All posts by Phil Cerroni

Phil began working for the Rambler in February 2012 as a freelance writer. After graduating from the University of Dallas in May 2012 with a BA in Drama, he continued at the paper and began freelancing in the local theater and television industries before taking a full-time position with the Rambler in February 2013. Phil is as member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the International Association of Theatre Critics.

Speeches dominate candidate forum

City council and school board candidates presented themselves to residents of south Irving at a forum hosted by the South Irving Property Owners Association (SIPOA).

After spending about two hours introducing themselves and their platforms, the candidates took half an hour to field the audience’s questions, which focusing heavily on revitalization around the Heritage District and local landmarks such as Irving Mall. Attendees also challenged aspirants on the disappearance of the city’s bookstores and the lack of upscale retail establishments.

In attendance were Mayor Beth Van Duyne and former Mayor Herbert Gears; place 3 Councilman Dennis Webb and opponent Billy Hickman; place 5 City Councilwoman Rose Cannaday and challenger Oscar Ward; and school board district 2 contenders, Garrett Landry and Nell Anne Hunt. Randy Necessary, who is running unopposed for district 6, was also present.

Candidate Introductions.mp3

Candidate Issues.mp3

Audience Questions.mp3

The recordings are organized as follows:

Candidate Introductions

Randy Necessary 0:20

Garrett Landry: 6:10

Nell Anne Hunt: 9:45

Oscar Ward: 11:56

Rose Cannaday: 14:39

Dennis Webb: 18:07

Billy Hickman: 21:53

Beth Van Duyne: 25:25

Herbert Gears: 28:33

 

Candidate Issues

Randy Necessary: 2:15

Garrett Landry: 7:42

Nell Anne Hunt: 16:11

Oscar Ward: 23:18

Rose Cannaday 31:18

Dennis Webb: 39:30

Billy Hickman: 47:55

Beth Van Duyne: 55:47

Herbert Gears: 1:04:34

 

Audience Questions

Criticism of canned speeches: 0:23

Proposed tax cuts for seniors (Gears, Van Duyne): 1:07

Candidates’ desire to revitalize South Irving (every candidate stood up) 4:03

What will candidates do to bring high-quality retail back to Irving (all candidates): 5:33

Convention Center versus Irving Mall: 20:59

Irving needs new council members: 21:38

As city council liaison to IISD, has Cannaday done anything to help eliminate drugs in schools (Cannaday): 22:01

Audit clause is very contract (every candidate raised their hand, Cannaday, Ward, Gears, Van Duyne): 25:42

How will council help small businesses (Hickman, Webb): 29:09

Out-of-state developers for Heritage District, Irving Blvd. construction: 35:04

Conference tackles narrowing educational opportunities

The Four Seasons hosted some of the most influential minds in academia during the inaugural Globalization of Higher Education Conference March 24-25. Hosted by Queens College, University of Cambridge and Academic Partnerships, a company that helps universities create online classes, the invitation-only seminar boasted educational advocates, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush.

A core discussion revolved around how to take advantage of technology and an increasingly global audience in order to effect positive change.

Referring to the present as the “Participation Age” during her March 24 address, Clinton said society’s future success depends on enabling people to take part in it. She told attendees the university is one of this country’s greatest assets and that freedom and opportunity, many times, begin inside the classroom. No institution can train students well, she warned, unless enrolled and potential students alike are engaged creatively in both their coursework and the wider social impact it signifies.

“The reason that American higher education remains the global gold standard isn’t because we have the most books or the fastest computers or the most advanced labs or turn out the most engineers,” Clinton said. “It’s because we still value students thinking creatively, innovating, questioning authority and receiving wisdom that is part of the American DNA, and I think it remains a competitive advantage in today’s information economy… It reflects the vibrancy of our democracy and the power of an open society. It does help young people become more active and engaged citizens.”

Simply building schools in developing countries and exporting infrastructure that works in North America will not tear down these barriers, Clinton cautioned. Instead, communities need to be shown the vision of higher education; in other words, what universities represent and symbolize, and education needs to be tailored to each region’s specific needs. Sometimes, this means increasing basic literacy rates; at others, the task is training a skilled workforce. In many cases around the world, higher education looks more like trade schools or community colleges than what first world countries recognize as universities.

As with many conversations regarding education, Clinton broached the subject of technology’s expanding role. Unlike other theories that advocate heavy reliance on technology as a primary response to teaching dilemmas, she took time to point out its limitations.

Although it can significantly alter the way students relate to their schooling, Clinton reminded the audience that technology does not change the nature of learning and must support, not replace it. There is no substitute, she said, for a classroom of “thoughtful and engaged peers.”

“Technology is a tool, not a teacher. It cannot replace hands-on experience, on the job training or laboratory-based experiments. On its own, it cannot teach creativity or critical thinking, but it can open doors that didn’t exist a few, short years ago,” she said.

This educational Renaissance is meant to be the vehicle for exporting the seeds of economic advancement, egality and freedom across the globe. Clinton referenced places such as Sub-Saharan Africa where economic expansion is not accompanied by moral qualities often associated with progress, and sections of the population continue to be marginalized. Education, Clinton maintained, brings individuals opportunity, lifts up society as a whole and pushes back against oppression.

These challenges do not only exist halfway across the globe, however. Many people in the U.S., specifically first generation citizens and those who grew up in low-income communities, do not know how to navigate this nation’s complicated education system. Consequently, as philanthropists and educators attempt to enlighten the globe, the door closes on it in their own home.

“We have to ask ourselves,” Clinton said, “have the barriers that have been built because of the cost, because of sorting, made it more difficult than it was 100 years ago for a talented person to have the education he or she sought?”

Fire devastates south Irving apartments, destroys 30 units

A fire broke out at Finley Terrace apartments in the early hours of March 22. Thirty units  were destroyed, 80 people left homeless and three persons injured. / Photo by Phil Cerroni
A fire broke out at Finley Terrace apartments in the early hours of March 22. Thirty units were destroyed, 80 people left homeless and three persons injured. Photo by Phil Cerroni

 

 

 

The savory smell of charred wood wafted on the breeze and tugged at the handful of onlookers still clustered near the police cordon separating them from the blackened section of the Finley Terrace Apartments on Finley Road.

The fire, as best resident Chris Davis could estimate, began around 1:30 a.m. March 22. The Irving Fire Department received the call at 1:54 a.m., but by the time emergency responders arrived at the structure fire, flames were already licking at the black sky. By the time it took four dozen firefighter to extinguish the blaze at around 4 a.m., it had reaching the attic and spread across the complex. In total, the fire destroyed 30 units and displaced about 80 residents.

Two residents were evacuated for minor injuries related to smoke inhalation, according to Assistant Fire Chief Rusty Wilson, and one of the firefighters received stitches. Wilson declined to elaborate on how the man received his injuries, saying only that they were sustained in the course of fighting the fire.

Although victims were reticent to share their stories, evacuees whose homes had not been damaged were more than happy to recount the morning’s events from their perspectives. Raymond Macedo described a scene of sheer panic in which residents ran this way and that, clutching material possessions and blankets to their chest as they herded their loved ones out of the burning courtyard.

Davis’ account was more subdued. He depicted a relatively orderly scene where, if there had been any frenzy inside the scorched section, it quickly calmed down as residents exited the danger zone.

Both the Red Cross and the Salvation Army deployed to the scene, assisting people forced into the chill air by police officers, who had to kick in doors and windows in order to awaken sleepers and rouse those that underestimated the fire.

Because of the threat of rain, the fire department contacted the Iglesia Del Nazareno Maranata church across the street from the apartments. The doors were opened at around 6 a.m., Davis said, but morning revealed many residents still asleep in their vehicles.

Once it was light, representatives from a neighboring apartment complex arrived with flyers advertising a special discounted rate, but many residents eventually contacted family or friends with whom they could stay. The Red Cross provided hotel vouchers for the remaining families, Wilson said.

