentially a baby shower for the nascent neighborhood on the other side of Dallas's ballyhooed architectural statement, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. The luncheon at Salon Las Americas -- across Fort Worth Avenue from Smoke, which catered the affair -- raised $8,000 for the Chamber's Future Fund, which will finance education, internship opportunities, and small business opportunities for people in West Dallas.
The fundraiser also celebrated the main factors slated to turn regular old West Dallas into new, improved, more economically sound West Dallas. The three projects highly lauded by the chamber are the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, the CityDesign Studio plan for the area's revitalization and Sylvan Thirty, a planned mixed-use development at the location of the former Alamo Plaza Hotel Courts east of the Belmont Hotel. If you need a primer on all that's going on across the Trinity, we explored West Dallas development earlier this summer in this here cover story.
The room was full of heavy-hitters, among them Mayor Mike Rawlings (who stopped by after his morning school supply fair), several council members, land developers, investors, planners from the CityDesign Studio and representatives from the Trinity Trust Foundation. If attendance is indicative of support, it seems the city is firmly standing behind West Dallas revitalization. It's fair to say the huge, and hugely expensive, bridge is an effective catalyst.
And to think: "Some people have been mocking it as a Bridge to Nowhere," said Texas Capital Bank's (and the chamber's secretary) Mary Bailey as she spoke about the Calatrava bridge. Who'd do a thing like that?
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Rev. Jackie Love Prim gave an opening blessing, and ended her prayer by saying, "Lord, please come on over to West Dallas. In your name we pray."
Randall White, Chamber of Commerce vice chairman and an organizer of the event, told Unfair Park the three big projects represent "very new thinking for Dallas," and that "new thinking" is more pedestrian-friendly and will require tweaks to city code so that parking and mixed-used spaces (business and residential) can contribute to the overall goal of building a livable, walkable, energetic area.
Chamber of Commerce Chairman Victor Toledo, characterized West Dallas as a "vibrant neighborhood" with huge potential for future growth. "Location, location, location," close to downtown on the other side of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge means "all eyes are turning to West Dallas," he said.
As the luncheon concluded, like at any rightful shower, the lovely centerpieces of sunflowers and greens in upturned straw hats were given away by lottery. At each table, whomever had the birth date closest to that of West Dallas -- Feb. 9, 1886 -- took the summery arrangement made by a West Dallas florist.