Thursday, December 2, 2010

What a Year It's Been

It's been almost a year since CitySquare (formerly Central Dallas Ministries) moved its first residents into CityWalk@Akard.

What a year it's been!

Those first few months were heady and exciting. The opening of our downtown 'vertical community' was met with both congratulations and trepidation. We were either the greatest social innovators on earth, or we represented the end of Western civilization as the world has come to know it.

Alright, the last clause in that sentence was a bit of an exaggeration, but you get my point.

What's been the difference?

It's very interesting to contrast those first few months when there were barely people in the building, to these days when, on any given day, there are people in the lobby, customers in the 7-11 on the first floor, groups meeting in our community and board rooms and the hustle and bustle of staff working on various projects.

It's always interesting talking to the residents and hearing their stories. The parents with children in the elevator after having picked them up from school; the guy who works at a downtown hotel talking about what he's going to do on his day off; or the tenant talking about the quality of the paper he turned in for his class at El Centro. It's gratifying seeing the our neighbors on the garden deck talking about their problems, gossiping about other tenants or their families.

Volunteers are starting to que up to provide holiday meals for some residents. We've just opened up a clinic that will see residents in the building. There are dance classes for the children, music lessons being planned for residents and a whole host of activities that are being planned for the coming year. The activities are designed to help tenants access benefits, job search or job training or address any one of the many issues that will help them achieve self sufficiency or simply get accustomed to downtown living. Not all of the residents are homeless, most are low income and nearly all of them are doing well. Like apartment life anywhere else in Dallas, some of our neighbors will move on, but the most important thing I remember nearly everytime I come to work, is that there are people here, some for the first time in years, have a decent place to call home.

This year has been challenging because there was no 'vacuum' in which all this has taken place. CitySquare's work continues! I'll write more about what's happened this year in the next post.
But CityWalk@Akard is a signature, iconic project that is a testimony to what it means to have a place where people who are different in nearly every way that you can define 'different', are living together, working together and forging wonderful relationships together.

It's called 'community'...

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