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Icing on the Cake: A New Master Plan for DHV

Lately, we’ve been thinking some mighty big thoughts at DHV. To be perfectly honest, it seems like everyone in our neighborhood is thinking big thoughts. Four Corners Brewing opened their new location on Ervay Street (one of our borders) a few weeks ago. The Ambassador Hotel is getting ready to start a major renovation. There’s even talk of the nation’s first high speed rail coming in just a few blocks from DHV.


Among all of these entities, we’re like the stable grandmother. As an institution, we’ve been an anchor of the Cedars neighborhood since 1969, when Millermore opened. But our land, the first City Park in Dallas, is the reason why this neighborhood exists. In the talk of all that’s new in the Cedars, our story is somehow neglected. After all, what’s exciting about a history museum that’s been in the same spot for 50 years? On the other hand, would these developers be so excited about their projects if we hadn’t been a stabilizing influence for decades? Sometimes, I try to picture the Cedars without us. It’s not a pretty picture.


For the last ten years or so, we’ve been operating under the vision of a 2006 master site plan. We’ve known for a long time that we need a real visitor center. We want more visual clues to show visitors that they’ve arrived, are in the right place, and about to experience something pretty special. We completed about half of our master site plan in 2009—uniting our property, closing Gano Street and expanding our parking. But the recession halted fundraising in its tracks. That master site plan also included a visitor center with a front door facing Harwood Street. At the time, we assumed that development would flow south on Harwood from Farmers Market.


Keeping up with real estate developers became a big part of my job as Executive Director in late 2014. All the big buildings you can see from our property sold—with big redevelopment plans. Though some of those projects have taken longer to take off than originally promised, we know that dramatic change is coming to our immediately surrounding area. And suddenly, that old master plan no longer made sense.


In 2016, we began initial conversations with our longtime architect Craig Melde of ArchiTexas. We’ve worked with Craig since 2000 on various iterations of the master plan. We quickly sketched out our ideas—along with the big realization that we couldn’t really have a back door. Development was going to surround us, and we need to embrace that development.


Through the support of the Hoblitzelle Foundation (big ideas don’t come cheap!), we were able to formally begin revising the master site plan in Spring 2017. We presented the plan to a board committee over the summer. The plan was then the highlight of our annual -meeting in September—the first chance for the rest of the board and our membership to see our vision of the future.


There are a few really big ideas in this plan. First, we’re creating a new center of the museum. Currently vacant land will become a kind of front yard to the historic experience. And we’re taking the fences down on that front yard (fences will remain in place around the historic areas). Right now, the Cedars doesn’t have a public park, and that’s something we can provide. We’ll build a real visitor center, a purpose built collections warehouse, and a small amphitheater for field trip orientation and public performances.


While some supporters are understandably concerned about the idea of taking down any fences in the Cedars, we know that this project will be the icing on the cake for the Cedars redevelopment. By the time we’re ready to break ground, the majority of redevelopment will be completed or well underway. We’ll know how the neighborhood is changing. And that change is certainly coming.


So, what’s next? First, the full board must vote to approve this plan. That will most likely happen in January. The next step will be to take it to the Park Board for approval—it is, after all, their land. And then we’ll begin the very hard work of finding the funding to make this big idea a reality.


The current and pending redevelopment of our neighborhood is causing us to think differently about many things at DHV. One day, we’ll all be able to say “I remember the Cedars when. . .” We know that this redevelopment may not be positive for everyone—some of our neighbors will likely be priced out in the near future. But for us at DHV, we’re looking forward to being the heart of a vital, active neighborhood—where our visitors can walk to lunch or happy hour. Where we can build a small town feeling in the middle of a big city. And where we can all make history.


If you have any questions or comments or just want to talk more about the master site plan, feel free to contact me directly at 214-413-3671 or mprycer@dallasheritagevillage.org

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