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UT Arlington To Set Up Shop In Oak Cliff

The Oak Cliff spirit of urban development and community outreach, which we are physically incapable of not writing about here in the paper and online, continues -- this time, with an urban planning storefront that's the result of a partnership between the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce and the University of Texas at Arlington. These people just don't know when to stop, do they?

According to a press release that landed in the Unfair Park in-box last night, Usual Suspect Jason Roberts is largely to blame for the Oak Cliff Storefront, which will be located in Methodist Hospital and is set to open in about a month. I spoke with OCCC president Bob Stimson this morning, and he told me that UTA grad and doctoral students will work out ideas pitched to them by community members -- business owners and individuals alike. "We're really just looking for some neat projects that will give them some great experience and be meaningful to the community."

Whether it's a quality of life improvement, like a public space beautification project or a facade for a local business, Stimson says the Oak Cliff Storefront is poised to put just about anything in action. First, Stimson and the OCCC will vet ideas to make sure they're viable and not already being implemented, and they'll be sent on to the students who will decide which projects fit their academic interests.

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Says Stimson, "I suspect we'll end up with a wish list longer than they could ever accomplish."

Oak Cliff activist extraordinaire Jason Roberts had the idea for the storefront when he noticed Dallas's lack of university presence in the inner city. He saw other places that used cities as "a living classroom," and decided the southern sector could use a scholarly presence, especially as a role model for young people. He also wanted his own children growing up in Oak Cliff to think twice about heading off to Austin or Boston for college: "There's something to be said for having an environment that has all this intelligensia, artists, lecturers and professors that enables kids in the area to think about taking that next step forward for college."

Stimson calls Oak Cliff "a great laboratory" for urban experiments. And full of humility too: "We're so doggone cool."

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