The general sentiment among neighbors was that an electrical shortage started the blaze. IFD’s ongoing investigation tracked the fire’s origin to unit 621, on the southeastern side of the complex. Inspectors are following multiple leads, Wilson said, but he would not comment either on the nature of the leads or the likelihood that foul play was involved.

Charter school topples theatrical barriers

People do not usually consider high school drama to be hyper-competitive, but dressed in a black and yellow track suit and sporting dark Wayfarer sunglasses, Universal Academy’s (UA) theater teacher, Dion Hood, looked exactly like a football coach. What is more, he talked about the charter school’s participation in the Dallas Summer Musicals High School Musical Theater Awards as if they were bi-district playoffs.

An offshoot of Dallas Summer Musicals’ popular Broadway touring shows, the teen component celebrates excellence in adolescents while giving them the opportunity to gain visibility and credibility within the community. Participating high schools have been performing since September in preparation for the March 30 televised finale that features performers from each school. Until this year, no charter school or Irving school had ever participated, but Hood, who routinely enters state University Interscholastic League (UIL) theater competitions, decided to take a shot after seeing a television news story about the competition.

“I told him, ‘Dr. Jordan, you are not going to be disappointed with what it is we’re going to do,” Hood said, recounting his initial conversation with the Award’s program director. “We’re not Hockaday; we don’t have that kind of budget–because sure, they have a $30,000 budget–but we’re still going to give you the best of what theater can give you, if you give us this opportunity.”

Hood’s confidence intrigued Jordan, and he gave the small school an open slot in the contest. Hood, who usually focuses on smaller productions due to UA’s limited pool of actors and minimal facilities, knew he had to pull out all the stops in order to mount a Broadway-style musical. So he searched for something it was unlikely the other contestants would choose, but still, finally settling on “The Wiz,” a 1974 soul adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s novel  “The Wizard of Oz.” Hood chose this play to highlight the depth of his multi-cultural cast by proving they could produce a traditionally all-black musical.

“A lot of other schools, they hide behind (their production value)… When they see us come in they think, ‘Oh my god, he has a full theater; he has all of the things he needs.’ We do not, but we compete mentally and physically as if we do, because we had to put that kind of drive in our students,” Hood said.

He hopes this opportunity will show the public how much small charter schools can accomplish. Fewer than 100 students are enrolled in UA’s high school program, and they split their after-school hours between homework and athletics, still managing to fit theater in either between evening basketball practices or in the mornings before school.

Hood felt confident sending his students to the Awards because of their success at regional theater competitions, and he attributes the program’s triumphs to the constraints placed on it by budget and size. During his decade of teaching drama, Hood has shied away from grand spectacle in favor of smaller productions, including Sophocles’ “Antigone” and “Fences” by Pulitzer Prizing-winning, African American playwright and activist, August Wilson.

“When we go to compete, it’s very interesting because we don’t have, at this time, a theatrical space, so it requires us to be creative. It requires us to really take our children’s minds into the physicality of what all you have to do because you don’t have the space,” Hood said.

They accomplish this, he said, by focusing on the foundations of creating good art, not teaching theatrical tricks.

“Most of this work is definitely on a collegiate level that they’re doing at their classes at Northlake; at any collegiate theater class or visual arts class … renderings, models fit to scale,” Hood said.

“Judges have said this numerous times, Our students here at UA learn the structure and the foundations of art instead of just drawing animé characters or other individual cartoon characters. We’re actually learning figure drawing as a foundation,” said Carrie Johnson, one of the school’s visual arts teachers.

Although Hood is proud of his students and routinely pits them against larger schools, he admitted there are a few obstacles, specific to their situation, that confront the program. For one, because English is many of these kids’ second language, pronunciation and enunciation, especially on more difficult Classical or Shakespearean texts, can present a formidable obstacle.

Challenge grant helps Irving Cares feed the hungry

In its never-ending search for funds to accommodate a steadily-rising demand for its services, Irving Cares is currently in involved in a challenge grant overseen by the Feinstein Foundation through which the non-profit hopes to raise $80,000 for its food pantry program (this is separate from other forms of outreach, like rent and utilities assistance), by the end of April.

This money is earmarked to supplement Irving Cares’ $250,000 yearly budget for food purchases. If it cannot raise the full amount, the food pantry will be forced to cut its assistance by about 20 percent, or 2,000 families, according to Irving Cares’ CEO Teddie Story.

“The challenge is to be able to meet the clients’ needs because even as our budget every year gets a little bit bigger, (so), too, do the needs,” Story said.

Grants like this one are necessary for the continuance of Irving Cares’ mission, Story explained because only $90,000 of the program’s $430,000 total operating budget comes from individual donations and fundraising at events.

Since 1991, the Feinstein Foundation has offered a $1 million matching grant program to charities that focus on alleviating hunger in America. Each organization submits how much money it raised during the challenge period and receives a portion of the endowment based on the percentage they raised of the total money collected by all the charities involved. Irving Cares has participated since 2000.

The initiative continues through the end of April, and all donations to Irving Cares are eligible. Even food donations are rated at $1 per can. Contributions can be made at Irvingcares.org, as well.

Unstructured learning strikes balance between study and play

Set against the backdrop of the U.S.’s sinking position in the international education community and amid criticism directed towards curricula across the country, school districts are exploring the feasibility of using less-structured approaches to learning in order to re-inject an element of litheness into their ponderous educational systems.

Growing out of the career clusters program established by the U.S. Department of Education in 1996 to develop career-oriented skills in high school students, education clusters place younger schoolchildren in application-based environments. These environments attempt to make leaning more engaging and enjoyable as students study for standardized tests and memorize facts education boards mandate that each and every child must know.

Through student-driven projects, education clusters combine relevant knowledge and collaborative skills to frame subject matter within the context of problem solving, instead of presenting it on a chalkboard. Through a “no right answer” approach, students work out real-world answers. Supporters believe this style of learning broadens students’ perspectives in fields that do not usually find their way into traditional curricula. Because these are areas of interest for the students, the material engages them in ways regular classroom work cannot, while integrating math, science and art in the process.

Coppell ISD’s Austin Elementary has experimented with this program for the last two years. Reaching outside the classroom, students even teamed up with law enforcement to design the Coppell Police Department’s website.

“It was beyond the school audience. They impacted the entire city population using the police department’s website. That’s pretty cool, you know. These are kids, and they’re being shown that the sky’s the limit, and (we) adults are here to help them accomplish big things,” said Tiffany Franzoni, a participant in Austin’s education cluster programming and owner of the Roll2Play gaming store in Coppell. Franzoni is also a game design merit badge counselor for the Boy Scouts of America and works with daycares, where she teaches the kids how to play games.

After seeing how much her 11 year old enjoyed playing with LEGOS, Franzoni accepted an invitation from the Coppell Chamber of Commerce to facilitate an education cluster at the school. Armed only with a box of plastic bricks, she faced a horde of first and second graders and received surprising results. Immediately, the students chose to use the popular construction toys to model buildings that would better withstand natural disasters, like earthquakes and hurricanes.

“I am an out-of-the-box thinker. I like trying new things, and anything that empowers kids to explore their skill sets and their talents and find out something new about themselves, why wouldn’t I want to be a part of that?” Franzoni said.

The students divided themselves into teams and delegated responsibilities, including drawing up the map of a fictional city, researching natural disasters and contacting building inspectors and construction companies.

“It’s up to the kids to tell me what they want to do, and I’m here just to get them what they need. I think (we) adults have a tendency to underestimate these kids. They are coming up with this on their own,” Franzoni said, stressing that the children direct the entire process, and far from being a teacher, she is only there to, as she put it, to “keep the peace.”

In April, the class will present a showcase of its findings.

Despite her confidence in the positive impact of education clusters, Franzoni believes they should remain a supplement to traditional education. Because students need to choose a topic that resonates with them, she explained, there will not always be a cluster suited to each child, every semester. Curricula, she also noted, are organized around the fundamental skills necessary for continuing education, like college preparation. While the skills learned in education clusters broaden a child’s experience, it is similar to participation in band or extracurricular leadership seminars.

This exploratory approach to education sounds strikingly similar to the position voiced by education experts and university professors at the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Cultures’ teacher seminar last spring, where panelists advocated that the key to education lies in inspiring a love of learning, not focusing on a pre-packaged method or curriculum.

“It seems to me that’s what our students want. They want not to have standardized lives, because they’ve done well in standardized tests. They want to be somehow able to be involved in something larger than themselves,” said Dr. Daniel Russ, director of the Center for Christian Studies at Gordon College in Wernham, Mass.

“Certainly in every classroom there are things that must be balanced. Some of the instruction must be direct, but the students must also have room to explore ideas themselves,” said Dr. Diane Senechal, journalist, author and former New York City public school teacher. “Where does one find the right balance, the right proportion?”

Champps remodel strikes balance for Irving night life

The grand reopening of Champps Americana in Las Colinas in February represented more than just renovations to the long-time Irving restaurant. The establishment’s emphasis on quality food and dynamic experience shed light on its sensitivity to current trends as the city sheds it reputation as a suburban bedroom community for one of a “live, work play” destination.

Responding to current demand for high-quality, local eats, the focus of Champps’ renovations was placed squarely on the food, whether it be the new, open kitchen; the multi-tiered seating arrangement; new, seasonal menus or an emphasis on the restaurant’s hand-crafted food and wide variety of craft and local beer.

“We’ve emphasized (scratch-made food), and we have tried various different avenues to get that out there, as far as letting people know about it,” said managing partner Brian James. “And it’s kind of funny; right now is kind of a perfect time especially (as) we’re becoming more ingredient conscious as far as calories are concerned … when you look at the movement in the food industry, where it’s going and where people are eating better (in smaller portions) and drinking better (in smaller amounts).”

These changes make Champps feel more like a restaurant, with its own character and unique presence, than a stereotypical sports bar. This is especially important to young transplants, many of whom moved to Irving in order to be close to their work but still able to drive 20 minutes into Dallas for entertainment, attracted to the personal, one-of-a-kind atmosphere touted by restaurants popping up in Oak Cliff and the Bishop Arts District. There is a preconception among a large portion of this demographic that franchises, especially sports bars, are inferior in both service and quality to these eccentric independent restaurants.

“There are good and bad restaurants run by multi-unit operators, just as there are good and bad independent restaurants. It all comes down to each individual restaurant and whether they can deliver great guest experiences every single day. We are not a gastropub. We’re a fun, relaxing place to enjoy made-from-scratch, delicious food, great local brews, handcrafted cocktails and friendly service,” Champp’s spokesman Rick Van Werner stated in an email, explaining the erroneousness of this mindset.

“Like any business serving guests, it’s important to always be moving forward to keep things fresh, exciting and relevant.

“It all comes down to execution and delivering great food, service and experiences in a clean, fun environment. While we’re a great place to watch a game, we’re much more than that,” he continued. “We’re a place for people to gather, relax and take a break from the stresses of everyday life.”

Overcoming preconceptions from younger customers is not the only obstacle to promoting night life in Irving, however, and past attempts ran up against concerns of long-time residents.

For one, some residents were uneasy that loosening restrictions on the sale of alcohol would attract low-class bars to Irving. Another contentious issue involved the City’s smoking ordinance. Some critics went so far to suggest that, not only should smoking be banned inside all restaurants, but new establishments should not be allowed to install a smoking patio either. Supporting their position, they maintained that not only is the practice bad for patrons’ health but hurts the profitability of businesses that allow it.

Although many municipalities, including Dallas and Fort Worth, no longer allow smoking inside, patios remain a staple feature of restaurants trying to build an atmosphere where patrons come to socialize, not just eat a meal.

