In Dallas’s booming Uptown neighborhood the population continues to grow year over year. But recently, leaders noticed a shift as kids under five have become the fastest-growing age group.
Kip and Danika Mendrygal’s two girls are among the growing pediatric population.
The couple bought their town home 15 years ago as recent law school grads.
“We had the plan to live here for five or six years and then move north or go to Lakewood like everyone else did,” said Danika.
Of over the years, they’ve thought about a move. They looked when they were expecting 7-year-old McKenna and again three years ago when Berkely was on the way. But each time, they’ve realized they love the neighborhood too much to leave it behind.
“Everything’s right here. I mean, we went to the zoo on Sunday and we went to the park and they go to camps just five minutes away at, you know, Discovery Garden and Perot and all those things. They’re all right here,” said Danika.
Staying has meant some sacrifices along the way.
“Any idea that we could watch the kids play through the kitchen window is not in the cards for us here,” said Kip.
With a park nearby along with the Katy Trail, it’s a problem they’ve found solutions for. They’ve also learned how to get creative with limited square footage.
“You know you have to figure out how to fit into a slightly smaller space. We get creative with storage. We get creative with what we do. But everything’s right here,” said Danika.
In the last few years, that meant converting their master walk-in closet into a nursery. It’s tight, but with room for a crib, a changing table and rocker, there’s nothing it lacks.
“I like to think in some ways people thought it couldn’t be done. And as they started to see that you can get creative with the space, they thought maybe it could be done and maybe the only choice isn’t to, you know, run to the suburbs. You know, some of the people around here have looked at it and said maybe we can manage that,” said Kip.
Last year, more than 760 kids under the age of five were counted in the neighborhood. It’s a number that more than tripled from the year before.
Uptown, Inc. has been following the growth and making efforts to make the neighborhood more kid and family friendly, to not only keep those who have chosen to stay but to encourage others to do the same.
“We really feel like we’re in a period where we’re going through a change. You know, McKinney Avenue used to be known as the place where all the bars were, and we’ve seen over the last year that that’s changing somewhat. So what we’re focused on right now is what do we want to be when we grow up? Right? And we want a really nice blend,” said Interim Executive Director and President Noelle LeVeaux.
To do so, they’re focusing on adding kid-friendly park space. A couple of years ago, a park was added to State Thomas’ Griggs Park. LeVeaux hopes they can do something similar with pocket parks that will be formed when McKinney and Cole are converted to two way streets in coming years.
The primary focus, however, is education. Right now, numbers show many families are still fleeing before kids hit kindergarten. Uptown, Inc. recently formed an education committee to get feedback from parents.
Right now, the neighborhood has two schools. Ben Milam is the elementary, while William B. Travis takes kids 4th through 8th. But as one of Dallas ISD’s choice schools, there are a limited number of available spots.
That’s why both Uptown, Inc. and Downtown, Inc. have talked about new urban schools and what they would look like.
“We know what our space is, right? We know where we are. We are in an urban core. And there is a lot of creative ideas going on right now around the world in regards to schools. We were looking at a soccer field that was built on top of a high rise in like Amsterdam. So there are definitely creative and different things like I said, not just in the United States, but nationally and internationally, that I think we could learn a lot from,” said LeVeaux.
For now, Downtown, Inc. has gotten approval from the district for a new school though it’s still working on funding.
In Uptown, LeVeaux’s focused on getting both residents and businesses to support the community schools they already have.
In addition, she hopes to recruit more businesses and services that cater to kids and their families to help support the growing population and convince them to stay.
“You know, we want to create a community that people can just come here, be here, walk from their homes, their apartments and all of the amenities and really have their entire lives here, so how do we create that kind of environment,” said LeVeaux.
And while the Mendrygals girls are still young, they said they hope Uptown will remain home.
“I hope we don’t leave. I hope we don’t feel like we need to at some point. I hope we can continue to make it work,” said Danika.