On Tuesday night, during the public hearing organized by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, developer Graham Greene sat in the audience quietly watching as 50 Deep Ellum and Expo Park residents stood in opposition of EVERgreen Residences | 3800 Willow, as a planned development he's working on with First Presbyterian Church of Dallas that would bring permanent supportive housing to Exposition Park. Yesterday, when Unfair Park spoke with Greene by phone, he said the show of opposition was "unexpected," but he's not so sure they're opposing his development.
"I think that people have been given ... well, they've been misinformed," he said, citing everything from the residents of the development being "chronically homeless" to the fact that the development is at odds with the "creative ecosystem" of Deep Ellum and Expo Park.
"This is a really nice project," Greene said. "It has some neighborhood amenities. It's really been designed to fit into the neighborhood and there will be art studios and some other things like that."
As indicated in the designs above, which can be found on page 146 of EVERgreen's 381-page application for Competitive Housing Tax Credits, the "other things" would include a workshop, two art studios and a community garden.
We placed a call to Ken Maxwell of Exposition Park Association to find out if the association was aware of the planned art studios, workshop and community gardens. "We haven't seen the exact plans," Maxwell said. But even after Unfair Park informed Maxwell about the above amenities -- and Greene's assertion that EVERgreen was designed to "fit into the neighborhood" -- Maxwell reiterated that the development "doesn't fit into the ecosystem that's developing down here. Any developer would say, 'It fits.' But it doesn't."
While Greene may have found the opposition "unexpected," Rev. Dr. Joseph Clifford, the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church, told us this morning that he wasn't too shocked by the public's reaction.
"It's not a surprise," he said. "I've never really seen a neighborhood come out in support of this kind of project. But I think that in the long run it will be a benefit to the community, not a detriment."
The challenge, he said, is that these projects need to be well-organized and operated, which he maintains is a task with which First Presby has had more than three decades of experience at The Stewpot. And once the construction is complete, First Presbyterian Church of Dallas will take over as the service provider for the project.
"We're not some commercial developer," he said. "We're a church, and we have a track record of providing those services. And the last thing that we want to do with this is develop an antagonistic relationship with our neighbors."
And Clifford said he "totally understands" why the community would be concerned with a project like this. But as far as Greene is concerned, much of the public's concerns about development -- especially the "chronically homeless" bit -- have nothing to do with EVERgreen.
"We're not going to be dealing with the chronically homeless," he said. "That's the other project down here that was in the paper the other day -- it's down near Hickory Street and Malcolm X, and that one is being done by CDM, Central Dallas Ministries. And ours is permanent housing for people who were formerly homeless. That's how they qualify for direct subsidies."
The individuals moving into EVERgreen, he said, would "typically have already gone through transitional housing programs, or something like that, and been stabilized." Greene said these residents would be formerly homeless individuals who have already started making efforts to get back into the system, and who've progressed to the point were they're ready for "long-term housing."
Greene said these individuals will be signing year-long leases and putting 30 percent of their income toward rent. And while some may indeed qualify for Section 8 housing, they will be in the minority, he said.
Greene's no stranger to re-developing Dallas properties. He redid 3200 Main for residential use back in the early '90s, as well as the Titche-Goettinger Building, which he adapted for re-use as Universities Center at Dallas and 1900 Elm. He also worked with AIDS Services of Dallas on Hillcrest House, which provides service and an apartment to individuals who are formerly homeless and living with AIDS/HIV.
What's the next step for Greene and First Presby while they wait for the state's verdict? Trying to answer some of the questions and concerns swirling around the development -- something Greene said they've been willing to do since day one.
"We've been offering to answer questions or give presentations to people and property owners and organizations within the community," Greene said. And, following the public hearing, he said, "We're willing to answer any questions people may have."
And how should people contact him with questions? Greene said to give out his office's number: 214-954-0430.