Residents say they wanted more input before Bexar Street property changed hands.
By Sriya Reddy
Bonton-based nonprofit BridgeBuilders is receiving a property located on Bexar Street in South Dallas’ Ideal neighborhood after a city council vote on Wednesday morning despite numerous residents speaking against the transfer and wanting to delay the process.
The speakers included community leaders and pastors from the Ideal neighborhood and surrounding areas. They expressed concerns regarding BridgeBuilders’ lack of commercial management experience, the lack of communication between Ideal and the city, and the desire to keep the wealth in the building in the neighborhood. Over 200 people signed a petition to delay the process of the building transfer.
5210 Bexar Street has four commercial units on the lower level, one of which has been occupied by BridgeBuilders since September 2020, and apartments for low-income residents upstairs. According to the city, the property must be for public use forever and maintain affordable housing for 23 years.
BridgeBuilders, a faith-based organization that has worked in Bonton for about 25 years, was one of three organizations that applied for 5210 Bexar Street. It was recommended by the Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Department at the end of August and passed to full council
Ideal-native Daphne Horne, one of the speakers at the council meeting, has lived in the neighborhood for about 50 years and is a volunteer with T.R. Hoover Community Development Center. She said she was frustrated that many residents were not made aware of the bid until after applications were closed.
“I’m not happy with it because isn’t it interesting how a city can just give away something like that, and we have no input — none,” Horne said.
Horne said that she does not have anything against BridgeBuilders but rather wanted to delay the process so the community could have more input. However, District 7 Councilman Adam Bazaldua did not think a delay was necessary because he didn’t want to give “false hope” to residents who opposed it. He also said that the bid process was transparent and fair
“This may be a hard pill to swallow, but it is time to swallow the pill and move on,” he said at the council meeting.
Rachel Moist, a program director at T.R. Hoover, said she went up and down the streets talking to residents about this property, and most did not know that the city put the building up for bid. She said she met five entrepreneurs from the community that are currently running their businesses out of their garages and their houses and want retail space.
“We’ve been working to at least let the community know what’s going on and hear what they want,” Moist said. “I’ve heard a lot of people be like: ‘What? We don’t like this at all. This is unfair.
Other residents spoke up during the meeting and echoed Horne. Untruan Grant has lived in the apartments at 5210 Bexar Streets for about ten years and had previously owned a Dollar Store in one of the commercial units. Grant said he didn’t know about the bid until last week when other Ideal residents asked him to speak at the council meeting.
When the council voted in favor of the BridgeBuilders receiving the property, he, like many other residents, was not surprised.
“It’s the continuation of the same thing in this community,” Grant said. “If you look at it for what it is, it’s pushed agendas in order to get things in the city’s favor, but not in the community’s. It’s the same thing.”
Jonathan Fechner, executive director of BridgeBuilders, said that they have ideas to build a driving school or a financial center on the property. Their next steps are repairing the building and creating a committee of community leaders to finalize plans for the property. Right now there is only one commercial unit available and two residential units available. He said that any money they eventually make will go back into community programming.
“We sought out this opportunity to serve the community in a deeper, holistic way,” Fechner said. “We want the original purpose to come into fruition and be seen.”
BridgeBuilders got support from the Bonton Neighborhood Association, the Queens City Neighborhood Association, multiple community leaders, and dozens of Ideal residents. BridgeBuilders and organizations in Ideal, like T.R. Hoover, have worked on parallel projects for years. But now, Fechner said, he is reaching out to T.R Hoover to work together directly.
“I’m hoping that we can all sit down together — residents in Ideal, residents in Bonton, residents in Queens City — because this building, although it is located in Ideal, was not built just for Ideal. It was built for investment in South Dallas,” Fechner said.