How to Rev Fair Park's Economic Engine: Bring on the Scrapyards

Categories: Schutze

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State Rep. Eric Johnson, Democrat of southern Dallas and Mesquite, has an essay on the op-ed page of The Dallas Morning News today describing Fair Park as a "powerful economic engine" and a "jewel of our city" whose economic power should be harnessed to improve life in surrounding poor neighborhoods.

But the same essay ticks off a list of major institutions that have bailed on Fair Park in recent years to relocate in tonier venues in or near the downtown Arts District, far from the dilapidated houses and lounging unemployed outdoor paper-bag sippers who tend to scare off the high-culture clientele.

In fact, at one point Johnson even blames Fair Park for the poverty of the surrounding area: "Because Fair Park is known primarily as a seasonal venue to most Dallasites," Johnson writes, "the surrounding neighborhoods have experienced a prolonged period of steady decline."

His one concrete suggestion for repairing the damage Fair Park has done to the people who live around it is a proposal to move the Martin Luther King Community Center into Fair Park. The center is a place I have visited often both as a working reporter and as an unworking reporter. When I was jobless some years ago, it was the closest place for me to go to sign up for unemployment benefits. It functions today mainly as a distribution center for a variety of social services.

Johnson isn't a bit wrong about the long-term trends at Fair Park. Obviously, all of the main visitor attractions except the annual State Fair are taking hikes one after another, going where their audiences want to be. Some day if Jerry Jones can come up with a way to stage the fair in Arlington, we can expect to see that last supporting icon take off for the 'burbs in about a New York minute too.

But proposing to fix the ills of the surrounding area by turning Fair Park into the world's biggest distributor of entitlements seems far-fetched. How would that help? To change their destinies, people in the area around Fair Park need jobs, not benefits.

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Photo by Justin Terveen
For example, what about this idea? Why not bulldoze all those worn-out, under-used, crappy-looking buildings that were temporary in the first place when they were thrown up three-quarters of a century ago? In their place, create a start-up industrial zone.

What the surrounding area really needs is a center of employment. But that area needs a certain kind of employment. If you put a bunch of high-tech indoor clean-shirt jobs in there, the jobs will all get scarfed up in about two days by interlopers from Richardson -- better-trained, highly experienced job-seekers.

Fair Park needs to be a center for the kind of hard, dirty, outdoor work nobody else wants to do, the work that gives a leg up to people just entering the job market for the first time. At the same time, the entire city might benefit enormously from having a kind of incubator industrial park that provides start-up opportunity for a certain kind of entrepreneur. I'm thinking of people who can get their hands on the necessary capital from informal social network sources rather than the mainstream institutional bankers who have always red-lined this area anyway.

The vision I see, when I think of ways to tap Fair Park's potential and boost the fortunes of people who live nearby, is of a vast terrain serving as home to things like Korean-owned scrapyards. I'm just using that as an example.

Is it worth at least a try? Could we experiment with this idea? I'm thinking we take some of the most obviously useless real estate down there, stuff like the offices of Friends of Fair Park, scrape it and invite in a handful of down-and-dirty immigrant start-up low-end enterprises. Maybe we could start with 10 or so, just to see how it goes.

The money that rains down on Fair Park during the brief annual run of the State Fair disappears into the ground without a trace, as far as the surrounding area is concerned, and that breaks my bleeding heart. In its "Ten Drops in the Bucket" series of editorials, the Morning News keeps talking about run-down houses and vacant storefronts in the area, as if patching up crappy buildings will somehow serve to change the fundamental destiny of the people who live in and near them.

But when I see all that money soaking into the ground at the fair, it occurs to me that people in the area around the fair don't even own their own buckets. Maybe that's what an industrial zone at Fair Park could provide.

Hey. Light-bulb moment. We could call that initial experimental phase "Ten Buckets." Forget about the damn holes.


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41 comments
Urbandweller203
Urbandweller203

"Fair Park needs to be a center for the kind of hard, dirty, outdoor work nobody else wants to do, the work that gives a leg up to people just entering the job market for the first time."

The able working bodies left in this area do not want to do this work. For some reason, people don't want to work hard anymore, even if they don't have a "bucket" to piss in.

