What Can You Do With an Old DISD Portable? How About Make a New House in South Dallas.

Categories: Development
zaclytleanddisdportable.jpg
Jason Roberts
Zac Lytle and the former Dallas ISD portable they're hoping to turn into part of a senior-housing development in South Dallas
Earlier this morning, Jason Roberts posted to his Facebook page the photo you see here, along with the note: "Zac & his non profit are taking former school portable buildings & making them into amazing homes in S Dallas." Turns out, Zac is Zac Lytle, co-founder of Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, on whose website Roberts just posted further info about his project.
In South Dallas, Zac and his team are taking DISD portable buildings that were set to be discarded, and using them to infill blighted neighborhoods around Bexar Street with new housing stock. Once they've acquired the buildings, they're completely stripping the insides and installing new floors, walls, bathrooms, roofs, adding front porches and more to give the structures a new lease on life. The ultimate in recycling!
The area in which Lytle hopes to build these is near Bexar and Starks Avenue, within Phase I of the Bexar Street Redevelopment Corridor that has been on the city's to-do list for five years. What you see above is what Lytle calls a model home, where only the exterior's been rehabbed in anticipation of a show-and-tell scheduled for city officials at 10 a.m. on April 7 -- when Mayor Dwaine Caraway and other officials will gather for what's billed as the "Bexar Street Ceremony" on the mayor's calendar, involving the city's rehab project.

"This will be part of a five-unit senior housing piece we're proposing," Lytle tells Unfair Park today. "It's not official yet, but the hope is to have a five-unit development made up of these portables. This one we're doing now is a prototype, because we're looking for the city and neighborhood's approval before going forward."

Lytle, incidentally, only recently returned to Dallas: Roberts tells Unfair Park that when Lytle decamped for North Carolina in '09, when his wife was accepted to medical school, "we were pretty depressed, because Zac was the heart of our effort." He was also, rather famously, responsible in large part for that dumpster-diving swimming pool.

While in Raleigh, Lytle joined a chapter of Builders of Hope, which specializes in moving older homes scheduled to be razed to neighborhoods in need of affordable workforce housing, where they're rehabbed. He returned last year when his wife got into residency at Parkland and hooked up with developer and home builder Bennett Miller, who's now working as a consultant on this Bexar Street project.

"I just thought it would be a great fit for Dallas, since there are so many houses and buildings torn down here," says Lytle, who has to call his organization Ecological Community Builders to avoid having it confused with Dallas's Builders of Hope. He says he and Miller hit upon using portables after talking to someone in the city's code inspection office.

"They told us the district has an excess of these buildings they destroy, and they spend a lot of money doing that," Lytle says. "We have a good solution where we can repurpose these perfectly good buildings." The one you see in the photo above didn't come directly from the district, Lytle explains, but from a guy who moved some on behalf of the DISD and had it ready to go.

Jon Dahlander, spokesman for the Dallas Independent School District, tells Unfair Park that DISD demolishes most of its portables -- and that there, at this very moment, 176 of them scheduled to be scrapped. Dahlander says "there are issues involved when you sell them -- usually, who's going to pick 'em up and when."

If Lytle and Miller want them, Dahlander says, they can have them: "But they have to move 'em, and there are plenty of issues when it comes to moving them." Such as: They're heavy as hell and tall enough that transporting them becomes a power-line issue. Dahlander says that about five years ago, the district sold about 70 to a man in Fort Worth who wanted them. He only retrieved about 15.

But the district's happy to make a deal: One-hundred dollars going once, going twice ... OK, maybe not even that much.

Miller says they'll get that sorted out soon enough: "We're just beginning this adventure," he says. But Lytle hopes this works, because he'd like to see this expand into Fort Worth and other cities where Builders of Hope has offices, including New Orleans, Charlotte and Raleigh.

Says his old friend Jason Roberts, "It's pretty awesome."

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16 comments
Sdorn100
Sdorn100

Man that cool I wish I had several acres of property I buy one I make a work shop out of it.

Dommerdog
Dommerdog

Everything else aside, if this is a development for seniors, the steps up to that porch need rethinking. People with canes, walkers, wheelchairs, and scooters are going to have a seriously hard time getting in and out of that house.

TimCov
TimCov

I find myself wondering how feasible it would be to do the same thing for home on an empty lot or in the country. From the looks of it, once you are done, it would be hard to tell the difference between one of the portables and a house on a pier and beam foundation.

To me, this is better than just destroying the buildings.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

Miller says they'll get that sorted out soon enough: "We're just beginning this adventure," he says. But Lytle hopes this works, because he'd like to see this expand into Fort Worth and other cities where Builders of Hope has offices, including New Orleans, Charlotte and Raleigh.

Hey Bennett How about finishing the first one ?

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

I recall, in the past, when the DISD had an excess of these buildings that they bull dozed them as opposed to reusing them. The DISD spokesman at the time told us "not to wory we have lots of money" (tax payer monies of course!).

dallasmay
dallasmay

How in the world did they get permits for this?

Ben
Ben

I would not want an elderly relative living in the Bon Ton simply due to the lack of infrastructure in the neighborhood. The lack of a full service grocery store, drug store and even a gas station makes it very unappealing. I have wondered if the people in that part of town are zombies and eat brains rather than carbon based food. Where are the grocery stores?

Plus, if the Trinity River Tollroad is ever built, Bexar @ 175 is the on-ramp. Bexar turns from a sleepy street in the hood to some major artery.

Reminder for newcomers: It's always been pronounced BEAR street, at least for the time being.

LF Taylor
LF Taylor

I really hate to rain on the parade, but who is really going to be paying for all this? If Mr. Lytle is financing this himself, and selling them to willing seniors who do not require additional public subsidy. But I have a sneaking suspicion that this is not the case. In which case it may be better if the buildings are simply destroyed.

Ginna Torres
Ginna Torres

I think that is awesome someone is doing something for the neglected S side of Dal, I have only lived in this area for 2 1/2 yrs, I would think between the city officials while they were campaigning to clean up the city they would have done something w/the condemned buildings & houses, but sadly no there they sit & I don't have a clue what the process is, I'm just a home owner in the area

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

And just down the road, across 175 is the fabulous Buckeye Trail.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Well according to Dallas County Appraisal District logic the price paid for this house, a figure reported to be over $5 million, since the house is a tear down then the land must be worth over $5 Million since the house is scrap--there fore I would expect the neighbor’s land values to reflect the over $5 Million figure on top of the "improvement" house value. Oh but NOOOOOO those neighbors can't and should not have a higher land value because "there special and can hire a tax attorney to fight their appraisals" unlike us regular slobs who have to suck it up when the DCAD does this to our land values due to a older house being scraped for a new (non selling) McMansiion.

abuckley1970
abuckley1970

I was just sitting here wondering the same thing - but as high profile as this is going to be I am assuming they have permits. LOL I am curious to see how the community reacts...especially with the upcoming Turner Courts redevelopment.

Kudos if they can do it and make it look like a residential development - good reuse project. :)

Jerome
Jerome

"they're completely stripping the insides and installing new floors, walls, bathrooms, roofs, adding front porches and more to give the structures a new lease on life."

So....what's being recycled is the external appearance that these are discarded DISD portables, just the look poor S. Dallas residents have been yearning for all these years. Inside, though, they're all new construction.

You're right. The math doesn't add up. This stinks of scam almost as bad as an NGO camp in Haiti.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

I thought the city said no to the Modular housing idea..At least when it came to moving a structure in and finishing it out.

Seems to me there was a guy who tried to do the same thing on Singleton Blvd about 5 or 6 years ago.

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