When leaving the glitz of Uptown, passing the beautiful skyline of downtown, you will arrive to sunny south Dallas—an area that doesn’t look too sunny these day. There are still many boarded up homes and dilapidated buildings scattered through the community. Despite its current conditions, South Dallas remains a community of rich history and great hope for the future. One iconic building you can’t miss is the old Forest Theater, a building that is now an official Dallas landmark.
The Forest Theater originally opened in 1949 but closed after several years. In 1956, it reopened, catering to an African-American clientele. But for close to eight years, it has been nothing at all, just a slowly deteriorating landmark visible from the freeway that, in 1955, decimated a once-vibrant neighborhood. Famous neo-soul artist from Dallas, Erykah Badu, reopened Forest Theater until 2008, when she moved out. Since that time, the property has been an “eye sore” along Interstate 45 at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
The property had been for sale for an extended period of time, with multiple groups placing offers for the building. Our company, Corinth Properties, explored ways to redevelop Forest Theater, to no avail. The right buyer would have to posse a great vision, a deep passion for the community, and a solid financial plan to bring this property back even stronger. CitySquare, a nonprofit widely recognize for being on the forefront of confronting Dallas’ homeless problem, closed on the Forest Theater in May 2017. The organization had only been eyeing the Forest for one week prior to purchasing it for an undisclosed price.
Late last year, the sun began to rise again over the Forest Theater when The Real Estate Council Foundation awarded three community partners $1 million in grants and pro bono professional services to help rehabilitate the old Forest Theater in South Dallas. The award goes to a team including CitySquare, Cornerstone Baptist Church, and St. Philip’s School and Community Center. Together, they plan to renovate the old theater and a 12,000-square-foot retail space into a new place that serves the community of South Dallas.
Terrence Maiden is executive vice president at Dallas-based Corinth Properties.