 South Dallas leaders and its concern citizens missed the opportunity to make the Fair Park  area a thriving black community. One way to deal with the Fair Park is to add a very large addition to the area without tearing down the historic buildings. Dallas should get another football team or baseball team and build a new stadium. The region can support two professional sports team. This will eliminate that entire area, create jobs, keep the cotton bowl tradition, host concerts, etc. The old buildings can be use as support building, research, specialty training schools, etc. This can jump start the Mayor's Golden plan for South Dallas.

Right now, in all honesty, South Dallas proverty is too wide spread. You will have to move masses of people out (with their leaders) to make a visible and viable change. Either buy them out or move them out one by one. The longer it take the harder its going to be for the Fair Park to survive and the area revitalized.

 This way, decades of blame, posturing, failed promises, and finger pointing, goes away. Shift the Homeowners to buy homes in Oakcliff. There are plenty of homes in Oak Cliff.

 

robertsewardz
robertsewardz

I researched the question of who High Speed Universities admits, their retention rates, and graduates, and I have to say that a school that is just looking for enrollment, would not hold these types of numbers. You can research this information yourself.

  

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

It could house many things, colleges, research entities, a place for startups with low overhead.... Iti s a jewel that racism from the white North Dallas group and denial by black Dallas leaders has pretty much killed.

Lakewoodhobo
Lakewoodhobo

Even better than tearing down Fair Park for a scrapyard... let's fill the beautiful Esplanade with pig guts, hair and blood.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I've said this concerning Fair Park for awhile, but if we really want to tackle the issue head-on, maybe its time to really consider a "East Austin" approach to development, which is to say encourage property developers and first time home buyers to buy out older properties south of the park and along streets such as MLK and either flip them into nicer places or build affordable townhomes. In turn, small business will move into the area and build up the economics of the neighborhood. Its happening in other cities, why not here??

In addition, Fair Park needs to star bringing in year-round business including large concerts ala ACL/Lollapalooza and smaller events throughout the year. Lastly, someone needs to get on the ball and get The Womens Museum reopened post-haste, as well as attract other venues into the park, including that long-in-gestation Texas Music Museum..

elsando
elsando

How about the "Horse Park" at Fair park? The facilities are already there, stables, barns, and arenas. It would surely bring some jobs to the area. Blend in western activities and you could have a horse powered engine.  Will Rogers in Ft. Worth seem to have a good deal going.

footmeetA$$
footmeetA$$

It could be turned into a soldier of fortune(mercenary) training camp. I don't think war will be dying down anytime soon....and mercenaries generally make more than their army counterparts. Or, maybe, an "A" Team training facility....we've got a lot of dudes/dudettes coming back from Iraq/Afghanistan and they could go there and hone their skills to become kick ass and then go around Dallas(and it's outlying areas) helping folks out who are in trouble. The lord knows, DART, could use some assistance.

Ben
Ben

The Army used the buildings in World War II to work Wehrmacht Afrika Korps POWs, 24 hours a day in (2) 12 hour shifts. They knocked dents out of mess kits and sewed uniforms. Something like that?

Maybe someone should call Ford, tell them to start up their plant again on Grand.

According to the 2010 census, 10,800 people live between the junkyards along Lamar, west of White Rock Creek, east of Deep Ellum(proper) and south of Haskell/Military Parkway. There is not any population density there. I don't see how moving entitlement centers into Fair Park would help out so few people. Many of whom are elderly and would jump at the chance to move the hell out of there if they could. You just don't see many working age folks in that area. If they can get the hell out, they get.

Go by the junk yards along Lamar on a weekday around quitting time, the mucker guys who work in the yards, nearly all of whom are hispanic, live directly across Lamar in rental houses. They are vastly different from their neighbors who sit idle all day. How do you fix that?

It's great that Dallas wants to improve the area. I point my finger at Bexar Street though, I see a failure. Those millions of dollars spent to fix that block or two has not become an incubator for further development. Same dudes sitting outside the beer store five years ago, are still sitting out there drinking from paper bags today.

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Can the solar-powered water taxis for the Trinity be built there? That and a smelter for the bridge steel and it's a world-class win/win.

