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Six Years Into GrowSouth, Developers Are Starting To Pay Attention To Southern Dallas

Mayor Mike Rawlings pointed to the redevelopment of Red Bird Mall as a focus area in the next year.

Mayor Mike Rawlings says southern Dallas is headed in the right direction.

The mayor Thursday delivered the annual progress report for GrowSouth. For the last six years, the initiative’s been working to jump-start growth in southern Dallas.

Rawlings pointed to some promising numbers: The population has grown by about 7 percent. Per capita income and real estate values are up, and median home sales have increased by 146 percent.

The mayor said developers are paying attention.

“Six years ago, they didn’t even know where southern Dallas was. It was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ Now they understand what we’re doing and they’ve seen other people make some investments,” he said.  

Developers are interested, but grocers are not

Rawlings said grocery stores have still been slow to come to the area. Large swaths of southern Dallas are considered food deserts, in which a community doesn’t have a grocery store within a one-mile radius.

“[Grocery stores] have picked up a little bit, but they’re still the last thing to come because they’re still not convinced there’s enough heads with money in some of these areas,” Rawlings said. “We’ve seen bigger box stores be successful and smaller box stores, but the traditional grocery stores? There are a couple but not as many as I would like.”

Rawlings added that improving schools and adding more middle-class housing would lure grocery retailers.

Crime and public schools

Property crime dropped in southern Dallas by 17 percent, but violent crime ticked up 2 percent. Public school enrollment dropped by almost 9 percent.

City Council member Kevin Felder represents District 7, which includes Fair Park. He pointed to some factors for the decline in enrollment.

“I think affordable housing is one of the factors, I think crime is another factor so those are the things that we have to work collectively on to combat that,” he said.

The City Council recently passed a housing policy, which is designed to address the growing affordable housing problem in Dallas.

As for GrowSouth, the initiative’s focus areas in the next year will include the area around Executive Airport, Red Bird Mall, parts of Fair Park, and Pleasant Grove.

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.