It looks like Dallas Independent School District's plans to demolish Oak Cliff Christian Church to make way for new tennis courts -- maybe as soon as tomorrow -- will have to wait at least two more weeks.
This morning, Judge Martin Hoffman denied DISD's motion to dismiss the temporary restraining order, filed two weeks ago. Hoffman also ordered that before the two parties appeared before him again on February 19 at 1:30 p.m, DISD attorneys and Old Oak Cliff Conservation League's attorney, past president John McCall Jr., must meet with a mediator. Which, you know if you've been following this case, is the last thing that DISD wants, because the only plans they have for the building include a demolition crew.
"This is not the ideal way to proceed with this," said Judge Martin Hoffman before asking how "imminent" the building's destruction actually was. The order to mediate came after the judge saw some black-and-white photos of the building, as well as a map indicating that the old church sits some two blocks away from Adamson High School.
"This is obviously a beautiful old building," Hoffman said. "I'm not trying to pressure DISD," he added, mentioning that perhaps there may be some common ground that could be reached between the two parties.
But district attorneys indicated they weren't interested in the mediation. So Hoffman issued an order to mediate, even recommending Maxine Aaronson, a well-known Lower Greenville neighborhood activist who's not terribly well-liked by some business owners down there. "She's very delicate about remediating cases," Hoffman said before dialing Aaronson's office on speaker phone for the whole room to hear.
After the decision, Michael Amonett, president of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, told Unfair Park that he was "very pleased" with the court's decision today.
"I'm really happy that [Hoffman] would like for us to meet with a mediator," Amonett said. "And, it was great that he acknowledged that it is a beautiful old building, which is what we've been saying. It could be taken and used as a library or a performance hall, or so many things other than a tennis court. And besides, there are vacant lots across the street."
Naturally, McCall agrees: "I don't believe a tennis court is approved for that area," McCall told the court, adding that a tennis court "could be a public nuisance in the area." McCall also said DISD has yet to provide all of the documents that McCall has requested.
DISD's lawyers assured the court that no further demolition activity would take place on the site till after the February 19 hearing.