City Hall

I'll Eat Crow for Calling West Dallas "Nowhere," but that Bridge Is Still Stupid

Every once in a while, often in the hottest weeks of the year for some reason, I get an enormous hankering, a craving from deep in my soul, a raw hunger that can only be quelled with a great steaming plate heaped high with the well-sauced meat of that great journalistic delicacy, Corvus brachyrhynchos, or, as more of us know him, the common crow.

And so here I am, oversized lobster-eating napkin tucked up under my chin, elbows on the table, forks in both hands, eyes big as silver dollars, prepared to dive into my own shrill prediction here, which I repeated confidently over a course of many years, that the new Calatrava bridge over the Trinity River was “a bridge to nowhere,” that the only people who would ever use it were the plaid-earflap-cap-wearing patrons of Ray’s Gun Shop and that a bright new neighborhood in the industrial wasteland of West Dallas would never happen.

I was there last night. Publicist Jeff Herrington spotted me. He took my picture and posted it on Facebook with a caption: “An amazing sight tonight at The Foundry in West Dallas. Jim Schutze of the Dallas Observer ventures into the neighborhood he referred to as ‘nowhere…’ Hoping Schutze doesn’t get lost and scared over here in ‘nowhere.’ That would be a pitiful thing to see.”

My first impulse on seeing his item was to post a witty rejoinder like, “Shut up,” or “No, you’re nowhere!” That’s always my first impulse because of my BPS disability (Bad Personality Syndrome).

But then my better angels weighed in and whispered in my ear: “He’s right, you know,” they said softly and sweetly. "The blooming of West Dallas  from wasteland to cool-land is really today’s inner city miracle, the way North Oak Cliff and Bishop Arts were yesterday.”

I looked around. Yes. Every single thing I said would never happen in West Dallas has already either happened or is happening or about to happen. If somebody gets some kind of really bullet-proof mass transit in there — and they will— West Dallas will soon become one of the coolest residential and retail districts in the city.

And who knows? You want to see some office development over there? You want me, Jim Schutze, to give you some office development? OK. Here goes:

Take it from me, West Dallas will never see office development one, not one brick, never, ever.

There. I think that pretty well locks it in.

Before I decided it was time for a crow feast (I actually know my way around a platter of Corvus, by the way), I called Bishop Arts pioneer developer David Spence and told him I was going to have to eat some crow on West Dallas. But I sort of pleaded with him to help me get out of saying anything good about that damned Calatrava fake suspension bridge they built across the Trinity River from the design district to West Dallas, the one everybody wants to credit with the rebirth of West Dallas.

Saying nice things about the bridge itself — that wouldn’t be a plate of crow. That would be brisket of rat. I think he felt sorry for me. I said, “How much of what has happened was headed that way and happening anyway? How much of it would you attribute directly to the bridge?”

“I would attribute more of it to the Belmont than to the bridge,” he said, referring to the work of Monte Anderson, a developer who scraped away the grunge on a 1940s Travel Lodge motel in West Dallas and found an Art Moderne Dilbeck-designed jewel with an amazing view of downtown, which he reopened in 2005 as one of the city’s coolest venues.

“The Belmont was a watershed in West Dallas much like Hattie’s opening up in 2002 as the first nice restaurant in Bishop Arts,” Spence said.

I said, yes, yes, you are so right! It was the Belmont! Monte Anderson is the one who opened up West Dallas!

But then Spence started sort of backing off a+ little. He kept mumbling, “The bridge … the bridge” over and over again under his breath.

It reminded me of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now: “The horror, the horror.”

I asked what about the bridge.

“The bridge?” he said. “You know, Jim. I think, the bridge had a lot to do with it.”

I saw a flash, then the whole right side of my body went cold and I started slurring my words. I told him I had to get off the phone right away.

So forget the bridge. This is not about the bridge. This is about West Dallas. West Dallas is huge. I was wrong. I am eating my damn crow on West Dallas. OK, Herrington? Or do you require of me further humiliation?

I just wouldn’t push it too far, sir. I could always predict your own uninterrupted personal prosperity, if you catch my drift.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze