Tuesday, September 4, 2012

You say, 'Pleasant Grove'; I say, 'West Kleberg': Mapping Dallas ... - Dallas Morning News (blog)

Click to enlarge this small look at the big map of Dallas' neighborhoods being compiled by bcWORKSHOP. (Courtesy bcWORKSHOP)

It’s among the most constant complaints leveled by readers of this newspaper, a variation on the theme: You people don’t know where my neighborhood actually is. As in: “Not everything south of IH-30 is ‘South Dallas.’” And, “Stop referring to Rylie as Pleasant Grove.” Or, “I live in Midway Hollow, not Preston Hollow.” And on and on it goes, as our Avi Selk noted in January, the deafening choruses of: Wrong, wrong, WRONG! As Rawlins Gilliland wrote in a 2009 Dallas Morning News op-ed on this very subject: “No one else with media access care[s] about getting the names right â€" despite the availability of Dallas maps clearly delineating individual neighborhood names and boundaries.”

Problem is, there’s never been a singular be-all and end-all Dallas neighborhoods map. This is about as detailed as the city’s Office of Economic Development gets. Here’s one with 11 neighborhoods; and this one‘s vague and hard to read. And David Anthony Harman’s “Dallas Neighborhood Map” is nice, but way more an art project than The Real Thing.

D tried last year to craft its own neighborhood map and came up with a whole … two dozen, give or take. About the best you can hope for is the city’s official interactive map, but it’s clunky, like a Model T.

Which is why, for the last 13 months, Emily Schmidt at bcWORKSHOP has been crafting the map you’ll find below â€" one that features, at last count, 355 singular Dallas neighborhoods.

“It was 315 in March,” she says. “Now, 355.”

Smith is well aware how far she is from being anywhere near finished with the project: It was first presented to the public in the spring, during the opening weekend of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. And only now are Schmidt and Brent Brown, bcWORKSHOP’s founder, beginning to take their map on a tour of the city, asking residents to tell them where they’re right and where they went oh-so-very-wrong.

Click to enlarge Preservation Dallas' neighborhoods map, which names 28(Preservation Dallas)

“Your neighborhood may be where you live, work and play, and if you engage in it, you can help protect it,” says Brown. “You shape the city one neighborhood at a time while being aware of all the other neighborhoods around it. I hope the map influences how we shape the city and empowers neighborhoods. Now we can talk about Queen City and Mill City or Sparkman Club Estates or Preston Hollow. That’s not a bad thing. We perceive a lot of neighborhoods as not being very robust, but for the people who live there, they love their neighborhood. Every neighborhood has its problems, and every neighborhood wants the same thing. This map requires us to honor that.”

In recent weeks, Mayor Mike Rawlings has taken a very keen interest in the project. Matter of fact, he says wants the map finished sooner than later â€" by today, if possible, which it isn’t. But Rawlings says he wants Dallas residents to “speak the same language,” and hopes the map will “codify a singular way to look at” the city, especially as he attempts to further his GrowSouth initiative.

“Strategically, the insight I had was that we needed more neighborhood associations and crime watches organized in South Dallas and get them to the level we have them in North Dallas,” says Rawlings. “To do that we have to have discreet boundaries and neighborhood names to recruit leadership and they can take ownership of a special geographical area. Those things are subtle and ambiguous, but the point is: Take ownership. You know where your personal property ends, but you need to know that for your neighborhood as well.”

Schmidt began assembling the map in August 2011 using myriad sources, among them: neighborhood and homeowner association maps on file with City Hall, maps of the city’s landmark and historic districts, The Dallas Morning News‘ archives, offerings from D‘s Neighborhood Spotlight series (such as), Wikimapia and anything else she could dig up.

“But we didn’t add something unless we could find two sources,” she says. “Then we mapped it all in a GIS [geographic information system] and collected a significant amount of information about the neighborhood â€" the name, its boundaries, what city council district it’s in â€" and documented all the sources and ID’d discrepancies whenever one source said the boundaries were this street and another said, no, it’s this street.”

Two weeks ago bcWORKSHOP took the map on its first field trip: to a meeting of the Dallas Homeowners League.

“That was the first time we broke the map into segments and put them out where people could take a pen and make a change to the map,” says Brown. “That’s where we are now â€"with a publicly engaged process where people can affirm the boundaries, change ‘em and say, ‘Why am I not there?’ Or they can say, ‘I love it.’” He laughs at that last comment: Brown, who’s the head of the CityDesign Studio at City Hall, knows better than to expect that.

In coming months they hope to get the map online so residents can interact with the boundaries. But that’s only the beginning of the beginning of what could become a sprawling project: Brown and Schmidt hope to compile a neighborhood directory filled with all kinds of information, from demographics (size, density, population, etc.) to history lessons to email addresses for neighborhood association leaders and so forth. And since the Calatrava opening in March they’ve been gathering video testimonials from residents singing the praises of their particular parts of town.

That’s part of the POP initiative â€" “People Organizing Place.” (Though Brown’s been toying with changing the branding to POD, or “People Organizing Dallas.”) And part of that will be funded with a $20,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Best-case scenario, says Brown, would be the city adopting bcWORKSHOP’s neighborhood map as The Official Map of Dallas. But that’s a long way off. Right now, he and Rawlings would just like to see people stop saying “South Dallas” when they really mean “Fruitdale” or “Oak Cliff” when they’re referring to “Arcadia Park.”

“When something has a name, it has more it-ness to it, more same-ness,” says the mayor. “Suddenly you can know it and respect it and find things that are similar to it. It’s just another neighborhood, and it creates more pride. People have more respect for things when they’re named. They’re proud of that. It works on a large level and on a very small level.”

Then again, Rawlings says, flash back to the police shooting in Dixon Circle in July and the protests that follows.

“Dixon Circle probably has some images in people’s minds now it didn’t have before,” Rawlings says. “It’s our job to take Dixon Circle and create the infrastructure necessary there so we can help rebuild that neighborhood, and we’ll know when we do that. We can change it.”

BcWORKSHOP Neighborhood Map

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