What sold me was the trees — big, green leaves, thick, dark trunks, and long, jagged branches that extend across streets, seemingly shaking hands. Early in the morning and about dinner time, the streets and sidewalks come alive with runners, walkers, bicyclists, and dogs. It reminded me of the Armour Hills neighborhood in Kansas City, my first home.
Eleven years ago, my car spent several weeks cruising beneath this shady canopy, seeking a garage to call home. At the time Midway Hollow wasn’t “hot” or “prime” or even “up and coming.” It was more in the “hidden gem” category, and it stayed that way, even after the mortgage bubble (when pretty much anyone who wanted to buy a house got one) burst.
Midway Hollow’s location is excellent: Ten minutes from Love Field, but not so close that it’s noisy. A quick drive to the Park Cities and NorthPark Center, but free of traffic along Central Expressway and Mockingbird Lane. Easy access to the Dallas North Tollway, LBJ and Stemmons freeways — but also close to Lemmon Avenue, Forest Lane, and Harry Hines Boulevard when things are jammed up. Plus multiple bus routes to DART light-rail stations.
The neighborhood boasted a good mix of ages, races, and other demographic measurements, but few children older than 5. You’d hear parents talk about paying for private school, finding a larger home in another neighborhood, or considering mysterious areas “north of LBJ.” Attending a Dallas ISD elementary school or applying to the district’s magnet program were rare occurrences.
I moved into my 1,200-square-foot home as a 30-year-old bachelor, and the “plan” was to stay five years or so, start a family and likely follow the path of other Midway Hollow parents. But things didn’t exactly go that way. Our home now includes my wife and 4-year-old son, and like many families in the neighborhood, the focus is on staying put and attending the local schools.
So what changed? We became better connected as neighbors, with the creation of the Midway Hollow Crime Watch and Extended Neighborhood Patrol program, getting out and walking our dogs, and the advent of social media. We moved from that “hidden gem” category to “up and coming,” and welcomed a number of new residents — transplants to Dallas, empty-nesters fleeing the suburbs, McMansion builders — and families with young children. Along the way, many have come to appreciate the DISD schools in Northwest Dallas. You see it in the “Student of the Month” signs in front yards and groups of children waiting for buses to magnet schools each morning.
Dallas ISD has its struggles, but so do many other large urban public school districts. Without an influx of middle-class families, the situation will worsen. An overwhelming majority of DISD students are living in poverty. Nearly half don’t speak English at home. Instead of leaving the problems behind, why not do something about it?
A revelation of sorts came to me a few weekends ago. The Crime Watch was hosting one of its semiannual Meet and Greets. Our ENP police officers attend to introduce themselves to new neighbors and answer questions about crime and safety in the neighborhood. The organization’s officers serve coffee and collect dues, and the kids get to jump in a bounce house.
Next to that bounce house, I talked to some neighbors. One couple had lived in Midway Hollow nearly a decade, the other recently came from Oak Cliff. One had school-aged children, the other an infant daughter. All were excited about the idea of sending their kids to nearby Withers Elementary, which boasts a strong dual-language program and has a reputation for great parental involvement. The “what to do when the kid turns 5” dilemma had been overcome. My wife and I longed to stay in Midway Hollow, but the size of our home, the headaches of remodeling and the rising cost of moving had us waffling back and forth.
As I walked home, under the shade of those great trees, the right decision suddenly became clear. We should remodel our house and add square footage to accommodate our growing family. My wife readily agreed. Because Midway Hollow is our home, and Dallas ISD is our school district.
And I’d really miss the trees.
Tom Erickson, a digital marketing manager and sometimes freelance writer, moved to Midway Hollow in 2004.