Queen City neighbors ask City of Dallas to preserve their history

By |Published On: May 17, 2024|Categories: Housing + Property Taxes, Queen City, South Dallas|

News Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Crozier Street in the Queen City neighborhood in South Dallas on Thursday, May 16, 2024.

The latest: 

At the most recent City of Dallas Landmark Commission meeting, South Dallas neighbors presented a request: approval to move forward with a historical designation overlay for the Queen City neighborhood. 

The commission unanimously approved the request, moving Queen City — bordered by S.M. Wright, Warren Avenue, Malcolm X Boulevard and Eugene Street — one step closer to establishing itself as a historic neighborhood.

 

Why this matters:

Organizers who worked to propose the historical designation overlay, like Eva Nally Jones, have two main reasons for seeking it: First, they believe the neighborhood’s history should be recognized, as it was home to civil rights activist Juanita Craft, child welfare and education activist Pearl C. Anderson and even the pianist Ray Charles, and also because it is one of Dallas’ oldest neighborhoods, developed in the early 1900s.

Second, neighbors believe the City’s historic designation may help stabilize property values in the area, allowing current residents to continue to live in Queen City. Jones cited $300,000-plus homes going up “overnight” as a point of concern. 

“Help us stop the gentrification and displacement that has obviously taken place, and will continue to take place if we don’t have protection,” Jones told the commission.

Queen City already has been designated and placed on the National Register of Historic Places, “with 92 buildings comprising its architectural fabric,” Dallas Landmark Commissioner Traswell C. Livingston III noted in his recommendation to place the designation on the agenda. “Among these, 46 are classified as contributing buildings, representing structures that retain their historic character and add to the district’s overall ambiance.

“Conversely, the remaining 46 buildings are categorized as non-contributing, often due to significant alterations or post-1945 construction that detracts from the district’s historical integrity.”

If the City designates Queen City as a historic district, anyone who wants to demolish, construct or alter a home would need to first obtain a “Certificate of Appropriateness” that meets the established historic preservation criteria. This could put a halt to the “non-contributing” architecture Livingston cites in his recommendation and the new $300,000 “overnight” homes Jones references.

 

What neighbors said: 

Jason Brown, a fifth-generation South Dallas neighbor, shared his philosophy during public comment: Neighbors make the community, but homes can tell the story of the community.

“When we think about community, what makes community, it’s people first, then next it’s the structure,” Brown said. “The houses tell the story of what makes the neighborhood a neighborhood.”

Jones, who has lived in Queen City almost five decades, thanked commissioners for their approval to move forward, as she and other neighbors have invested significant time into the process.

“This is our heart, this is our passion, this has been two years of nonstop — literally every week — a meeting about what it is we can do to help save the history of our neighborhood,” Jones said.

Before this meeting, the Queen City Neighborhood Association worked with city staffers to secure the support of Livingston and the designation committee, an advisory group made up of landmark commissioners and residents.

Queen City neighbors and City of Dallas staff also worked together to build a web page with information on the historic neighborhood recognition process.

 

What commissioners said: 

During discussion of the Queen City overlay, Livingston, a South Dallas resident whom Councilman Adam Bazaldua appointed as District 7 Landmark Commissioner, shared that this could be the city’s largest historic neighborhood designation in two decades.

“[This approval] shows the magnitude of your work, from that humble neighborhood in Sunny South Dallas,” Livingston said. “We appreciate your passion and advocacy for recommending this, and preserving the community.”

Currently, in South Dallas, there are three City landmark, or historic, districts: Fair Park, Wheatley Place and South Boulevard / Park Row, where Livingston and Brown live.

Commission chair Evelyn Montgomery says she expects success as Queen City neighbors meet to discuss remaining details of the historic zoning, before returning to the Landmark Commission.

“I know our new friends [Queen City neighbors] will be there talking, and surely swaying people,” Montgomery said. “We look forward to having you come back.” 

 

What’s next: 

Now that the procedure for a historic overlay district has begun, organizers from the Queen City Neighborhood Association and the designation committee will work to plan a variety of community meetings to gather feedback. The feedback will then be gathered into a report by the committee, and will include a nomination form with the criteria for homes in the area, and language for the formal zoning change.

After the report is completed, it will be submitted to the Landmark Commission for another round of approval. If approved, the request will go to the City Plan Commission, or CPC, who will review the report, formally notify neighbors of the zoning change request, and make a recommendation to the City Council. City Council will then review the report and the CPC’s recommendations.

Dates for these hearings will be determined following the submission of the designation committee’s report to the Landmark Commission.

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About the Author: Michaela Rush

Michaela Rush joined Dallas Free Press in July 2023, as a Report for America Corps Member. Prior to joining RFA and DFP, Michaela worked at The Battalion student newspaper at Texas A&M, most recently as the editor-in-chief, covering campus news, local businesses, student organizations and LGBTQ+ topics. Outside of journalism, she plays several instruments, including flute and alto saxophone, and is a self-proclaimed “band nerd.”

Official Title:

Report for America Corps Member