Death to Stock Photos
Credit: Death to Stock Photos
Contributed by:
Charles Brant
AIA

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It is YOUR Neighborhood

It is what YOU love about Dallas. It is beyond the sports teams, beyond the JFK Memorial, beyond all the other things tourists know about Dallas. The City of Dallas is made up of a beautiful patchwork quilt of neighborhoods, each unique, each serving its residents in the best way possible. It’s the eclectic fun of Bishop Arts, the warm history of East Dallas, the old growth trees on rolling hills of Lake Highlands, and the walkable urban density in Uptown.
Engage! Be a part of the quilt.

Neighborhood

In our profession as architects, we often find ourselves impacting many neighborhoods by presenting at community meetings about a proposed project or zoning changes in an area. Sometimes we may find ourselves presenting to a room packed with disgruntled community members who focus on how the project will negatively impact the local traffic or property values. However, far more often, we present to a room with less than ten people scattered around where only two or three speak and make decisions on how a project/zoning change/whatever impacts a neighborhood of 10,000+ residents. Occasionally, we have the pleasure of working with an active Neighborhood Association (NA) and it is almost always an outstanding, cooperative experience.

An active NA is vital to the history and the future of every neighborhood. They understand how the neighborhood works, its history, and the successful developments as well as the failures. They guide future developments in their neighborhood and protect the atmosphere that makes each neighborhood unique and personal. Those active NAs are fueled by passionate volunteers who love their neighborhood and the unique character of it. Architects and design professionals are prime candidates to be a part of NA groups because we have been trained to see the bigger picture of a neighborhood (or city) and how to problem solve effectively.

Many of the vital and engaging neighborhoods we all know and love about Dallas have active NAs: Oaklawn, M Streets, and Uptown, for example. They engage with their neighbors and are a resource to their City Planning Commission (or CPC) representative who has a more direct line of communication to their City Council Member to impact (sometimes very powerful) effluence on the City of Dallas. These active and established NAs become the first point of contact for the CPC and others within the City to reach out to when the NA's neighborhood will be impacted by a policy change or when feedback is needed on a topic.

Throughout my career I’ve been fortunate to interact with several NAs in the areas I’ve lived, projects I’ve worked on, and through the AIA Dallas Public Policy Committee. It’s through those interactions I’ve seen the benefits first hand and strongly encourage everyone, but especially as members of the design community, to get involved.  Engagement is very important to the future success of our neighborhoods, our city, and to a degree, our profession.  The public understanding of what we (architects and designers) do is not always accurate and usually influenced by movies (Matthew Perry, Keanu Reeves, anyone?) or happy hour conversations about “all the math.”

If YOUR neighborhood has an established Neighborhood Association, join it!

If YOUR neighborhood does not have an established Neighborhood Association, start one!

The City of Dallas has a website dedicated to Home Owner Associations and Neighborhood Associations.

If you are looking for others to join you, contact your CPC representative. I’m certain they know more than a couple vocal neighbors who would enjoy the opportunity to engage and share their passion.

The City of Dallas is made up of a beautiful patchwork quilt of neighborhoods, each unique, each serving its residents in the way that is best for those residents in that neighborhood. Engage! Be a part of the quilt.  Influence change (or the lack of) in your neighborhood. Be a part of the group of people who care about what happens in their neighborhood!