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Seeds of Change

Urban youth farm planned for West Dallas

illustration of planned urban farm

Progress is taking root in La Bajada, a small neighborhood in West Dallas.

With the opening of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, La Bajada is now just a short drive from downtown and a magnet for developers. The area also caught the eye of architecture Professor Don Gatzke, who had a different sort of development in mind.

After a visit to Grow Dat Youth Farm, a partnership between Tulane University and a New Orleans park, Gatzke spotted a vacant lot in La Bajada and thought it would be perfect for a similar initiative between the neighborhood and UT Arlington.

The La Bajada Urban Youth Farm began taking shape in a graduate architecture design studio course taught by Associate Professor Kevin Sloan. Students designed the site and associated structures and created a master plan.

“The response from the community and the city of Dallas has been overwhelmingly positive,” Gatzke says. “A project like this can only strengthen the La Bajada community and further define its sense of identity.”

Plans cover about three acres and include an open-air pavilion, greenhouses, raised beds for planting, a playground, and a youth baseball field. The farm will hire at-risk teens to help grow organic vegetables, herbs, and fruit. The produce could then be taken home for their families, given to food banks, or sold at farmer’s markets or local restaurants.

Gatzke, who secured a partnership with West Dallas Community Centers, is finalizing the design and securing financing.

“Being a part of this project and all the hands-on work it involves is essentially what architecture is all about,” says Tyler Shafer, a student in the design studio course. “Not only does the project have the ability to shape the future of Dallas, it’s a great representation of what UTA has to offer our local communities.”