Dallas City Council assists Emmitt Smith with redevelopment efforts in Southern Dallas

Emmitt Smith and Tamela Thornton
Emmitt Smith and Tamela Thornton

The Dallas Examiner

NFL Hall of Famer and three-time Super Bowl champion Emmitt Smith is using his talents off the field to help GrowSouth.

Smith’s development company, E Smith Communities, was approved for a $750,000 grant from the Dallas City Council at its meeting on May 22, to help redevelop and renovate the former Urban League Building, located at 4315 S. Lancaster Road.

Smith said his company plans to redevelop the site into a mixed-use project. The building has been vacant since 2015 when the Urban League of Greater Dallas shut down. The site is located across from the Veteran Affairs Hospital and is part of the Lancaster corridor.

“It’s about making an effect and making a change in the community,” Smith said. “We wanted to do our part in revitalizing the Southern Sector in order to bring the city closer together in terms of tax revenue. As a retailer, developer and real estate guy, understanding the cycle of demographics as to what the retailers are looking for is a major challenge. So, at the end of the day, we definitely have to deal up the workforce and also have to create job wages that are sufficient enough.”

The initiative is set to bring up to 200 jobs to the area.

City Council member Carolyn King Arnold of District 4, where the property is based, is excited about the efforts.

“It’s good to have partners who are not just entrepreneurs but are now public servants,” King said. “For years the community has been asking what is going on with the Urban League, and that we need workforce, we need retail. This is a serious conversation that has hit the hearts of the many people in that community. They are looking forward now to the revitalization of this some three acres and the transformation of the community.”

Smith is working closely with Tamela Thornton, CEO of E Smith Communities, who is in charge of the project.

“When we first looked at the space, we were looking for opportunities to create a space that could be both commercially viable and a corridor that should be the commercial spine of the Southern part of the city, as well as opportunities to provide work and job training potential for residents who are part of the community or the surrounding area,” Thornton stated.

Thornton said there is nothing like this in the area.

“It’s important for us to really look into this facility, as well look at the corridor and say what can we do and start incrementally to changing the character of retail, as well as the perception for outsiders and retailers as what shall work in our communities and what can be sustainable and affordable in our communities,” she explained.

Smith said this project will not be a flea market.

“There is pent-up demand and people have to take leadership roles like Peter Brodsky is right now,” she said. “To show folks that it can actually happen, and that is what we are trying to do.”

Also on the agenda, the City Council approved of a resolution to further the city of Dallas efforts to support diverse, racial, ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and to promote equity in the community.

Council member Arnold praised Mayor Mike Rawlings for his efforts to promote equity.

“Mayor, you brought to the city a statement of growing south that a lot of folks don’t want to touch,” Arnold said. “It does attempt to support investment in a diverse racially ethnic and cultural and different social economic background in the south. Know that even though you are not here, we are going to continue that push, and I’m glad to see that resolution here. We must continue the investment of the south.”

Mayor Pro Tem Casey Thomas of District 3 agreed.

“This will make a great statement for the city of Dallas regarding leadership,” he said. “This is the day and time for us to make the city of Dallas right and to make sure things are done in a fair and equitable manner.”

Also, the City Council voted in favor of selling the Robert E. Lee and the confederate soldier statue by sculptor Alexander Phimister Proctor. The plan is to sell the statue in an online auction for at least $450,000 and to the highest bidder. It is now considered surplus property by the city. Once sold, the statue cannot be displayed on public property in the city of Dallas.

Last, the City Council voted for an ordinance regarding the Dallas Public Library, which amended chapter 24 – “Library” – of the Dallas City Code by eliminating fees for overdue books, the $1 fee for failure to present a library card, and the $4 replacement fee for a new library card. It also authorized the library director to administer two annual amnesty periods to forgive some or all fees accrued due to overdue books.

Thomas supported this measure as well.

“I think it takes foresight to say we live in a city that was number one in poverty, and we are quickly moving down the list,” Thomas said. “There are so many families that are impacted as it relates to library fines. I am glad we are going to be able to move forward on this, and I think it will make a tremendous difference in when we look at how families who are impacted by poverty will be able to benefit from the city services that are provided by our libraries.”

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