Heavenly Bottoms?

Texas Heavenly Homes' proposal for new Tenth Street Bottoms neighborhoods, from the city's Bottom Revitalization Project briefing

Tomorrow, the city council will approve a $500,000 zero-interest loan of city bond money to an outfit called Texas Heavenly Homes for the redevelopment of the Tenth Street Bottoms area at I-35 and the Oak Cliff levee on the Trinity River. I wrote about this area recently because of information I received that somebody’s thinking about tearing down the levee and flooding it out.

On the one hand, a free loan of half a million bucks to buy properties in this area would seem like a good-faith gesture showing the city doesn’t plan to flood the area. Heavenly Homes is associated with a large real estate firm with a respectable record. City Manager Mary Suhm swore to me nobody is going to condemn this area under eminent domain.

On the other hand, the city won’t have to use eminent domain if the Heavenly people do the buying for them first. I did a quick scan of the neighborhood on the Dallas Central Appraisal District Web site: It’s about 350 small residential lots worth an average of $6,500 each. Half a million bucks is enough to buy out 20 percent of the neighborhood.

Why am I still suspicious? Because the arguments for flooding this area were very powerful. Somebody -- I suspect the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers -- is trying to make a point. The levee-building and highway-building Dallas wants to do along the Trinity will be astronomically expensive and quite dangerous.

Look at the levee failures going on right now along the upper Mississippi. If our levees fail, it won’t be a case of soggy soy beans. One good breach would send floods rampaging through downtown. That’s why somebody wrote the e-mail I saw, pointing out what an enormous benefit it would be, in terms of both money and safety, to tear down some of our levees, buy the people out and let the river flood.

Me, I got mixed feelings. They promised not to do that. They sold the whole project to black Dallas on the promise of new levees, not tearing down levees.

On the other hand, the Trinity River Plan that people like Mayor Tom Leppert and the Dallas Citizens Council have sold to voters is so dangerous, such a prescription for disaster, that I have to sympathize with whoever is trying to get it watered down.

Heavenly Homes? Say they buy 20 percent of the land in the Bottoms with city money. Say they get the 20 percent that’s most likely to flood. And the plan to turn this area into Silk Stocking Row doesn’t quite pan out. Well, there it is already -- all the land the city needs in order to rip down that levee and let the river roll.

Still could happen. Maybe should. --Jim Schutze

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky