Community History Harvest at the Dallas West Branch Library

Residents of West Dallas are invited to join us on Saturday, April 27th at the Dallas West Branch Library from 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm for a community history harvest. This will be the first event in our collaboration with the Dallas Public Library to further the digitization and oral history aspects of the Neighborhood Stories program.

Folks from across the area are invited to share photos, documents, and oral histories about their community, to be recorded and digitized for the Dallas Public Library’s public collection. Participants will also receive digital copies of their photos and documents, preserving these important artifacts for future generations to learn from.

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In consideration of time, we ask that residents bring up to five artifacts to be digitized. Examples of items to bring include:

  • Family or school photos

  • Yearbooks

  • Menus from local restaurants

  • Property surveys or maps

  • Church programs

We are looking forward to learning from and with the residents of West Dallas’s neighborhoods about the local history and how their communities experienced change during the Civil Rights period and beyond. The topics to be explored include the role of city planning, development, and school desegregation with the ultimate goal of understanding how historic inequities have shaped the communities we see today. The collective neighborhood history gathered from the archival event, interviews with community members, and our research about the area will culminate in an exhibition at the Dallas West Branch Library.

[bc] encourages any individuals and organizations who are interested in participating in this effort to reach out to Lizzie MacWillie, Associate Director, who will lead the project. Stay tuned for future updates on the details of this digitization event.

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This project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.



[bc] Receives Common Heritage Grant from the NEH

We are excited to announce that we have been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to partner with the Dallas Public Library for a new project which will further the digitization and oral history aspects of the Neighborhood Stories program through events and exhibitions in the neighborhoods served by the Library’s Polk-Wisdom, Dallas West, and Martin Luther King Jr. Branches.

This collaboration builds off of several years of work by [bc] to collect and preserve Dallas’s local histories as they relate to changes in the physical and cultural form of the city. Through oral histories and physical artifacts like photos and documents, the project will document how these changes have had an impact on Dallas’s historic communities of color and how residents experienced cultural and demographic shifts in their neighborhoods during the Civil Rights period and beyond.

Topics to be explored include city planning, development, and school desegregation. Ultimately, [bc] hopes to advance a greater understanding of the way in which historical inequities have had a role in shaping the communities we see today. Given various efforts currently taking place across the city to better understand issues of racial equity and how future development may impact vulnerable communities, the project will leverage this momentum to engage Dallasites in a re-examination of local histories.

Project activities will begin in 2019. [bc] encourages any individuals and organizations who are interested in participating in this effort to reach out to Lizzie MacWillie, Associate Director, who will lead the project.

Stay tuned for future updates on the dates and locations of digitization events in these three locales.

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This project has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.




Bridging the Block Wrap-Up

This fall [bc]’s Bridging the Block project set out to hear from Dallasites about some of the challenges they face when trying to use the sidewalks of Downtown Dallas. Through a series of design meetings and a tour, participants identified the biggest problems hindering mobility, and workshopped design solutions. The most pressing issues singled-out included broken and narrow sidewalks, steepness of driveways, a lack of curb cuts, visibility issues, and poles or debris blocking the public.

[bc] and participants concluded that recognizing an issue can be the first step to solving it, and that people often don’t recognize something is a problem unless they have been personally impacted by it or know someone who has. This understanding framed the approach to the final installation: not only would the final product include a method to address the issues seen and discussed, it would also make it a point to highlight the issues and the various populations they alienate on a daily basis.

The final work is a kit of parts that together create different configurations of temporary “bridges” on the sidewalks of Marilla Street between City Hall and the Farmers Market - a stretch of sidewalk in such poor condition that it is extremely difficult to navigate. These “bridges” are mobile installations that raise awareness of accessibility issues in public space and celebrate creating a city accessible to everyone. To accompany the bridges, [bc] built a series of signs featuring pictographs and text that explain the challenges the ramps address. As a whole, the installation uses color, texture, and modularity to create awareness about the breadth of mobility challenges and experiences in public space.

There will be another opportunity to see the installations at the #MarillaMakeover Grand Opening on Friday, Nov. 16, 11:30 am - 2:00 pm.

The Bridging the Block project is supported by AARP and coincides with the #MarillaMakeover Project currently being led by Downtown Dallas Inc. and the City of Dallas’ Planning and Urban Design Department.


 

Bridging the Block

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This fall [bc]’s Bridging the Block project will be installing temporary “bridges” on the sidewalks of Marilla Street between City Hall and the Farmers Market. These “bridges” will be a group of mobile installations that aim to raise awareness of accessibility issues in public spaces and celebrate creating a city accessible to everyone.

We have held several community design meetings to hear from people about their experiences as a pedestrian in downtown Dallas and the ways they would approach addressing the issues at hand. The meetings set out to identify accessibility issues and have conversations about who would be impacted by these limitations. We learned from participants about the challenges of broken and narrow sidewalks, steepness of driveways, a lack of curb cuts, visibility issues, and poles or debris blocking the paths.

The conversations touched on whether minimum accessibility requirements were sufficient in addressing the needs of all. One issue identified was the challenge of navigating textured pavers found at crosswalks with a walker. Another topic of concern was safety and the small but important design decisions that could address this concern—from street lights to reflective materials that would indicate the presence of a pedestrian to oncoming traffic.

The Opening Day Lunch and Conversation will be on Friday, Nov. 2, 12:00 to 1:30 pm. You will have another opportunity to see the installations at the #MarillaMakeover project Grand Opening on Friday, Nov. 16.

The Bridging the Block project is supported by AARP and will coincide with the #MarillaMakeover project currently being led by Downtown Dallas Inc. and the City of Dallas’ Planning and Urban Design Department.

 

Smart Growth for Dallas Focus Forum Update

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As we gear up for the final two Smart Growth for Dallas Focus Forum conversations on Parks and Public Space for People of All Abilities (August 9th) and Designing for Equity in Parks and Public Space (September 6th), we have been reflecting on the thoughtful conversations we’ve had had so far.

In our first panel discussion in May, moderated by Dr. Ivonne Audirac of the University of Texas at Arlington's College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs (CAPPA), we had a compelling conversation about the issues of urban development and the impact of public space design on neighborhood vitality. Our panelists Aaron Abelson of HR&A Advisors, Brianna Brown of Texas Organizing Project, and Brent Brown of the Trinity Park Conservancy joined us at Better Block to talk about how public space design can contribute to the perpetuation of neighborhood disinvestment or be a catalyst for new development and neighborhood desirability. You can listen to the conversation online.

The second panel discussion in June was moderated by Alfreda Norman, Senior Vice President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, where we discussed the issues of race and ethnicity in public space design. Our panelists Bobby Abtahi, President of the Dallas Park and Recreation Board, Isaac Cohen, a Landscape Architect at Studio Outside, Delia Jasso, former District 1 Council Member, and Yui Iwase, New Roots Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee joined us at the Dallas Black Dance Theater to talk about how a city with a long history of segregation might approach current and future public space design in a way that supports equity and access to public space for all of its residents. You can learn about the history of Dallas’ public parks and residential racial segregation within the city in [bc]’s Race and Control of Public Parks and listen to the panel conversation online.

Stay tuned for more information about the upcoming focus forums!

Smart Growth for Dallas, an initiative led by the Trust for Public Land, buildingcommunityWORKSHOP, and Texas Trees Foundation, seeks to combine community insight and science to promote quality public spaces and green infrastructure in Dallas. To unpack the issues highlighted during our community engagement process, Smart Growth for Dallas will be hosting a series of 'Focus Forums' to explore the challenging topics of race and ethnicity, urban development, and accessibility within our public space design. The closing discussion will seek to knit together the prior conversation by exploring the specific role of design in bringing equity to public spaces. Through these conversations we hope to uncover forward-thinking ideas about planning and public space design in Dallas by bringing together groups whose work directly relates to each theme.

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP Launches Freedmen’s Town Storytelling Project

Residents of North Texas Freedmen’s Towns will Document Community Histories

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP ([bc]) has been awarded a National Parks Service African American Civil Rights Grant to launch a new project focused on North Texas Freedmen’s Towns. The “Freedmen’s Towns Stories” project aims to support residents of Dallas’s historic Freedmen’s Towns and their descendants in telling the stories of the changes their communities faced during the Civil Rights Period through oral history, cross-generational interpretive storytelling, and text-based multimedia products.

[bc] has partnered with noted architectural historian Dr. Kathryn Holliday, Founding Director of the University of Texas at Arlington’s Dillon Center for Architecture, along with UTA College of Architecture, Planning, and Public Affairs students, and the Writer’s Garret, the first nonprofit literary center in North Texas, which has connected over 2 million writers, readers, and audience members over the past 23 years, to build local capacity through this endeavor. Over the course of the project, [bc] and its partners will train and provide support to residents in conducting historical research, navigating archives, historic storytelling in written and oral formats, and recordings oral histories.

“Since 2012, [bc] has worked with residents of the Tenth Street Historic District—a historic former Freedmen’s Town—to assist residents preserving and celebrating their community’s rich history. With this grant, we will further advance this important work, engaging communities and residents across the region,” says Thor Erickson, President & Managing Director of [bc].

As a community design center with expertise in translating technical information into an accessible graphic format, [bc] will create manuals that will aid additional urban North Texas Freedmen’s Towns in the task of historic storytelling. These resources, as well as the oral histories and written stories collected through the project, will be hosted in a new online repository, which will be built over the course of the project period. This website will establish a new online presence for urban North Texas Freedmen’s Towns’ collaborative efforts.

The project’s launch coincides with a timely need. As construction continues on the Southern Gateway project, which will bring a multimillion dollar deck park to the neighborhood, Dallas’s Tenth Street Historic District faces imminent redevelopment pressures.

Several historic structures recently received demolition orders as residents have witnessed steadily increasing outside interest in neighborhood real estate. These events have catalyzed a number of local conversations about historic preservation, equity, and their intersection.

Freedmen’s Towns Stories will build resident capacity to preserve the local histories of these oft-overlooked communities. By training residents to undertake these efforts, the project will further equip the many residents who are dedicated to this endeavor.

Disclaimer:

Partially funded by the African American Civil Rights program of the Historic Preservation Fund, National Park Service, Department of the Interior. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material do not constitute endorsement or necessarily reflect the view of the Department of the Interior.

About [bc]:

The buildingcommunityWORKSHOP is a Texas based nonprofit community design center seeking to improve the livability and viability of communities through the practice of thoughtful design and making. We enrich the lives of citizens by bringing design thinking to areas of our cities where resources are most scarce. To do so, [bc] recognizes that it must first understand the social, economic, and environmental issues facing a community before beginning work. (www.bcworkshop.org)

Activating Vacancy Downtown Dallas Recap

For the Activating Vacancy Downtown Dallas, a National Endowment for the Arts-supported project in partnership with Downtown Dallas, Inc., two artist teams worked with community members to create works of public art to activate spaces in Downtown Dallas. Through a call for proposals, artists were tasked with devising a project in response to public space priorities, identified through our Community Audited Public Space (CAPS) process and a Community Advisory Committee. Two series of works were created through a community-engaged process: the WonderPhones and MAY I // a blessing project. Project teams engaged with community members through a variety of workshops and community gathering events, which included project tours and a culmintaing public interview with the artists. 

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WonderPhone

The WonderPhone is an interactive payphone that connect the people in downtown Dallas to the city and each other. The team combined old and new technology to allow people to listen to content and play and record their stories. Five WonderPhones were created, placed in colorful enclosures in various locations downtown and popping up at events.

The WonderPhone team (Rickey Crum, Gray Garmon, Katie KrummeckEdward Li, and Justin Childress) worked with local high school students, architects, historians, designers, urban planners, musicians and essayists to create and record engaging Dallas- or phone-related content for participants to enjoy. Audio content ranged from personal stories of memories downtown to future imaginings of new possibilities for Downtown, as well both curated and newly created pieces that focus on the history and architecture of downtown Dallas. Interactive prompts ask participants to share reactions to specific questions (and hear responses live) as well as follow instructions to participate in immersive experiences exploring downtown.

The artists said, "We hope that the WonderPhone will inspire participants to listen and think deeply about the lived experiences of the citizens of Downtown Dallas as well as engage participants in activities to help them observe Dallas in a new light and reflect on their own participation in the city."

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MAY I // a blessing project

MAY I // a blessing project is a walkable installation of blessings written by local young women for the Dallas community, manifested large-scale. The artists Ruben Carrazana and Janielle Kastner worked with a group of young women (ages 12-18) who wrote specific declarations of hope for themselves (MAY I), for their community (MAY WE), and for their spaces (MAY THIS SPACE).

The team issued an exhortation to the city: "We believe these young women don’t need us to 'empower' them, they need us to acknowledge they already have the power to speak life into their community. We call these declarations blessings as they begin with the word 'may' - a word that summons into existence that which isn’t here yet. Our work as artists has been taking their words and manifesting them in unexpected places downtown in a bold, surprising, even defiant manner. In a world that asks them to shrink, MAY I radically insists young women take up extraordinary amounts of space. We encourage you to join these young women and manifest your own blessing in your spaces, tagging #mayiblessdallas."

Our partner DDI will continue to use the artworks to activate spaces in downtown Dallas. Check out photos of the artworks and the AVDD events below!

This project was supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). To find out more about the National Endowment for the Arts visit www.arts.gov.  

To find out more about our project partner Downtown Dallas Inc., visit www.downtowndallas.com.

Remembering the Fallen Officers of July 7th, 2016

Click here to read more about Little Free Libraries!

buildingcommunityWORKSHOP hosted the official opening reception of the DPD & DART Officer Memorial Little Free Libraries last Saturday, July 22nd at South Side on Lamar

Wisconsin resident Helen Stassen, whose late son Benjamin has been commemorated through a Little Free Library in their hometown, reached out to [bc] after July 7th to initiate this endeavor and generously funded the design and construction of the five libraries. 


“We are offering a small contribution to personal and community healing in the form of Little Free Libraries as memorials to the slain Dallas Officers. Since Benjamin’s death our family has embraced the positive experience of being stewards of a Little Free Library, used by many people, that is a memorial in Benjamin’s name. This offers us an evolving and ever changing way to nurture and care for others in our community and to keep Benjamin’s memory alive. May the families, friends and community of Officers receive some of these same benefits. We hope/pray those who see and use these libraries and hear this story be moved toward helping others and sharing in peaceful nonviolent ways.“

Over the last 12 months, the five Little Free Libraries have been designed, built, and installed across the City of Dallas to commemorate the five officers who lost their lives on July 7th, 2016. This project has been an opportunity for a meaningful collaboration between [bc], the Dallas Police Department's Office of Community Affairs, a team of dedicated volunteer designers, and our library stewards: South Side on Lamar, El Centro College, N W Harllee Early Childhood Center, Our Saviour Episcopal Church, and Vickery Meadow Community Garden. To realize the libraries, a group of 6 core volunteers offered their design services with help from dozens of other volunteer professionals and students. The design of the 5 libraries is composed of 5 shapes that were fabricated by hand. The libraries work together as a group, but are arranged in different compositions in each location to preserve  a sense of individuality for each library. 

This scheme was inspired by the police officers, who were all unique individuals who came together to work as one unit.  The unique geometric qualities of each library are meant to represent this bond. Proudly painted blue and yellow, all libraries display the fallen officers’ badge numbers, the “Read in Peace” slogan, and other personal memorial items from the Stassen family that address people affected by gun violence.

The memorial libraries are part of our Little Free Library/Libros Libres program. Little Free Libraries/Libros Libres is a literacy and community based design initiative in Dallas, Texas that uses free book exchanges to build community and promote a culture of reading. Inspired by the Little Free Library movement (www.littlefreelibrary.org), these small neighborhood book shelters operate under the guiding principle of “take a book, leave a book.” The project uses community engagement and design to makes books available in a variety of publicly accessible locations, supporting the health of the neighborhoods by fostering collaboration and relationships.

