By Abigail Kuch Reynolds
Guest Contributor

During last week’s Dallas City Council meeting, council members unanimously shot down a proposal for temporary shelters spread throughout the city in recreation centers as a temporary solution to the city’s critically growing number of homeless. In lieu of that proposal, members of the Council turned their attention to a possible full-time proposal in one location in District 7: the shuttered Timberlawn Behavioral Health System.

Timberlawn’s unsuitability as the permanent location for a homeless shelter can be argued from at least half a dozen angles. The City Council’s attention on it has left many of the surrounding area residents, such as myself, baffled at the suggestion and fearful of its serious ramifications for the area we’ve invested in as our home.

Timberlawn, a former behavioral health center, is the oldest private psychiatric facility in the state and boasts architectural beauty in a building that is more than 100 years old. These characteristics may make the main building eligible to be recognized as a historic landmark in the state of Texas. Timberlawn maintains 20 acres of sprawling landscape lined with mature trees, whose shade and dignity contribute to the elegance of the property.

The iconic landmark formerly provided private health services for those necessitating in-patient care and sits south of I-30 within Dallas city limits, minutes from the bustle of downtown Dallas. But it is nestled within a thriving residential community formally referred to as “Buckner Terrace.” The neighborhood is composed of a heterogeneous group of residents whose pride and investment in their neighborhood can be exhibited in their ability to unite in protest of a potential homeless shelter. Close to 1000 signatures on an online petition to City Council garnered in less than a week. This petition, I may note, has never been formally canvassed in-person, but is the result of viral sharing on Social Media, spreading like virtual wildfire throughout our small community.

As residents of Buckner Terrace, we represent the gentrification component in an evolving city and changing landscape of Dallas, which maintains its position as a booming metropolitan area with a stable and prosperous economic job market. It’s a location many of us chose to move to from out of state for the promise of affordable housing and a stable, cohesive community.

And now, a single City Council decision could destroy it. (more…)

As of 12:30 p.m. tonight, the petition started by Buckner Terrace resident Abbi Reynolds has expanded to 920 signatures and is quickly gaining speed. If Mayor Rawlings and the Dallas City Council chose to move ahead despite the protests of nearly 1,000 residents, I would think that would be political suicide, if not worse.

And after reading the comments on this petition, I have to agree with the neighborhood. At first blush when my City Councilman suggested it, I thought Timberlawn, because of it’s layout, would make a great homeless center — thinking more along the lines of a place where social and psychiatric services could be offered. And the price might be right: DCAD value is about $2.6

But no, no, no, for several solid reasons:

-The building is historical and should be preserved as a possible museum or cultural center. It could also be sold and made into a luxury hotel and conference center. Think I’m nuts? In June, we stayed at the Blackburn Inn in Staunton, Virgina, a luxury hotel converted from a mental institution. Built in 1828 by Thomas Jefferson’s architect as the nation’s second mental hospital, the  long-abandoned insane asylum and prison in Staunton was known as the Western State Lunatic Asylum and not an easy renovation: it took 12 years for the 33,000 square foot property but the developers are moving forward to add condos, apartments, helipads, and restored houses. Bathrooms were gorgeous (vessel tubs!) and we slept very very well, thank you.

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That was fast. Today’s Dallas City Council meeting was focused on the four track homelessness briefing, and there was a lot of discussion, explaining, even arguing over it all, especially Track II: moving the homeless to recreation centers across Dallas on a temporary basis. Almost every city council member was vehemently against Track II, with the exception of Mark Clayton and maybe Ricky Callahan. When Adam Medrano brought up an idea that had been suggested by Lee Kleinman back in February, having the city buy Timberlawn psychiatric hospital and use as a homeless shelter central, Councilman for District 7, Kevin Felder, was livid. 

And now a Change.org petition has been started, almost 30 votes last time I looked. Here’s what it says:

We as citizens of Dallas are adamantly opposed to the proposed initiative to utilize the site formerly known as Timberlawn, as a large, permanent public facility for the homeless.

We stand united and demand that our elected officials, the Dallas City Council members, hear our voices, utilize our tax dollars to better our neighborhood and our city, and act accordingly to best service us all in pursuit of our desire to be safe, effective members in our shared city of Dallas

These 20 city-owned recreation centers have been deemed “ideal” candidates to temporarily house the homeless:

These recreation centers are only deemed “good” – meaning the centers above are preferred locations. We are working to get the entire presentation up on SCRIBD 

family gateway

Family Gateway, a nonprofit that assists homeless families in Dallas, is hosting DAYtoPLAY, a first-of-its-kind fundraiser next month (Photo courtesy Family Gateway).

One of the few homeless shelters in the area that caters to families, Family Gateway is also one of the few places where an entire family can volunteer, something architect Eddie Maestri appreciates.

The nonprofit exclusively serves homeless families, providing both shelter and social and educational services to homeless children and their families, offering care that includes mental and physical health care, early childhood education, GED preparation, job training and even employment placement assistance. (more…)

We were all too busy yesterday, either with our Valentines (nice!) or, sadly, processing the news of yet another high school mass shooting in Florida. Truly, it’s hard to think of real estate right now.

But yesterday, it occurred to me that a North Texas developer has given the city a potentially HUGE gift, the best Valentine ever.

Mehrdad Moayedi, one of the largest developers in Texas, who successfully restored the landmark Statler Hotel and promises to do more of the same to the The Cabana Hotel, is trying to give Dallas a gift of sheer love: a home for our homeless.

Mehrdad has made an offer to buy the vacant Dawson State Jail that is sitting downtown on the banks of the Trinity River. Moayedi says he wants to turn the 10-story building into a housing and services center for Dallas’ homeless population. This is the best idea ever, and one I have actually had for years. In fact, I can say that this idea got me into City politics when I first started emailing my councilman, Lee Kleinman, about it.

“This is an opportunity to do something for these people, but not in the traditional way where you have a warehouse and you put a lot of beds in there,” Moayedi said. “There has to be a situation where people are treated with respect. 

If anyone can do that, it’s Mehrdad Moayedi. And I think the entire design community should help!

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Pacesetters 2016

On June 20 — tonight — from 6 to 8 pm, the first Dallas Commission on Homelessness Community Engagement committee meeting gathers to “educate, engage and gather feedback from the community to overcome challenges with homelessness in Dallas.”  It’s at Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla St. L1FN Auditorium (free parking after 6 in City Hall parking lot) and I hope to be there. Panelists include:

Bob Sweeney, Executive Director, Dallas Life
Daniel Roby, Executive Director, Austin Street Center
Wayne Walker, Executive Director, OurCalling
Blake Fetterman, Executive Director, Salvation Army
Moderator: Eric Nicholson, Staff Reporter Extraordinaire, Dallas Observer and the guy who has walked Tent City

Now let me tell you about one of the city’s most progressive and elite real estate networking groups, the Pacesetters, and how they have made an extraordinary commitment to eradicate homelessness in Dallas. 35 dynamic top-producing agents from a myriad of brokerages — think Bonnie Bauer, Sue Krider, Chris Hickman, Bob Moran, Anne Stewart, Debbie Tolson. They created the group back in 2003. It is by invitation only and very difficult to break into. Patterned loosely after the Masters of Residential Real Estate, 25 of the oldest and highest volume agents in town, the Old Guard, if you will, the Pacesetters are the next generation of Masters. Clay Stapp is now a member. The best example I can give of their spirit was the fun branding photo they took a few years back mimicking Vanity Fair’s famous Hollywood covers, guys in tuxes, ladies in evening gowns. The Masters of Real Estate were very upset, thought the photo was too show biz-y. But the Pacesetters, as the name implies, is the shake ’em up club. It’s innovative, tech-minded, an eye on the future of real estate, not always what’s been done in the past. Their newest branding photo, seen here, is taken at a Clay Stapp listing with what is, I swear, the biggest balcony in North Texas. (more…)