[bc] has always aspired to impact neighborhoods across the state by using design to build capacity and empower communities. Across the country we started to see that neighborhood boundaries in other cities were being codified and illustrated; they were being drawn and debated, they were being mapped and associated with local data. In Dallas, [bc] reasoned that in order to support neighborhoods through our work, we first needed to know what and where the neighborhoods of Dallas were, launching what was then known as the Dallas Neighborhoods Project.
Beginning in fall 2011, [bc] conducted extensive research of publicly available resources. Archival material from major publications, municipal boundaries such as planned development districts and landmark districts, neighborhood, homeowners and crime watch groups, were all consulted and reviewed for inclusion in the POP Neighborhood Map. Neighborhoods were added to the map when there was boundary agreement among at least two sources. Into 2012, the map grew incrementally and the extent of nuance to Dallas’s social geography came into focus. The city was no longer East Dallas, North Dallas, West Dallas, and so forth - it was Munger Place and Casa Linda Forest; Melshire Estates and Chapel Downs; Ledbetter and Los Altos. Not to mention Elmwood and Wheatley Place and Urbandale.
After exhausting publicly available information, we began the “POP map road show” to share our findings and ask citizen experts to tell us where we were right, where we were wrong, and what we had missed. The first public display of the map was at the opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, voicing anew the central role of neighborhoods in defining our city amidst parades of giants and a Lyle Lovett concert.
From that auspicious beginning, we took the map to neighborhood meetings, the Dallas Homeowners League Boot Camp, and civic events across the city. Lines were moved from street centerline to alley; “addition” was subtracted from the name Belmont Addition; and dozens of new neighborhoods took shape, emerging from development, history and engagement.
Although it became an end unto itself, the purpose of the neighborhood mapping mission was still to produce tools and develop programs for neighborhood enhancement and empowerment. POP Neighborhood Stories was piloted in six neighborhoods across the city: La Bajada, Tenth Street, Wynnewood North, Dolphin Heights, Mount Auburn, and The Arts District, celebrating each place’s local heritage, assets, and value to the city as a whole; and sharing the historical forces, events and people that shaped each community. We began Activating Vacancy in Tenth Street, employing art and design to activate under-utilized public spaces and position neighborhoods as cultural generators. The Public Agenda broke down barriers to accessing vital municipal decision-making by mapping Dallas City Council agenda items by neighborhood. These tools and more have contributed to a paradigm shift in how the city is conceived, where neighborhoods are the key.
[bc] will continue to develop and share these tools, including Know Your Neighborhood, a digital directory of Dallas neighborhoods that shares information on neighborhood groups, development history, demographic and land use information, as well as personal stories from residents and neighbors. The other half of [bc]’s new POP digital programs is the extension and continuation of [bc]’s previous mapping efforts. Draw Your Neighborhood is an interactive tool that resembles [bc]’s engagement activities, asking participants to share neighborhood names and boundaries as they recognize them through an interactive web-map. In addition, Draw Your Neighborhood solicits “super neighborhood” boundaries, to crowd-source an understanding of how Dallasites aggregate neighborhoods into larger contiguous geographies.
For the POP Neighborhood Map to be successful it must be generated by and resonate with citizens. Its fundamental question is: how do Dallasites define the places that they live, work, and play? This question can only be answered for a given moment - and then necessarily changes with the dynamic city. One change in Dallas since the inception of the POP program has been the growing vocalization of neighborhoods - from elected officials, city staff, entrepreneurs, activists, developers - all across the city. [bc] would like to believe that POP has helped position citizens as leaders in this conversation, push a neighborhood-centric agenda for municipal planning and decision-making, and deepen Dallas’s appreciation for its complex and exciting local geography.