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City Council Hopes Plan Signals ‘A New Day’ for Southern Dallas Growth

The city is getting behind a new economic development plan intended to address long-standing inequities.
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The Dallas City Council on Wednesday unanimously approved a new economic development policy aimed at bringing economic growth to every part of Dallas, especially historically neglected communities in the southern part of the city. It includes plans to incentivize workforce housing and entrepreneurship and, most notably, calls for the creation of a nonprofit economic development corporation that can legally buy, develop, and market real estate to drum up new business.

I sounded a skeptical note when I wrote about this last week—it isn’t the first time the city has pledged to bridge the long-standing divide between northern and southern Dallas. But there are reasons to believe this time is different, many of them outlined today in an editorial from the Dallas Morning News.

What’s remarkable in itself is that City Council members, many of whom have been working on this issue for a long time, believe this time is different. That includes Councilman Tennell Atkins, who chairs the council’s economic development committee and has long lamented Dallas’ “tale of two cities.” Atkins represents southern Dallas’ District 8, but the plan has gotten equally enthusiastic buy-in from northern council members who acknowledge the need for equity throughout the city and the unrealized potential of southern Dallas. There’s also an understanding that all of Dallas benefits when its most underserved communities are no longer neglected.

Business leaders, including Black business leaders in South Dallas and southern Dallas, many of whom spoke in support of the plan at a City Council briefing last week, are on board. It’s a plan that, whatever reservations may remain, most people with a stake in the matter seem to like. That says something.

There is work to be done still, on the plan itself and on presenting it to the people for whom it is meant to benefit. City Councilman Casey Thomas, who represents District 3 in southwest Dallas, says he intends to meet with business owners to discuss the plan in greater detail in the coming weeks and months. This plan lays the groundwork for growth in Dallas as a whole and in southern Dallas especially, he said.

“This policy will allow those who live and work south of 30 to benefit,” Thomas said. “To those current and future business owners, especially those of color, you no longer have to feel left out of the opportunity to do business with the city of Dallas.”

In the past, promises have been broken, Thomas said. “However, today is a new day.”

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