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In the Heart of the Cedars

In 1876, J. J. Eakin gave our fair city a parcel of land which soon became City Park. It was Dallas’ first park, and soon, a lovely neighborhood grew up around the park. The neighborhood became known as the Cedars for the many cedar trees in the area.

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As often happens with cities, tastes and trends change. Wealthier residents began to move away, and the neighborhood became mostly working class. In the mid-1960s, Interstate 30 cut through the Cedars, separating the neighborhood from the rest of downtown. Half of the original City Park land was lost, along with many beautiful homes.

By 1969, a new vision for City Park was emerging. Millermore, a historic home from Oak Cliff, had been moved to City Park. And so began the museum you now know as Dallas Heritage Village. But you knew that already, right?ambassadorhotelcirca1910

Since the museum’s beginning, our location has had its challenges. We’re very close to downtown, but we’re hard to get to. There are no restaurants nearby. We have our share of homeless people walking past our fences. And plenty of people have no idea what we mean when we say “We’re located in the Cedars neighborhood, one block south of Farmer’s Market.”

Right now is an incredibly interesting time of transition in the history of the Cedars and Farmer’s Market. Inklings of change began with the decision to privatize Farmer’s Market. Across the highway, we’ve always hoped and prayed for the Farmer’s Market to reach its full potential. Once the full details of the $65 million redevelopment project were announced, other properties in the immediate area began to be snatched up. Signs of other projects sparked by the Farmer’s Market project are beginning to emerge. Just this week, staff visited the brand new (but in a very old building) Green Door Public House. It’s the first spot in the Farmer’s Market area to have evening hours. Located just a few blocks down Harwood, it will be easy to direct visitors to a tasty lunch spot.

On our side of I-30, dirt is flying and properties are changing hands rapidly. New residences are going up. Plans to restore historic buildings are in the works. At least once a week, I’m talking to someone about commercial redevelopment in the Cedars. In the last few months, I’ve received some remarkable on the job training in how these deals are put together. The momentum has become so strong that I feel pretty confident in saying that our neighborhood will look completely different (but still be the funky Cedars!) in the next few years.

Actually, I’ve been saying that for a few months now. Some people believe me. A lot of people look at me and say “Wait, the Cedars? Where is that?” Or they just look at me like I’m insane. It’s a challenge when so many things are pending and can’t be discussed openly. It’s a challenge when dirt isn’t flying yet. Heck, it’s a challenge to keep up with everything in the works right now.

But last week, we all got that nice, public sign that some sort of corner is being turned. Alamo Drafthouse announced that their next North Texas location will be in the Cedars on Lamar Street. I’m not ashamed to admit that I squealed when I read the news. Thus far, this is most visible indicator of how the Cedars is changing for the better.

The stories of the Cedars, City Park and Dallas Heritage Village are knit together and have been for almost 140 years. As the Dallas Morning News said in a recent editorial “Now, thanks to constant effort, it’s looking more and more like either a new beginning or a happy ending for this crucial part of Dallas.” I want the absolute best for the Cedars and Dallas Heritage Village, and we’re looking forward to working with lots of new partners in the near future. But in the meantime, my wishes for the neighborhood redevelopment can be summed up pretty simply: I want to be able to walk to lunch. Or happy hour. And I bet you would enjoy that an awfully lot too.

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