Perhaps Champps has managed to navigate these and social legislative obstacles in part because of its long tenure in the city. Subtle but important changes have struck a balance between vastly differing expectations among residents–namely that people who want to go to a social club do not feel like they are drinking at a restaurant, and people who want a meal do not feel they are eating in a bar.

The newest remodel emphasizes the dual role of restaurants in Irving. The bar, still one of the focal points of the establishment, sits in the middle of the room where most of the restaurant’s 44 new televisions are concentrated, and where smoking is permitted. When it opened 14 years ago, Champps spent $300,000 to install 17 air filters in the ceiling to ensure that smoke from the bar would not bother other diners.

“We want to provide an area everyone wants to come to,” James said. “We hopefully don’t want to chase anyone away, hence the investment in the air filter.”

Two tiers of seating encircle to bar on one side, so patrons who want to sit down for a meal are far enough removed from the action on the floor that they are not disturbed by people there for Champps’ social club aspect.

A testament to the success of the balance struck by Irving’s Champps is the location’s stability during its parent company’s bankruptcy. Although Champps locations in general were not as affected as Fox and Hound locations, James said that the Las Colinas location’s relative autonomy allowed him to establish policies that are popular with the city’s residents.

“I don’t know that much about all (the other locations) because I’ve only been here,” he said. “It’s kind of funny—I don’t want to sound selfish about it, but—well, I’ve been responsible for this one and I’ve pretty much made sure I’ve lived up to that responsibility to the best of my abilities.”

New center supports parents and encourages students

Amid the festivities for Irving ISD’s open house night on March 4, Lamar MS unveiled their brand-new parent center, a dynamic blend of community space and media lab that educators hope will increase parental involvement in their children’s education. Administrators project this center will have a positive impact not only on students’ scholastic performance, but their character as well.

Inside a newly-converted classroom on the school’s first floor, parents now have access to a wide variety of resources.

At its most basic level, the center is a place for families to eat lunch together during the week as well as a focal point for coordinating volunteer activities throughout the day. The center’s mission extends beyond giving parents greater access to their children, however. The room also functions as an adult classroom offering workshops ranging from parenting skills, the dynamics of the school system and college prep to community resources parents might not have discovered on their own. In addition to already planned programming, the school intends to send out a survey to help tailor these tools to parents’ needs.

Using a community grant they received last year from the Texas Education Agency-funded Region 10 Service Center, administrators at Lamar purchased desktop computers where parents can check their student’s grades online or simply surf the web. In the near future, the center will also stock Nook tablets, pre-loaded with books that parents can check out for use at home.

“There’s a certain kind of dynamic we begin to see occur when parents come into school,” said Joe Moreno, the principal at Lamar. “We begin to see a seamless type of service for our students when parents come in and visit with their children and are here several hours during the day to help and assist with the rest of the programs in the school.”

Seeing adults, not even their own parents necessarily, who are not faculty or staff, gives students the encouragement
and support Moreno said is important for them to excel in their studies. Similar to the parent center, Lamar has already started a Watch D.O.G.S (Dads of Good Students). Twenty-five fathers and other men volunteer to spend time with the kids each week. Every day, three to five adults are at the school, either eating lunch with the students or managing traffic flow during morning drop-off and afternoon dismissal. The program connects kids with strong, male mentors and role models on a regular basis.

“Philosophically, the idea of having a parent center for parents to be involved in and belong to their school and their children’s school, I think, speaks volumes. We saw a need for us to align (ourselves) and really close that gap between parents being involved from a peripheral manner outside the school to being married inside the school and coming in (and) being a big part of us,” Moreno said.

An increasingly familiar sight in IISD over the last couple of years, parent centers are now operated by the district at the majority of its schools.

“It fits into our notion that children come first,” Moreno said. “And when children come first, then parents are right next to them.”

TxDOT embarks on colossal highway reconstruction

TxDOT is finalizing plans for a massive road project which is slated to begin near the end of 2014 or, at the latest, the start of 2015. It is centered at the Diamond Interchange—the former site of Texas Stadium—and will encompass State Highway 183, State Highway 114 and Loop 12 by program’s end in 2019. Each highway will have four general lanes in each direction, managed lanes, expanded frontage roads and direct connect interchanges from each highway to the others.