Nebo
Nebo

"State Rep. Eric Johnson, Democrat of southern Dallas and Mesquite, has an essay on the op-ed page of The Dallas Morning News today describing Fair Park as a "powerful economic engine" and a "jewel of our city" whose economic power should be harnessed to improve life in surrounding poor neighborhoods."

Laura Miller screwed this up!!! Can you imagine what would have happened to the area if Dallas Cowboys Stadium would have been built there..............the rising tide would have floated all the boats.........The biggest loss ever.........

Brad
Brad

I think this article is sarcasm but I can't tell for sure. Can someone connect the dots on what's being said here? Or does Jim really want to bulldoze fair park?

RTGolden
RTGolden

Kick the new uplift school over into Fair Park instead of DE.  Give incentives to businesses who will use interns from the school in the summer.  More incentives for hiring grads of the academy.  Encourage the types of businesses that align with the focuses of the Academy, whether it be science and tech, law, etc, but any business that will hire mostly out of the school (kids from that area) or hire adults from that area will do.

Win - Win for everyone.  Uplift is all about "doing what's best for the kids", right?  What could be better than providing a good education with real-world job training and improved after-grad employment prospects?  The kids get that education and job training.  The neighborhood will get a boost from both the school and job center, attracting more varied types of service and support businesses to move in.  Deep Ellum gets to remain Deep Ellum.

Phelps
Phelps

Can't do that, Jim.  America is at war with dirty jobs (in the Mike Rowe sense.)

We don't want to respect honest work.  We want everyone to go to college whether they have the potential to succeed there or not.  We want people to shun vocational training.  We want to look down on welders and machinists and skilled work -- even if that scarcity means that the last few plumbers make three times what "white collar" workers are making.

So we'll try to act like there is some sort of office work that we can put there that isn't already being done somewhere else.

Except the only work like that is handing out the dole.

AskTheMexican
AskTheMexican

I can see an incubator type of project spurring up something, might not be a huge increase, but at least a little. I saw this quote on my news feed this am, and Fair Park could possibly have the atmosphere to make this happen, at least at a local level. See here "If we want to fix our country, we have to stop thinking globally and start thinking locally. We have to start to produce what we consume."

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

"To change their destinies, people in the area around Fair Park need jobs, not benefits."

If nothing else, I completely agree with this. But, will community "leaders" call the jobs these people have the skills for slavery?

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

Detriot has been using mercs/hired guns recently due to the police budget cutbacks. Seriously.

Jd
Jd

Yea but they have a nicer sofa!

JimS
JimS

The genie's not in the house. It's in the paper bag.

Guest
Guest

Jerry was NEVER going to build in Fair Park. Think of all the parking money lost to the DART train...

Wake up. It was a bargaining ploy.

JimS
JimS

So how many factories, warehouses and other job-rich industrial facilities are crowding in around the stadium Jones built in Arlington? The only jobs a Cowboy Stadium in Fair Park migth have created would have been a year's worth of construction work for a bunch of guys from Indiana to bild a wider faster road for people to get in and out of there. 

JimS
JimS

It's not sarcasm. And forgive me please for being the boy who cried sarcasm too many time. This is an honest expression of sincere feeling. Fair Park is a dying dis-used relic that produces nothing. The area around it is poverty-stricken. The solution to poverty is work. The only way p eople can break into the world of work ont heir own is through hard jobs other people won't do. Immigrants represent a huge capital opportu7nity, because they can put their hands on enough money to start a business and not have to screw with banks or government. A bunch of factories, scrap yards and auto reclamation centers in Fair Park could turn South Dallas around in a way nothing else could. 

dt&ot
dt&ot

Good point Phelps.  Good Point.  Maybe a good thing to put in fair park would be a branch of ITT, Devry, etc.  I went to UTA at night while working a full time job (dt&ot pats self on back) and all I got was a BBA in marketing which is essentially a union card for working in cubicle land.  I wish I would have spent my time learning a trade (welding, AC, Electrical). Ben Franklin offered this advice over 200 years ago. Every man should learn a trade. I guess I was sleeping in class the day we learned that one.

