Last we checked in with the Jubilee Parkers fighting the Dallas Independent School District's attempt to snatch up their homes to make room for a new O.M. Roberts Elementary building, the controversy looked to be finished. State Rep. Eric Johnson intervened on the residents' behalf, you'll recall, and shortly thereafter, DISD sent letters to the homeowners telling them it would back off its eminent domain suits.
Since then, though, it hasn't been all cupcakes and Gummi bears for the Jubilee residents. Their problem, says neighborhood troop-rallier Norma Hernandez, is that DISD already owns some of the homes on the land it wanted to develop. "It says that it's over," Hernandez says, in story after story about DISD backing down, "but it's really not over." Hernandez says 11 homeowners on the block adjacent to O.M. Roberts already sold to the district (two more since she put together this map last month), and last month, they say, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa confirmed DISD was looking into demolishing the houses and using the land for parking lots and playgrounds.
Hernandez and fellow activist Shawn Busari say they had a private sit-down with Hinojosa on December 14, during which they urged him to reconsider the plan, wondering how much sense it would make -- or how safe it'd be for kids walking back and forth -- to pepper a residential block with pint-sized parking lots. Hernandez is also worried about demolishing the 102-year-old school building, not long after the district dropped $2.6 million to renovate the place. Hinojosa, they said, was unswayed.
Hernandez says she hopes DISD takes a good look at some plans drawn up at Brent Brown's bcWorkshop, which proposed building a new O.M. Roberts building alongside the old one -- and adding 3,200 square feet of parking -- without expanding into the surrounding neighborhood. Join us after the jump, where bcWorkshop's Andy Sturm tells us more.
Sturm says he'd heard about the neighbors' concerns about plans for the new school -- not just the expansion into the neighborhood, but the prospect of students being bused across the city while O.M. Roberts is demolished and rebuilt -- and figured it'd be worth exploring whether there was a less disruptive way to go. "We looked at the site really quick, and tried to think of how you can not take people's houses, keep the kids there while construction's going on, and keep the old building," he says.
"The big challenge seems to be over land," Sturm says. "If you think about the last 50 years of schools, not just in Dallas but all over the country, most schools have been built on green sites out in the country." By taking an urban approach, looking critically at how the current land is being used, he and his team found there was plenty of room for a second building within the school's current footprint. All it would take, he says, is losing the portable classrooms on the northern corner of the block, and expanding into the old car wash site on the eastern corner at Barry and Grand Avenue.
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Sturm says adding a new building alongside the old one would leave some flexibility in DISD's plans, too. "If, for some reason, the old building just has to go, you could put kids into the new building and tear down the existing one."
Sturm says bcWorkshop's been working closely with the Jubilee Park and Community Center on new senior housing and other projects in the neighborhood, and his team got input from the community center while drawing up the plans, ultimately passing the drawings plans along to them when they were finished.
Separately, but kinda related -- you may recall that back in November we mentioned Yvette Laster's fight with the city, which has taken her to municipal court, complaining her Jubilee Park home is woefully out of code compliance. The suit was filed last July, but while we suggested it'd be going to trial late last year, Laster's attorney Chris Kling tells us the date was reset for January 26.
Busari, who earlier told us she'd help mobilize the neighborhood to support Laster, says she's been subpoenaed by the city -- probably, she says, to hear from her about a Jubilee Park and Community Center steering community meeting she heard, where Laster's home came up in discussion. Busari says the committee batted around the idea of installing a community garden on the site of Laster's home. Stay tuned.