Apr. 21, 2020 by Mike Geisler, Dallas Catalyst Project Chair/Venture Commercial Real Estate, LLC

Despite Coronavirus, the Dallas Catalyst Project Continues

As uncertainty from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues in our daily lives, project teams from The Real Estate Council Foundation have been hard at work furthering the Dallas Catalyst Project (DCP) effort with our community partners in the Forest District.

We are incredibly grateful to the many TREC members who have dedicated to their time and talents toward the DCP. In times like these, the Forest District and our partners need our support more than ever.

CLICK HERE for Dallas Catalyst Project Virtual Volunteer Opportunities

Here is an update of our progress on each of our major Forest District projects:

ALC Class Project: Cornerstone Community Market
This year’s ALC class is working alongside Cornerstone Baptist Church to install a small market next to the Cornerstone Community Laundromat and fill the second of three sites in a shopping center on South Boulevard. The market would provide Forest District residents with access to low-cost household items. To date, the project has received $78,550 from TREC Foundation. ALC Class Chair Matt Ballard, Project Managers Mike Galindo and Jacob Price, and class members are also helping Cornerstone apply for gap funding from the City of Dallas to construct a community kitchen in the remaining vacant space. The kitchen would be used to provide additional opportunities for local entrepreneurs and small businesses as well as culinary education classes for Forest District residents.

Young Guns Foundation Project: We Creation Innovation Center
First announced at last month’s Young Guns Casino Night, the 2020 Young Guns Foundation Project is to construct the We Creation Innovation Center for St. Philip’s School and Community Center. The facility will help St. Philip’s students, Forest District residents, and community organizations solve their most complex challenges through collaboration, project-based learning, and human-centric design. Project Managers Patrick Henning and Tara Harandi have been assembling their project team and working on logistics so that construction can begin in earnest once shelter-in-place orders have lifted. Stay tuned for information about future volunteer days later this year.

We are also currently seeking an architect from among our Young Guns membership to join our project team. Please contact Kennedy Bower with your interest.

Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard Retail Space
Our team, led by Developer Scott Rohrman and Volunteer Project Manager Mandi Giles, is preparing for construction on 1632 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and has recommended a local, minority-owned general contractor for the work. The storefront is one of several retail sites TREC is developing with St. Philip’s School and Community Center along 1632-1644 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. David Fazio, who is serving as Project Manager on the overall project, has worked with St. Philip’s officials on vetting small businesses and community organizations as potential tenants. One tenant has been secured, while two others maintain interest. To date, the retail project has received $475,000 in TREC Foundation funding to beautify the neighborhood, create jobs, and bring services back to the Forest District.

Better Block Forest District
The Dallas Catalyst Project and The Better Block Foundation are partnering on a two-day installation and celebration of the Forest District neighborhood. Initially scheduled for May 8-9, the event has been postponed until we can once again gather in person. Better Block Forest District aspires to show residents and community leaders the possibilities for activating spaces along a portion of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, one of the neighborhood’s main corridors.

Cornerstone Community Center Project
TREC members from Brasfield & Gorrie and Omniplan will help renovate the former Cornerstone Baptist Church building, located at 2815 S. Ervay Street. The facility has been used for childcare services, educational programs, and other events. Brasfield & Gorrie’s Andrew Myers and Jason Weeks and Omniplan’s Meredith Rooker and Emma Smith are working toward designs for a more functional multipurpose space for Cornerstone. TREC Foundation’s $100,000 commitment toward this project comes from one of three Dallas Catalyst Project grants pledged last year.

Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard Streetscape
Our project team, made up of TREC members Emily Henry, Matt Lucas, and Patrick Kennedy has been working with our Dallas Catalyst Project partners, the City of Dallas, and the North Central Texas Council of Governments to develop a plan to make the streetscape along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard safer and more walkable for Forest District residents.

Housing Task Force
As Dallas Catalyst Project chair, I am responsible for constructing a team of thoughtful, driven TREC members who seek to expand the availability of affordable, attainable housing within the Forest District while preserving the neighborhood’s spirit and preventing displacement as future development opportunities arise.

If you are interested in getting involved, please contact TREC Foundation Coordinator Kennedy Bower.

Forest Theater Restoration
CitySquare’s Forest Theater was about to start construction before the COVID-19 outbreak, so unfortunately the project has been delayed. During this time, they are hoping to fundraise for additional infrastructure improvements outside the theater, grow in their partnerships and relationships, and prepare for future construction. They are also working on building their capacity to provide the students at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Learning Center (soon to become an Exploratory Arts Academy) as well as the additional Dallas ISD schools in the area access to the services being provided in their facilities.

Beyond the Dallas Catalyst Project
TREC members are also currently supporting the following organizations with professional services on projects outside the Forest District:

  • Behind Every Door
  • Operation Tiny House
  • Art House Dallas
  • Harmony CDC
  • Girls, Inc.
  • Men of Nehemiah
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