About Dallas City Homes – Topeka Community Gardens
Annexed by the city in 1954, West Dallas is an established and proud community that has long been overlooked by its more urban counterparts on the other side of the Trinity River. An unfortunate legacy of segregation, crime, widespread industrial lead pollution, and difficult living conditions contributed to the historical neglect this community has weathered. Averaged across all six census tracts, over 60% of adults do not have a high school diploma, 30% of families live in poverty, and 13% of people are unemployed, making West Dallas one of the most economically disadvantaged communities in the nation. Moreover, over half of West Dallas has been designated as a “food desert,” meaning that residents have limited access to fresh and affordable food. These statistics highlight the barriers to opportunity that have been created by generational poverty and the effects they can have on a community.
In 2012, the $200 million Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge connected West Dallas with the rest of the city. With this newly established corridor to downtown Dallas, investors and developers have turned their attention to this long-neglected community. The area is being rapidly gentrified and redeveloped, largely at the expense of its current residents. New businesses and housing are being targeted to a more affluent demographic, and people are being priced out of their generational homes.
In order to mitigate the effects of this gentrification, Dallas City Homes (DCH), the City of Dallas, and the La Bajada Urban Youth Farm are partnering to redevelop a section of medians in West Dallas along Topeka Ave into a multistage community garden and public park space. The mission of these gardens is threefold: 1) to teach teens how to grow and consume their own produce 2) to create job opportunities for at-risk youth and 3) to create a sense of community and ownership in this quickly gentrifying neighborhood.
Project Description & History
Topeka Community Gardens area is a small part of a large-scale vision of community reinvestment in West Dallas. The idea originally started when Dallas City Homes began developing a community center located at 3115 Topeka Ave, contiguous to the proposed Topeka gardens. The garden construction is hoping to begin by the end of 2019, contingent upon Dallas City Homes raising the necessary development funds. The La Bajada Urban Youth farm is already operating on a privately-owned site nearby and will relocate to our site along the medians of Topeka Ave. One section of the project is designated to be the green spaces that will be the site for the youth farm. The plan is to combine 3 phases with an overall square footage of 152,861 square feet.
One of the services that will be offered at this community center is a senior feeding program, operated by Wesley-Rankin (a local West Dallas non-profit), that will feed 75 seniors’ breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday which will be more convenient than driving the distance to the nearest food bank. Topeka Community Gardens intends to extend their produce to reach the meals packed in the school lunches distributed by the local non-profit Hunger Busters, served in local restaurants, and put into the hands of the community. In addition, they would like to offer plots in the garden to community members and give them the ability to grow their own fresh produce. Furthermore, Dallas City Homes is interested in developing a local café that can serve/sell the food produced in garden, offer new employment opportunities to the community, and create an additional space for the community to come together.
If this project is successful, the next step would be pulling case studies from this project and replicating it in other neighborhoods in Texas.
Topeka Community Gardens is projected to impact all residents in West Dallas with a population of approximately 24,063 people. The garden will provide the community with better access to healthy food, beautifying their neighborhood, and raising environmental awareness with gardening.
The community gardens will serve as a safe place for new populations of renters to build community along with the families that have lived there for generations. The community gardens will also provide a source of income for at-risk teens in the neighborhood, resulting in increased financial security for their families and reducing their risk of dropping out of school.
Money is saved for the community members and garden participants by providing them easy access to low-cost nutritious fruits and vegetables and reducing the number of miles food must travel before reaching the consumer.