We would like to thank everyone who was involved in the creation of the libraries. Over the course of the year, we had over a dozen hands involved in the design and fabrication process. The core volunteer group was led by: 
Amruta Sakalker
Kristin Henry
Haven Hardage
Oswaldo Rivera-Ortiz
Freddie Ortiz
Sonya Shah

Additional support and in-kind donations were made by:
Richardson High School’s R Studio
Dallas Metal Inc.
SMU Deacon Innovation Lab
Little Free Libraries

Little Free Libraries in the press:
Little Free Libraries will honor fallen Dallas officers, Dallas Morning News, September 9, 2016. 
 

Downtown Dallas Community Audited Public Space (CAPS)

Join [bc] and Downtown Dallas, Inc. for a Community Audited Public Space (CAPS) exercise. Use your knowledge and skills to gather vital information on the quality of sidewalks and streetscapes which will help inform planning efforts in downtown. 

On the morning and afternoon of Saturday, March 25th, volunteers will work alongside [bc] to explore the heart of downtown Dallas through a series of data gathering activities. On Saturday, April 1st, [bc] will lead designers, engineers, and planners to audit some of the most complex spaces in downtown, focusing on the areas that bridge between the inside and outside of the downtown “loop”. During these events, we will record the physical condition of downtown’s public realm focusing on the sidewalks, their width, materiality, amenities and their interaction with the street.  

Public knowledge is indispensable in understanding the experience of place within the city. CAPS will reinforce the community led advocacy already taking place in downtown and will also help develop tools and strategies for documenting and addressing issues in downtown's public spaces and sidewalks. The results will aid in neighborhood efforts to 

  • Advocate for high quality public spaces
  • Enhance public safety through street and sidewalk treatments
  • Enhance the public realm through the addition of active public spaces
  • Provide community driven, qualitative analysis to supplement quantitative measurements of downtown 
  • Increase collaboration between community members

During each of these audits, participants will start by running through a CAPS training followed by small groups assignments to complete the audits. Facilitators will lead each small group through several blocks, gathering opinions and data on the sidewalks and streetscapes of the area. With the facilitator's guidance, auditors will record the physical condition of downtown's public realm focusing on the sidewalks, their width, materiality, amenities and their interaction with the street.  

We are calling all volunteers to join us in auditing the city on March 25th and April 1st. Additionally, we are looking for facilitators to lead the auditing groups on March 25th. Three trainings will be held before the community event for those interested in acting as a facilitator for small groups of volunteers. If you are interested in being a facilitator, please sign up for one of these dates: February 25th, March 2nd, and March 4th

This initiative is supported in part by Downtown Dallas Inc. (DDI) and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). To find out more about the National Endowment for the Arts visit www.arts.gov.  To find out more about Downtown Dallas Inc., visit www.downtowndallas.com.

Priority Setting Meeting for 1208 Tenth Street

Learn more about POP Dallas and Tenth Street

[bc] is soon to begin rehabilitation on a small house in the Tenth Street Historic District in Dallas, one of the few remaining intact Freedmen’s Town in the country. [bc] has long relationship with the neighborhood, having worked together with the Tenth Street Historic District on Neighborhood Stories and Activating Vacancy: Tenth Street, as well as being involved with the local crime watch, Operation Tenth Street. The house, which will be remodeled according to the historic district guidelines, will be turned into a Neighborhood Resource Center, a hub of activity, information, and programming for the community.


Residents of Tenth Street turned up in front of the house on Saturday, February 11th, for a Priority Setting Meeting to determine what goals the Neighborhood Resource Center should focus on, what kinds of programming and events should happen there, and what resources they want to access.  A few of the many suggestions included: different activities to involve kids and stay active, larger cultural events or festivals, a community gallery, and more!

Neighborhood Stories Kickoff in Elm Thicket

[bc] and the City of Dallas Planning and Urban Design Department have joined forces to bring Neighborhood Stories to the historic neighborhood, Elm Thicket, a Northwest Dallas community located near the Dallas Love Field airport. On Saturday, February 4th, residents and community leaders gathered at the K.B. Polk Recreation Center to kick off the much anticipated project. The event encouraged residents to share memorable stories, impactful historic events, and most of all, to celebrate their culture, identity, and history. Among some of the residents who shared their story was Mr. Thomas Buffin, a current resident who has lived in the neighborhood for over 75 years. Some of the events remembered included the geographical evolution of the neighborhood, the birth of local churches and businesses, the creation of the Dallas Love Field airport, and the desegregation of public schools. 