Engineers separated the work into a Base Project, four Components and an Ultimate project. The majority of the construction will take place on 183. During the Base project, the east and westbound general purpose lanes and significant portions of the eastbound and westbound frontage roads will be reconstructed from SH-161 to Belt Line Rd. One managed lane will also be added in each direction. North and south managed lanes will also be built on Loop 12 from where it connects with SH-183 to its meeting with 35E.

Component 1 extends the reconstruction on SH-183 to Loop 12, and Component 2 brings the reconstruction to its termination at 35E. Component 3 begins work on 114, where one managed lane will be added in each direction from Rochelle Blvd. to 161. As part of Component 4, one westbound managed lane will be added to 114 between 161 and International Pkwy.

When the project is completed, a multi-level network of overpasses will connect the highways directly to one another at the Diamond Interchange.

Funding limitations, however, control how the involved agencies and municipalities approached the process. Only $850 million of the over $2 billion estimated for the project is available at this time. Consequently, construction crews will deliver the Base Project and as many Components as possible with the available funds while the region collects the money to complete the project. To offset these restrictions, all revenue from the managed lanes will be cycled back into the project until it is fully paid for.

Some information provided by TxDOT.

Variety of proposed homes may attract stable, diverse families to Heritage District

Two very different developers are making plans to break ground for single-family homes in Irving’s Heritage District. The first is international real estate giant, Hines Interests, with whom the City of Irving signed an MOU in December 2013 to build roughly 100 two-story, zero-lot, brick and stone residences on the south side of Centennial Park, the site where McDougall demolished apartments in the late 2000s. The proposed houses, which are similar to ones around Las Colinas’ Riverside Dr, will be priced from $225,000-250,000 and are expected to attract many residents who already live in Irving, among them empty nesters looking to downsize.

“This is meant to be a unique product to go on Delaware Creek, because we’re trying to bring in … new people that are wanting new housing, that want housing smaller scale,” said Kevin Kass, Redevelopment and Corridors Administrator for the City.

This demographic is key to any commercial development in the area, maintained Don Williams, the Chamber of Commerce’s Director of Business Retention and Expansion in South Irving, because national businesses look at homeowners’ income first when considering whether or not to move into an area.

Besides its site in a neighborhood that is projected to grow tremendously in coming years, the development’s amenities include direct access to the park, trails and Delaware Creek. Hines hopes to break ground on the development in late spring or early summer.

The other project, which is still in early planning stages and as of yet has no official sanction by the City, is the brainchild of Irving resident, Art Duglar, and his construction company, the Stones River Group. Pending a Request for Bids (RFB) on six properties between Delaware St. and Britain Rd., the company hopes to break ground on American Craftsman Style bungalows as early as April of this year. The company intends to sell these houses for between $135,000 and $160,000 and plans to develop as many as 52 lots between 2nd St. and 6th St. The proposed style matches the existing residential architecture.

The less expensive bungalows would attract young professionals and growing families, who are more interested in having a neighborhood, garage and yard than the apartments and condominiums planned for the Heritage District. The depth these people would add to the area’s demographic is a necessary part of dynamic community-building, and one target group is medical professionals, specifically those who work in the hospitals surrounding the Medical Center stop on the Trinity River Express.

Single-family homes in general represent a necessary foundation for redevelopment in the Heritage District. They demonstrate to multi-family developers and high-end commercial entities that it is both safe and profitable to move into the area.

Even if Hines’s slick, contemporary houses do not match existing homes as neatly as Duglar’s bungalows, they provide a smooth transition from the ranch-style homes on 6th St. to the quaint architecture closer to downtown Irving. Together, these two projects represent a conscientious step towards a coherent, vibrant district. On their own, either one would be hard pressed to attract the diverse community an area like the Heritage District—that wants to be representative of the City and not just a quaint, overpriced neighborhood—needs to have.