Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Reflections from CityWalk@Akard

We've been in our new offices on the 3rd floor at the CityWalk @Akard development in Downtown Dallas since mid-January.  If you are interested in more details about the project, use the search tool on this page and you can read previous posts about the building and its development. 

Now that we're in the building with the 140 or so tenants who live in it, the experience has turned out to be better and more encouraging than I had imagined.  It is the sort of place that forces one into reflection, almost on a constant basis. 

Developing quality, affordable, supportive housing for the poorest people in Dallas is anything but easy.  CityWalk required (to be more accurate, still requires) every ounce of creative energy all of us can drudge up.  Whether you consider cost, funding for cost, design, marketing, politics, public-private realities, or lease-up challenges abound!  One thing is for sure:  almost nothing about the project has been routine, boring or expected!

Given the basic nature of the development deal, it might seem easy to overlook or to look past all of the human implications of the development.  But, it's not. 

The people who live here and who want to live here provide a constant stream of human stories--stories that move, shape, inspire and just "break you down." 

One of our residents is a screen writer.  He's shared his concept papers for two different shows, one about being homeless, another about a local high school football team torn apart by the involvement of some of the players in serious criminal activity.  Brilliant guy. . .who has been homeless.

Another plays the saxophone like crazy!  Carries it with him lots of the time, and stopped by my office last week to play for me, but I was out of the office and missed him. 

Last week we hosted an orientation session for potential new members for our Board of Directors.  Seven of those who attended were residents of the building.  One young man asked us, "You mean that this meeting with us is to see if we want to be on your Board of Directors?" 

When I confirmed that we were doing just that, he seemed taken back, like he couldn't imagine our wanting low-income folks on our leadership board.  He was energized by the idea and said he wanted to pursue the process. 

Another woman told us that she had always wanted to do something like this, but added, "It's taken me all this time to just get to here.  I grew up in Oak Cliff, was abused by my parents, abandoned, half-starved to death, all on my own."  Tears flowed as her voice broke.  I assured her that she was exactly the sort of person we needed on our board to inform our work at every turn. 

Others of the tenants told us they had no idea that CDM did all the things that we do.

"My, my, the hand of the Lord is all over this place," one older woman almost shouted to me after the meeting broke up.

Then, there are the children, about 40 of them in the building.  They bring laughter, smiles, energy and joy to the 15-story, vertical community/neighborhood!

As I toured the building with an interested supporter last week, I was overwhelmed by all of the good that is going on.  For all of the difficulty and challenge, for all of the headaches, the deal was more than worth it!

Yes, indeed, much more than worth it.

[More reflections to come!] 

No comments: