By Matthew Berger, Director of Communications
South of I-30 sits Southern Dallas County, a , 486-mile area with rich culture and history. It is larger than the entire city of Atlanta, but unfortunately, has been historically underserved and lacks the same essential amenities as the northern sector of Dallas. In 2021, the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) began taking business leaders on buses for Southern Dallas County Vision Tours. The DRC has conducted 11 Southern Dallas County Vision Tours in 2022, with a group from the Dallas Mavericks the most recent visitors on Thursday, Nov. 10.
Vision tours provide business leaders the chance to see the beauty and opportunity in Southern Dallas County as well as visit with local small business owners who are working hard in the community they love. The tour also addresses some of the issues facing Southern Dallas County, including a lack of transportation to living-wage jobs, lack of access to health care nearby, and lack of higher quality educational institutions.
The Mavs tour began in Duncanville at the Esposure Arena, where the group saw a new concept of gaming. Esposure Founder and CEO Danny Martin created a global esports technology company with an “education to entertainment” ecosystem (E2E) focused on developing the next generation of esports professionals and competitive gamers. Students get the opportunity to learn life skills through gaming, including graphic design, building a brand, and marketing. Esposure is currently partnering with several school districts around the state to provide a pipeline from high school to job experience training.
“Our goal is to actively help schools,” Martin said. “We wanted to create a platform that gives students the actual skills and experience while they’re also learning.”
The bus then headed to the old Redbird Mall and visited the Dallas Entrepreneur Center (DEC), where local small businesses can rent an office, meet fellow business owners, and build their business at an affordable price.
Peter Brodsky, Owner and Developer of Red Bird Mall, joined the tour to give an update on the property and surrounding area. Brodsky purchased the mall in 2015, with hopes of revitalizing a once promising Southern Dallas County landmark. The area touts one of the busiest Starbucks in the city – and the only free-standing Starbucks south of I-30.
“Red Bird is really about bringing those quality amenities to the community,” Brodsky said. “The idea of this development is really simple. South of I-30 is widely misunderstood by the affluent white community of north Dallas. It is also a place that has been intentionally suppressed for decades through explicit and intentional policies of the city, the county, and the state.”
Brodsky has also developed a high-end apartment complex that is at 100% capacity and will be adding a Marriot hotel – the only high-end hotel south of I-30 – next to the mall. UT Southwestern Medical Center also opened its largest clinic in the old Sears store.
One of Brodsky’s biggest projects is bringing a grocery store to the area, fulfilling a desperate need for residents. In 2018, the Department of Agriculture identified 88 separate food deserts in Dallas County, with more than half of them south of I-30.
The tour continued at the 4315 Innovation Center in East Oak Cliff, where participants were able to see Dallas College STEM classes and hear from Terrance Southern, the Founder and Executive Director of Illuminate STEM. Illuminate STEM’s mission is to encourage, empower, and equip K-12 students from underrepresented communities through problem-solving, collaboration, communication, and machine automation. Illuminate STEM is currently partnering with Kimball and Lincoln high schools in Dallas ISD and offers weekend programming for students.
The group stopped at the site of the future home of the Southern Gateway Park near the Dallas Zoo, a new deck park styled after Klyde Warren Park that will offer food, entertainment, walking trails, and plenty of greenspace.
The tour continued to west Dallas, where the Mavs visited with James Armstrong, President and CEO of Builders of Hope. Since 1998, Builders of Hope has committed itself exclusively to fighting poverty in Dallas through the development of affordable housing, providing much needed services for low-income homebuyers, workforce development, and fostering community pride in the local. The nonprofit’s goal is to help build generational wealth through homeownership.
The tour wrapped up at the Holocaust and Human Rights Museum in Dallas. On the way to the museum, UT Arlington Professor Dr. Hannah Lebovits discussed gentrification and racist/hate policies that are still affecting the City of Dallas and its citizens today. At the museum, the group learned what it meant to be an upstander and a bystander; upstanders are the people who make a difference by helping those less fortunate, no matter the cost.
To learn more or get involved in Southern Dallas County, visit our Southern Dallas County Economic Development Guide.