| News |

On This Day of Service, Emmitt Smith and Family Lend a Helping Hand on Congo Street

Keep Dallas Observer Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Dallas and help keep the future of Dallas Observer free.

Since June 2008, Brent Brown and his bcWORKSHOP have been rebuilding a handful of century-old single-family homes that line Congo Street, in the Jubilee Park neighborhood near Fair Park. Their award-winning efforts -- which began with construction of the so-called Holding House, a temporary residence for families displaced by the redevelopment -- have been well-documented on the Congo Street Initiative Web site. But the extreme makeover must been seen in person to be believed: I drove down Congo with the kiddo last weekend, and though there's much work left to be done, it's a far cry from the ramshackle row of shotgun shacks Walt Humann showed me in 2004.

"Congo Street was a forgotten place," Brown tells Unfair Park today. "It was evident that the Dallas way of development or redevelopment -- which is to ignore places till eventually somebody buys them out and tears it down -- was going to happen. As an architect, yes, it's old and tired, but still beautiful, and the people who lived there didn't want to move. They had no choice: They could sell for $5,000, $7,000 and then what? Rent an apartment?" Which is why The Real Estate Council Foundation, the Meadows Foundation and the city of Dallas have given grants allowing bcWORKSHOP to redo Congo, house by house. Four have been finished; one's in the process of getting a makeover; a sixth remains on the to-do list.

At this very moment, Fred Bowie's house is the latest to get the start-from-scratch -- he's the man who donated the land upon which the Holding House was built, matter of fact. Bowie and bcWORKSHOP had a special guest today: former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith, who brought his wife and kids and extended family down to Congo Street early this morning to spend this Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service lending a hand on behalf of Central Dallas Ministries and AmeriCorps.

Dr. Lara Ashmore, executive director for Pat and Emmitt Smith Charities, tells Unfair Park that the former running back got involved after Emmitt had been invited to become an MLK Day ambassador of service through the White House's Corporation for National and Community Service. Smith was presented with "a number of projects," Ashmore says, and settled on Congo Street because "he has a commercial real estate business, and he's interested in revitalizing communities, and this project if a great example of using unique ways to do just that."

So, does that mean Congo Street can expect further participation from the Smiths' charity? "We're definitely interested in exploring that," says Ashmore.

Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.


Join the Observer community and help support independent local journalism in Dallas.