Stay connected with us as we uncover the untold story of Elm Thicket, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube!

Bonton + Ideal Released

Learn more about Bonton + Ideal and Neighborhood Stories.

The newest film in our Neighborhood Stories series, Bonton + Ideal, was released free online today. The film focuses on these two South Dallas neighborhoods, and illustrates the many policies enacted that aimed to isolate the community socially, economically, environmentally, and physically.

Told through the eyes of long-term residents, Bonton + Ideal tells the history of two neighborhoods thathave been tied together since their initial development during the era of segregation. Built on land in the Trinity River’s floodplain, the neighborhoods have battled the effects of massive flooding, concentrated public housing projects, and racially-motivated bombing campaigns.

The film’s director, Craig Weflen, says, “these stories give Dallas residents a chance to examine the consequences of flawed policies. Beyond Dallas, the challenges faced by Bonton and Ideal are the same sorts of challenges that have been faced by other neighborhoods across the American South. This is an opportune time to reflect on the way we’ve built our cities, and ask ourselves whether these conscious decisions have resulted in just, equitable living environments.”

Bonton + Ideal premiered on KERA’s Frame of Mind series in December 2015, and has screened publicly across Dallas, and nationally, over the past five months.

Bonton + Ideal is “a must-watch for anyone who cares about the history of Dallas and how it developed as two cities: One for whites, another for blacks,” says Mike Drago of the Dallas Morning News, adding that, “the context of such overt hostility is prerequisite to getting your head around all the neglect and misery that followed.”

Bonton + Ideal Trailer

We're excited to share the trailer for our newest Neighborhood Stories film Bonton + Ideal! The film premiered on December 24th, 2015 on KERA's Frame of Mind program. Since the premiere, the film has been accepted to the Big Muddy Film Festival in Carbondale, Illinois, and the Interurban Film Festival in Denison, Texas. Watch the film's official website for more details about local screenings as they become available. Later this spring, the film will be published online for free - be sure to keep your eyes open!


What people are saying:

Deepwood & Earth Day

Last night we were honored to screen Out of Deepwood in the Angelika Film Center as part of a partnership with Earth Day TX and TEDxSMU. We had great discussions with folks during a reception preceding the film, talking about our Know Your Neighborhood & Draw Your Neighborhood tools and collecting Neighborhood Stories interviews - keep your eyes out for those in the coming weeks!

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POP Project Guides

Ever thought about doing an oral history project in your neighborhood? Want to learn more about why we think Little Free Libraries / Libros Libres is one of [bc]’s most important neighborhood planning tools? Check out the first two buildingcommunityWORKSHOP Project Guides, a series of short publications that describe the what, how, and why of our People Organizing Place projects.

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POPonymy - An Interpretive Typology of Dallas Neighborhood Names

By Thomas Simpson

Dallas neighborhood names speak volumes about the city’s complexion. Just as our words offer insight into our character, the way the city describes itself and names its parts- its toponymy- offer insight into its anatomy, its aspirations, its values, and its history. Rather than a study of the origin of individual place names, this is a typology of toponymy, revealing the city’s values through categories of place names. Neighborhoods are the building blocks of cities; what information can we elicit about the city collectively from the kind of names it gives it components?

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[bc] and Downtown Dallas 360

Over the past two months, [bc] has participated in six public events for Downtown Dallas 360, the recently revisited master planning process undertaken by the member-based Downtown advocacy organization Downtown Dallas, Inc (DDI) and its project partners. [bc] is among those partners, teaming up with DDI to incorporate Draw Your Neighborhood into the 360 engagement process. 

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POP at the DHL Boot Camp!

Two weeks ago, as part of our year long POP Neighborhood Map engagement process, [bc] participated in the annual Dallas Homeowners League (DHL) Boot Camp. This years DHL gathering, titled "Return of the City", brought together neighborhood leaders from across Dallas for a day of discussions and best practice-sharing.

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