Tim Covington
Tim Covington

At times I really wish I had become an electrician instead of a computer technician. Today, unless someone has a free ride to college, I've been telling them to go to a trade school instead. I fully trained CNC machinist or electrician has an easier time finding a job than most college graduates today. And, they are starting at $15-20/hour. The same goes for electricians. And, they will have a lot less debt starting out.

JimS
JimS

Funny thing is, it always seemed to me the dirtier the job I had, the less shit I had to take.

M Dot
M Dot

so because ONE elected official called the jobs "slavery," it must mean everybody does? Not so much. 

footmeetA$$
footmeetA$$

Sweet! Now all we need is a dope ass black van with that gnarly red stripe on it and we've got ourselves some ball-bustin' to do!

Mob
Mob

Really, what about all the other stadiums built in urban areas like Fair Park? Why weren't they built hours out into suburbia??? 

Nebo
Nebo

Only one flaw in your analysis: you cannot compare Fair Park (Dallas) to the area in Arlington, where Dallas Cowboys Stadium now resides. From many perspectives................

F Fair Park
F Fair Park

 JimBo -- I helped an out of state auto recycling business look at moving to Dallas.  Not a wrecking yard but a business the strips gold  and electronics out, get the plastics sorted to be recycled, catalogs usable spare parts, and would do all the work much cleaner than even California EPA regs require.  Easy way to put two hundred folks to work.  The various areas we looked at were all interested but the 'Fair Park Leaders' only concerns were how much the business could kick back to the community through those leaders and no show jobs for their families. 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Tim, you are exactly right.

At DISD, though, we are FORBIDDEN to mention trades.  We have to push college and applying to college so somebody gets a kickback from the people involved with college applications.

Also, if we let kids pursue trades, that will mean less pressure to buy tests written by companies like Pearson.  And if there are fewer kids failing the tests, who will need the SES tutoring provided by other companies?  Kids won't be bringing Title I funds to these companies if the kids aren't failing Pearson's tests.

Drugs, behavior problems, teen pregnancy--all fallout from tuned out, disinterested kids who are failing the tests.

But Pearson is getting rich.  The trustees are getting campaign contributions.  The SES tutoring companies stand to profit.   And that's what matters, right?

dt&ot
dt&ot

Reference Office Space: Does anyone where you work ever ask you if you have a case of the Monday's? 

Guest
Guest

Because not all owners are as evil as Jerry.

The man spent millions financing a DART pullout election in Irving to prevent the Orange Line from reaching Texas Stadium. It failed. He moved to Arlington. He made Arlington max out its sales tax authority to ensure there would never be transit in the city.

F Fair Park
F Fair Park

Hey Bob - up yours buddy. Shake downs happen to many businesses but the Fair Park leaders take the cake. I can name names but that will just earn me a bisit from some thugs. Better ask how a pro bono lawyer affords a weekend suite at the W or a preacher gets a new Lexis each year when the collections are just paying the rent.

Bob
Bob

You won't get names (not real ones, anyway) because people like "F Fair Park" only deal in slanderous stereotypes and scurrilous slurs to reinforce their blind prejudices. They won't let "facts" get in the way of their undiluted racial animus.

Lakewoodhobo
Lakewoodhobo

I would like some names so we can hold those "leaders" accountable.

heyheymama
heyheymama

Boy Scouts of America has announced a Welding merit badge.Do they understand something about the nature of boys that our school system doesn't?

For example:  My son loves the Ax Men / Swamp Loggers / Ice RoadTruckers-type of shows.  I got around to thinking about "why?".

Boys like to move, like an element of danger and want the confidence to handledifficult situations.  Cube-farm, college-result jobs hold no appeal atthis age (10 yrs old).

Sure, the tradesmen depicted are rough, but they are professional problem solvers.My son sees them tackling new problems each show and either overcoming them ortaking a licking and moving on.  He loves this stuff.

heyheymama
heyheymama

Recent news articles in the WSJ play up the lack of skilled trade workers. Can we infer that our college-only policy is hurting America's productivity?

I was a hard-hat wearing engineer and have only the greatest respect & awe for the trades and crafts.  Am always saddened by the education system's blind devotion to college.  Skilled tradesmen are intelligent problem solvers and it's a slap in their faces to call them runners-up in the educational arms race.

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