As It Develops More Property On East Side of N. Central, SMU Wants to Be "Dallas's University"

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Flickr user: coltera
Over the last five, six years, Southern Methodist University has slowly, surely expanded its presence along N. Central Expressway -- beginning with the purchase of Expressway Tower, once the home of the Dallas Cowboys corporate offices; 6200 N. Central Expressway, which now houses Development and External Affairs' administrative offices; and the old Mrs. Baird's bakery on Mockingbird and Central, which will become an athletics complex and data center.

Tomorrow, at the City Plan Commission meeting, SMU will introduce yet another project in Dallas -- this one, a graduate-program mixed-use development on the southeast corner of Central and SMU Boulevard, behind Expressway Tower, that will consist of "office, student and faculty lodging and other related facilities." CIty staff's all for it, in large part because "the request site is within an area that is proposed for mixed use developments because of it proximately to the DART light rail station and access to a major thoroughfare (North Central Expressway)."

Brad Cheves, the Hilltop's vice president for development and external affairs, tells Unfair Park it's a perfect spot for development -- smack in between SMU and the Shelby (and the Barley House), not to mention right walking distance from Mockingbird Station. It's part of what he calls "a deliberate and strategic decision to move east into Dallas," which university president R. Gerald Turner has wanted to do ever since assuming the position in 1995.

"Our ambitions, of course, are to increase some of our administrative functions and some of the graduate programming and research activity" on the east side of Central, Cheves says, "which frees up some of the interior campus on the west side for more of the residential students and academic functions. It's a very clear decision: We needed to be in Dallas. We are very much a part of Dallas. ... We very much want to be Dallas's university, and this is a clear flag in the ground if you look at the top of Expressway Tower."

For now, says Cheves, this new Planned Development District will be limited to grad-school offices and research facilities. Housing, for students and visiting profs, is in the long-term plans -- maybe five, six years out.

"But we want permission to do that," he says. "We have grown our graduate programming over the years across our disciplines, and it would be our hope, because of DART and its accessibility, that visiting professors would find it attractive to have affordable housing nearby. And our view is, we've been a positive force in that part of Dallas, adding value to what was a warehouse district."

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Brad Cheves
The obvious question is: If SMU's moving its admin offices and some research facilities into Dallas in the hopes of growing its on-campus student housing, is that being done with the expectation of upping its student population? Cheves says no, not at all. Right now, there are about 6,500 students enrolled, he says, with an expected 1,400 warm bodies due in the fall -- same as always, more or less.

"But if you look at what's happened with Uptown, in terms of residential growth, and as people rediscover coming back into the city, you have this great cultural and intellectual community right across 75," he says of the university, which is but weeks away from its Founders' Day 100th-anniversary weekend celebration. "More and more you'll find there are a lot of folks who want to be near DART and good retail and also the Meadows School of the Arts and the hundreds of programs and the athletics.

"SMU is a contributing force to the community when you see who comes to Dallas through the law school and the business school and Meadows. Fifty percent of our incoming undergrad students for the last five, 10 years come from outside of Texas. We don't have the numbers, we don't have a drag like Guadalupe down in Austin, but in terms of the contributions -- in terms of things like the Tate Lecture Series or the Embry [Human Rights Program] or the Meadows or our athletics program, we offer a dimension and vitality to Dallas I hope people are rediscovering."
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19 comments
Dallas Bound
Dallas Bound

This ridiculous. Why all of the hate? How is SMU not anything but a positive impact on the community? I will agree that the parkies use the school as a back up but hey so did I. Although I came from the West Coast I have remained in Dallas, pay property tax and give back to the community. It's not like we are Texas Tech or anything.

SCamp
SCamp

Maybe SMU should join the Dallas County Community College System. Geographically, they are located between Richland and Mountain View. Academically too.

Scambuster
Scambuster

SMU and its private university brethren will struggle for survival as they rely on 700 year old technology to provide knowledge in an inefficient manner. This provision is employed in order to attempt to retain power for the self entitled gatekeepers doling out socioeconomic status. This power will erode as the availability of a more capable and less indebted resource of human capital increases.

