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Casie Pierce: Time to make Vickery Meadow match its demographic changes

07:56 PM CST on Sunday, December 5, 2004

By CASIE PIERCE

Vickery Meadow is in a prime location for real estate, residential and business opportunities with easy transportation access to all of Dallas' entertainment and cultural amenities.

Roughly bordered by Royal Lane on the north, North Central Expressway on the west, Northwest Highway to the south and Skillman/Abrams in the east, the neighborhood was designed in the late 1970s as an urban mecca for upwardly mobile singles. The apartments were built to accommodate Dallas' most fashionable trendsetters and were arguably the city's most celebrated example of an urban lifestyle oasis at the time.

Time, laws and demographics changed. The Fair Housing Act and a real estate market crash did away with singles-only zoning, and the neighborhood was, in large part, abandoned by its glitzy tenants. In the late '80s and early '90s, more and more mostly lower-income families moved into the housing stock designed to accommodate the lifestyles of single residents.

Today Vickery Meadow is home to more than 51,000 residents, making it the most concentrated neighborhood in the city, and it includes more than 15,000 children and youth.

Lack of planning created an area where street corner prostitution, drugs and violent crime have been major issues. A bright spot is that the efforts of the Vickery Meadow Public Improvement District, in partnership with the Dallas Police Department, have achieved a major reduction in criminal activities since the early '90s.

Other major concerns include low literacy, lack of English language skills, lack of job skills, unemployment and the general despair and mental health issues that often accompany poverty conditions. Additionally, a growing number of international refugees locating to Vickery Meadow often have difficulty acclimating to their new surroundings.

Although the city provides no recreation center or library in the neighborhood, scores of social service agencies and several charitable, faith-based institutions near Vickery Meadow provide much needed services, including ESL programs.

The Dallas Independent School District's bond election has allowed for the construction of four new schools – one high school, one middle school and two elementary schools – on former apartment properties known for their high crime. Presbyterian Hospital is also one of the largest stakeholders and health care providers in Vickery Meadow; primary health care is another major concern.

There is tremendous potential to create a different sense of place, both for the corporate and private citizens of Dallas in Vickery Meadow. Despite the mostly low average income of the residents, most properties are still valued highly, due to their "location, location, location."

The comprehensive land-use study can be the catalyst to re-evaluate everything from the over-taxed housing stock to the current infrastructure and street patterns and help the city design a well-planned community incorporating elements of model livable communities. Members of the Dallas Chapter of the American Institute of Architects have volunteered their time to try to help the neighborhood better show the city what needs to be done to improve the quality of life in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood.

With the gradual acceptance of smart growth and new urbanism ideologies influencing Dallas' planning, we have a unique opportunity to take an example of what not to do and turn it into a modern urban renewal success story.

Casie Pierce is executive director of the Vickery Meadow Public Improvement District. Her e-mail address is vmidsmit@swbell.net.

Neighborhood Meeting

The Vickery Meadow neighborhood meeting will be from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday at Merriman Park Elementary School , 7101 Winedale Drive. For more information, check out the Forward Dallas link at www.dallascityhall.com.

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