Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings plans to unveil his plan to revitalize South Dallas on Monday.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings will release his plan to revitalize South Dallas in a series of community meetings beginning Monday.
Rawlings received key endorsement from South Dallas leaders to help him win election last year. A focus on boosting that part of Dallas as mayor was one of his major campaign promises.
"What I'm trying to do is make sure we have the right environment for growth in Southern Dallas and the right projects, and we'll focus on both those things," Rawlings said.
The area south of Interstate 30 has vacant land with room for development but also has decaying buildings and other issues, which have made redevelopment a challenge in the past.
"There are lots of systemic problems," said Shawn Williams, editor of SouthDallasNews.org. "First among them is education. It has to be addressed if Southern Dallas is going to make a comeback and be the place we all want it to be."
The latest print edition of SouthDallasNews.org features a report on technology instruction at the once troubled A. Maceo Smith High School in the Dallas Independent School District.
Williams said it is an example of several positive education improvements in South Dallas that Rawlings can help promote.
"You see that as something people want to be a part of, you need to capitalize on that," Williams said.
After an emotional City Hall debate Wednesday about the role of charter schools and public schools in Dallas, Rawlings said a broad range of education improvement will be a key part of his South Dallas plan.
"I believe that education is extremely important in making sure that we have strong neighborhoods, people want to move there, ultimately business move there," Rawlings said.
Councilman Tennell Atkins said South Dallas is already enjoying some improvement from past revitalization efforts.
He points to a large retail development under construction along Interstate 20 at Wheatland Road along with a substantial boost in population the last 10 years in his far South Dallas district.
"You look at Southern Dallas, we are larger than Atlanta, half a million people there. You've got landmass. There is great opportunity," said Atkins.
Atkins said he hopes Rawlings will rely on Rawlings experience as a corporate CEO and marketing executive to better promote South Dallas.
"I think this mayor has said, No. 1, 'Let me show you, and you can grade me,'" Atkins said.
But Williams said Rawlings must overcome some the same challenges past mayors have faced.
"The mayor before burned up some of the goodwill from City Hall, and so I think he's going to have to really sell his plan and show that it's something that people can really get behind -- not just this plan, but get behind him as mayor," Williams said.
Rawlings will present his plan at South Side Studios, 2901 Lamar Street, from 4 to 6 p.m. on Monday, on Feb. 23 and March 1.
The meetings are open to the public but visitors are asked to RSVP for one of the dates by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
South Side Studios is the production site for the new "Dallas" television series slated to premiere on TNT in June.