We all know that old bumper sticker that says “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could.” That’s how I feel about Lower Greenville. When I first moved to the Dallas area 30 years ago, I landed in Richardson. About three minutes later, I found Lower Greenville. Before Deep Ellum was a thing, we would drive down that two-lane asphalt parking lot called Central Expressway, exit Monticello Avenue and cross through the M Streets to get to our favorite bars. Mine was Poor David’s Pub. I’d look at those tidy little Tudor houses and dream about the day I could afford one.
After a stint in the burbs, I found myself living in Uptown. On a whim, I decided to take a Sunday drive through the Lower Greenville area, where I quite literally stumbled onto a little Prairie bungalow perched up on a hill with a huge wrap-around front porch. I remember hearing the brakes squeal when I saw it. I bought it immediately and have called it home for 16 years.
Today I can’t imagine my life anywhere else. My closest friends live within a few blocks. My favorite bars and restaurants are in walking distance. There are no strangers here. Every year I walk the neighborhood, friends in tow, on St. Patrick’s Day, marveling at the hundreds of parties going on in the area. I meet dozens of new neighbors, and we share an unspoken bond. We all love our neighborhood. We laugh about the crazy eccentrics in the ramshackle houses. Some might roll their eyes at the latest McMansion, but we’ll still welcome the newcomers and invite them for a drink. Friends are easy to find. And this isn’t just the nod-when-you-recognize-someone-at-the-gym kind of friend. These are friends who will feed your pets or rush you to the hospital in an emergency. These friends will mow your grass without being asked, just because they heard you were down with the flu.
There is an attitude here that we’re all in it together: one big hippie-dippie family. When we want to improve something, it’s almost always a lopsided vote with a huge consensus. We have four conservation districts in the area, which were all approved by near super-majorities. When we wanted to fix the problems on Lowest Greenville, seven different neighborhood associations banded together with far-reaching community support to rezone the area. We work together with business owners and police to make sure our annual St. Patrick’s event is as safe as possible without stopping any of the fun.
Things have changed dramatically in the 16 years I’ve been here, mostly due to the hard work of our residents. Our cause du jour is Robert E. Lee Elementary. Neighbors are working hard to improve Lee’s reputation and convince people to send their kids there. It’s an amazing school with great programs, and I expect it to be as popular as Lakewood or Stonewall Jackson Elementary within a couple years. People here understand that change takes time, and they are willing to invest years making it happen.
As a real estate agent myself, I get to see all parts of this city and its suburbs up close. There are some truly fabulous neighborhoods in every part Dallas-Fort Worth. But none are like Lower Greenville. Most people think of the restaurants and nightlife when they think of the neighborhood, and a lot of people move here for those attractions. But, once you’re here, it’s about the people and the relationships you form. We have a beautifully diverse group here — rich and poor live side by side. There are people who paid $30,000 for their homes 40 years ago, and some who’ve paid almost a million recently. Artists, accountants, lawyers, and retail clerks all party together. Did I mention that we like a good party? Porch parties, block parties, National Night Out, Wine Walk, St. Pat’s — there is some type of large-scale neighborhood event going on every other month. All offer opportunities to meet your neighbors.
Sometimes I’m not sure if we are drawn together because we like a good party or if it’s the parties that draw us together. What I do know is that I’m always surrounded by people I care about, who care about me, people I trust, and people I want to spend my time with. It’s home.
Darren Dattalo has been living, working, and playing in the Lower Greenville area since 1999.