An historic Dallas neighborhood is asking a judge to halt city demolition of houses and provide services that other neighborhoods receive.
The 10th Street Historic District along I-35E R.L. Thornton Freeway was designated a landmark neighborhood in 1993.
Since then a lawsuit delivered to city officials this week says 72 of the 260 homes in the neighborhood have been demolished by the City of Dallas.
The lawsuit says eight other Dallas historic districts have had a total of just three homes demolished by the City of Dallas.
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The lawsuit was prepared for the Tenth Street Residential Association by Legal Aid of Northwest Texas.
Jorge Jasso with Legal Aid said the 10th Street neighborhood has been the victim of a long pattern of neglect by City Hall.
“It’s been a slow kind of chopping up of history over the years,” Jasso said. “Take a tour around Swiss Avenue, Winnetka Heights and you’ll see they have great streets, great sidewalks, things 10th Street doesn’t have.”
The 10th Street Neighborhood is a Freedman’s Town, first populated by former slaves. Construction of the I-35E Freeway in the early 1960’s cut the area off from other parts of Oak Cliff. Past zoning laws made it an African American area and absentee property owners since have failed to maintain properties.
But the lawsuit claims city practices failed to properly maintain the 10th Street Historic District to the standards that formerly white neighborhoods were held.
“The city is supposed to follow its own regulations in every single historic district,” Jasso said. “Things we see here in 10th Street, we don’t see built in other neighborhoods.”
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Life long resident Patricia Cox said visitors find it fascinating, especially children from nearby Townview High School and Harllee Elementary who are too young to know about the days of segregation and slavery.
“When we start telling them about the Freedman’s Town, they’re very interested. They never heard of these things before. They start taking pictures and they’re writing down what you tell them,” Cox said.
She remembers a time when the neighborhood was in much better condition, before so much demolition.
“It was all beautiful. Just houses in a row, well kept lawns,” Cox said.
A home on 9th street is already slated for city demolition which could happen at any time. It is just what the lawsuit is intended to stop.
“A lot of our houses can be repaired and that’s what we’d like to see,” Cox said. “We’d like to save our history.”
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Many residents see an opportunity to make a revitalized 10th Street neighborhood a Dallas attraction that would complement the new deck park planned over the interstate beside the Dallas Zoo, just up the freeway.
“It’s not too late yet and I’m praying,” Cox said.
The Dallas City Attorney declined comment on the lawsuit Thursday. Newly elected City Council Member Carolyn Arnold has voiced strong support in the past for revitalizing the 10th Street Historic District. She did not return a message Thursday.