Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Irony, instructive irony. . .

Here's the latest on the Plaza Inn located at 1011 S. Akard, just across I-30 from Downtown.

You may remember that this is the property we placed under contract with plans to redevelop following a mixed-income, mixed-use plan. About 50 units of the almost 300 in our plan were to be reserved for homeless persons.

Frankly, the original plan was tremendous!

The preliminary score on our Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC)application to the Department of Housing and Community Affairs was among the highest in the entire state.

As we talked to the community, we worked hard to adapt our original plans to accommodate concerns of the Cedars Neighborhood Association.

But, in the end, the neighbors voted us down.

We then backed away and worked hard with the building owners to engage them in a manner that would allow them to join in the LITHC process to re-do the property and produce much-needed affordable housing, but with no provision for permanent supportive housing for the formerly homeless.

Clearly, our plans to provide housing for homeless persons proved to be the "deal killer" with the neighborhood group. Even though they talked about unit sizes and mix, about our inexperience as developers (never mind that the CityWalk @ Akard project was about the most complex, difficult deal in Dallas history!), about lots of things, but the underlying fear was clearly the provision in our project for the homeless. "Too many SRO units!" is what we heard quietly, behind the scenes, especially after our public meetings were done.

Okay, so forgive me providing all that background.

Fast forward to last Saturday night at the Plaza Inn.

Two recent parolees from the Texas Department of Corrections break in to the Plaza Inn building. The vandals likely were looking to carry out whatever they could lay their hands on to sell.

Outside the building, on the street were three homeless neighbors trying to simply keep warm.

They witnessed the thieves enter the building.

What did these "homeless people" do?

They did exactly what I would have done. They called the police and reported the break-in.

The police arrived, arrested the criminals and protected the property.

I learned of this development from the property owner on Monday.

Ironic, huh?

The very people so many of us fear turn out to be good neighbors with the same concerns and basic values as most of us share.

Lots to learn here. Lots to give us pause.



Cody said...

This is one reason that I would like to start a "two way" mentoring/partnership program between high-income and low-income folks. The high-income folks clearly have some skills that they can pass along to the low-income folks. The low-income folks clearly have some skills, values, etc. that they can pass along to the high-income folks. I seriously think this would be empowering for both groups.

Larry James said...

Cody, I can't tell you how much I agree with you. If we could keep the "fix their problems" attitude out of such a conversation, it could be transformative beyond words.