City of Dallas kicks off $7.5 million project to transform Northeast community

The once crime-plagued Forest Lane and Audelia Road neighborhood will have more access to recreational and community opportunities for the first time ever

NBC Universal, Inc.

The city of Dallas is investing millions of dollars in new recreational opportunities for a part of the city that has struggled with crime for decades.

The project is breaking ground near the intersection of Forest Lane and Audelia Road, an area that has historically had little access to community centers or sports facilities. A ceremony was held on Tuesday to commemorate the project.

Darron Thomas has memories of that part of Dallas.

“Senior year of high school, this is where we hang out,” said Thomas.

It used to be very different.

“Twenty years ago, it was infested with negativity, from prostitution to drug dealers,” Thomas said. “The children around here in this area, that’s what they were subject to.”

It's gotten better, but not before becoming one of the most dangerous parts of the city. It was so bad that city officials were even aware of maps drawn by neighbors so that relatives didn’t drive through the intersection when they came to visit them.

Even councilman Adam McGough has stories to tell.

“Over at that convenience store, I had a gun pulled out on me. Shortly thereafter, we saw videos of someone walking out into the parking lot and literally just spraying the parking lot with bullets,” he shared during Tuesday’s press event. “Right after getting elected, we had one of our neighbors that was shot in the face and killed, a refugee new to our country.”

A violent crime task force by Dallas Police cleaned up the crime over the years. Now, Dallas Park and Recreation is launching the next step -- a $7.5 million revitalization project to build the new Forest Audelia Community Park and multipurpose center.

“Even with this project, I’m somewhat disappointed that we're at this place and we’re only at this step of the process. We should be way past this," said McGough. “I hope and I pray that this city comes through for this community in a way that we haven’t seen even up until this point. It is beyond time."

Thomas, who now works for Dallas Park and Recreation, is part of this full-circle moment for future generations.

“They don’t have to see what we had to see and what we had to deal with,” he said. “So for the city of Dallas, which I’m fortunate to work for now, to come in and create this park and this infrastructure, it is amazing just to see the changes.”

Officials say the area is one of the most dense parts of Dallas. There are upwards of 18,000 people per square mile and very little for their kids to do. Just behind the site of the project is an apartment complex with 1,500 units.

“We were seeing it in the numbers, crime numbers were up. We had a number of juveniles and young folks who were engaging in low-level crime that were working with some of the higher-level crime,” said McGough. “Ten years ago when we brought in the violent crime task force just to this area, it dropped crime city-wide over 13%. So it shows the impact that just this area who is having on citywide numbers. Obviously, the need was here. It’s just how do we serve this community?”

In recent years, the city worked to put in a community basketball court built with the help of The Better Block and a youth boxing gym run by Dallas Police. But lack of land space and funding stopped it there.

“Primarily, it’s viewed that the south part of the city has more needs than the north. So when there’s opportunities to bring different resources, the leadership tends to focus on the southern part of the city. There are huge needs in the north part of the city as well. Equity is not geography,” said McGough. “DPD can't just arrest their way out of this, we’ve got to work on additional resources. Just give people a chance."

As part of the new project at Forest Audelia Village, portions of a city-owned shopping center and a parking lot will be torn down and renovated.

The one-acre park will sit on the southern end of the site facing Forest Lane and feature a playground, multi-use sport courts, pavilions, landscaping, and trees. The building renovation will create a lobby area, fitness/exercise room, group exercise room, classrooms, child area and space for four city departments: Dallas Public Library, Office of Arts and Culture, Dallas Police, and Dallas Park and Recreation.

"Our department is thrilled we can bring recreation options to this community so families can feel a sense of community that parks and public spaces create when they come together. Parks and recreational activities transform lives. Dallas is tearing down a section of this underused shopping center to build something new that will bring much-needed leisure and social infrastructure to this community,” said Crystal R. Ross, Deputy Director, Dallas Park and Recreation Department.

Vicky Taylor, who has lived in the area for 20 years and is now the executive director of the Lake Highlands Public Improvement District, said she wants to make sure families have a better life.

“The kids in the community, along with my kids, they deserve to have things like this in our community. We have an area that needs some extra love, and we’re here to give it to them,” she said. “Kids in generations to come, it becomes more of their love. They want to make sure our community is thriving and that’s the type of energy we want to give out. We want to show more of an ownership, more belonging, and responsibility."

Park officials said the cost to build the park is $1.9 million while the renovations will cost $5.6 million. Funding will be provided by the Skillman Corridor Tax Increment Financing District funds, the City of Dallas, and monies from the 2017 bond program.

“Soon, this block will be transformed into a new green space and community center. that represents a new lease on life for this community and for its residents. This park will be more than the land where it sits. It will be a pathway to this community’s happiness, health, well-being, social interaction, pride, economy, and much, much more. It will be essential to vibrant, thriving communities,” said Arun Agarwal, president of the Dallas Park and Recreation Board.

The project’s first phase is the outdoor space construction and renovation of approximately 10,000 square feet of the shopping center interior.

Officials expect this phase to be completed by the end of 2024.

Despite light rain and mist, city leaders joined with the community for a ceremonial demolition at the future park site. Those giving remarks included Adam McGough, Dallas City Council, District 10; Kathy Stewart, Dallas City Councilmember-Elect District 10; Arun Agarwal, President, Dallas Park and Recreation Board; Scott Goldstein, Dallas Park and Recreation Board District 10; Robb Stewart, former member, Dallas Park and Recreation Board; and Andrew “Andy” Acord, Retired Deputy Chief Dallas Police.

Contact Us