Called the Parks at Oak Cliff, the development will be a 63-acre development with mixed-income housing for more than 300 families.
Joe Estelle, a senior manager for Oak Cliff Community Investment Fund, has been in the real estate business for about 20 years and met his now-business partner Allison Brim through volunteering at the Texas Organizing Project, a progressive advocacy group. Estelle said it all started when he shared his idea about this community development with her.
“We wanted to create an opportunity to close the racial wealth gap by providing affordable housing,” he said. “So we hired an urban planning firm … [which] worked with stakeholders, members of the Oak Cliff community, and we came up with this plan.”
Most of the housing for this project will be built for long-term homeownership as opposed to rental properties. According to Habitat for Humanity, homeownership provides a foundation for families, increases economic stability and can be a catalyst for wealth-building for low-income households.
Estelle and Brim see the project as especially important at a time when Dallas is in desperate need of more affordable housing. Throughout the pandemic, purchasing a home in Dallas has become costlier, and rent costs have continued to spike in recent months. In addition, in recent years some areas of southern Dallas have grappled with gentrification.
Estelle and Brim say their housing plans will help provide southern Dallas residents with a route to owning homes in a way that helps them build more wealth. That's because community members have told them they want affordable homeownership and more equity.
"We wanted to create an opportunity to close the racial wealth gap by providing affordable housing." – Joe Estelle
“We wanted to have a holistic community, and the feedback that we got from the community was basically the same request,” Estelle said.
As an example of one of the area's hardships, Estelle points to the fact that there are too few grocery stores in the neighborhood, a fact that has led many to dub parts of southern Dallas a "food desert."
Estelle said they want to provide an opportunity for businesses to grow in the area and a place where entrepreneurs can have a space they can access to implement their ideas. “We want to have a business incubation-type concept,” he said. “Something similar to say like a farmer’s market … where people can come in and for low costs, start their businesses [and] set up a location.”
The company’s website explains several ways the development will achieve this goal, such as by providing health clinics, education and cultural centers, and boutique hotels.
Estelle said that community feedback called for the community to be healthy, so planners incorporated green space and walking and bike trails, hoping to help create a more livable, walkable space.
They also wanted to focus on the cultural aspect of the area. Estelle said that one of the advocacy group's board members, Akwete Tyehimba, who works at the Pan-African Connection Bookstore, will help them include that cultural aspect throughout the community.
Thus far, the Oak Cliff Community Investment Fund has completed several phases of its plan, including gathering community feedback and working on concept sketches. Ongoing efforts include additional program and neighborhood research, design and development.
The team is now raising funds for land acquisition and hopes to begin construction by 2023, with a five-year timeframe for project completion.