Good neighbor policy
Navigate the labyrinth of hallways at Methodist Hospital in Dallas and you’ll arrive at a small room housing the Oak Cliff Urban Design Storefront. Actually it’s not hard to find if you follow the trail of bright ideas leading there.
The hospital donated the space, and it’s home to some of the best thinkers and problem-solvers the UT Arlington Institute of Urban Studies, a division of the School of Urban and Public Affairs, has to offer.
SUPA students and professors teamed with Dallas city planners and the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce to create the storefront, a design and development partnership benefiting southwest Dallas. Since the collaboration’s formation in fall 2010, the three entities have developed a list of 30 projects that need attention, most related to land-use plans.
The biggest item on the agenda was synchronizing the sometimes-chaotic parking situation in the Jefferson Boulevard corridor. After completing the research phase, students recommended potential solutions, including garages, shuttles, and lot development.
“The aim is to help people get started in the development process,” says Bob Stimson, president of the Oak Cliff Chamber. “Many times, people don’t know what to do, where to go. We believe this storefront will become that place to start, a place business and development representatives can go for answers.”
SUPA Dean Barbara Becker says the partnership gives the Institute of Urban Studies the biggest lab it could ever hope to have—the city itself.
“It is a great opportunity to put our research and theoretical knowledge to applied situations,” she says. “The students are helping projects get off the ground, providing basic data needs, fresh ideas, and new perspectives.”
Malcolm Oliver, a research associate for the Institute of Urban Studies and the Oak Cliff storefront lead, was a city planner for five years before he came to UT Arlington to pursue his Ph.D. in urban planning and public policy.
“It’s a creative, collaborative process that yields real insight into community issues and gives us a chance to make communities better,” he says. “At a basic level, it’s win-win-win. It benefits everyone involved.”