Fleetwoody
Fleetwoody

What a bunch of haters! You'd think any intelligent citizen would welcome an expanding of any legit educational institution in Dallas. Sounds like sour grapes to me....

Just Annie
Just Annie

It may be the wealthy Park Cities university, but it has never been Dallas' university. Most DISD & other public school kids who remain local for college could not afford one class at SMU, much less a semester. Thank goodness for DCCC, CCCC, and UNT & its expanding presence.

rain39
rain39

@Rico, there was just an article in the DMN last week from the Chaplain at SMU who wrote that SMU was going to raise the religious aspect of SMU. I've got no problem with that. I went to a Catholic University , although not religious and loved it, but it was not recommended to be Milwaukee's University nor should it have been.

Coloringoutsidethelines1
Coloringoutsidethelines1

This sucks. They taking valuable property off the tax rolls. And not contributing enough to the overall success of the region to make it worth it (like Duke @ RTP, or Harvard to Boston).

MrMustang1965
MrMustang1965

If you think kids from the Park Cities attend SMU then you're delusional.

rain39
rain39

It's not my Dallas University with its new emphasis on Christianity and George Bush's think tank and library there. Plus there is a direct line from the Park Cities to the students there. Those aren't my people either. So....it is a pretty good university but doesn't reflect the real people and values of Dallas except those who think they are the elite. Thousands outside the bubble can match dollars, education and influences with those inside.

LakeWWWooder
LakeWWWooder

With the Mrs. Baird's development and the new one next to Expressway Tower, SMU has officially expanded into the Woodrow Wilson High School attendance zone. Glad to see that as I am both a Mustang and a Wildcat.

Also, I hear SMU already has about 14,000 applications for next fall's 1400 freshmen places.

Bob
Bob

They've already constructed an athletic area next door to DART behind the Ex Towers. That's the former site of the Tony Roma's and Cine Theater.

MrMustang1965
MrMustang1965

SMU has always been Dallas' university since its founding in 1911. There's a reason that the centerpiece building on The Hilltop is called Dallas Hall. Dallas' residents raised the money for its construction. The city of Dallas and its residents should embrace SMU once again as the premiere institution of higher learning, as well as its cultural and athletic programs which are some of the best in the state of Texas.

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

Expressway Tower, once the home of the Dallas Playboy Club.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

DCCCC has an important role to play, and does so in a pretty cost effective manner. I would say they have a much larger impact on Dallas than SMU

Jay D
Jay D

Its not hate, its ambivalence.

Los Politico
Los Politico

Well it is hp community college for the ner do wells

Rico
Rico

What a load. The percentage of students at SMU who come from the Park Cities is negligible. You claim there's a "new emphasis on Christianity". As an SMU graduate school alum, an SMU neighbor, an active participant in SMU continuing education classes, the father of a current SMU grad student, and someone who has been to many church services at Perkins over the past 30 years, whatever religious emphasis there may be (you do know what the M stands for, don't you) is miniscule, and it certainly hasn't increased in the last 10 years. At least you got the Bush Library location right.

Bigjondaniel
Bigjondaniel

Dear Mr. Mustang. I am afraid that myopic leadership, 2nd rate academics, and no support from local leaders have doomed SMU to being afterthought for most Dallas residents. In the 60's, Duke and SMU were very similar in size and scope. Duke and the RTP area invested. Dallas and SMU did not. I also find it interesting that SMU is doing something so VERY Dallas-y to improve - building strip malls with office buildings and apartments on top

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

@Rico. The % of SMU students who:

1) Come from the Park Cities-like social economic strata2) Couldn't get into another school that was higher on their list

Is extremely high.

It is wonderful that you are so active. Yet, you are to blame for SMU's current invisibility nationally. Year after year you and your fellow alumni accepted mediocrity, didn't demand academic excellence, didn't strive to upgrade the faculty and programs, and mostly showed no interest in integrating into the fabric of the City of Dallas.

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