Mayor Rawlings evaluates progress, future of GrowSouth in fifth annual report

Mayor Mike Rawlings delivered his fifth annual GrowSouth report on Tuesday May  23rd before a crowd of hundreds of residents and business and community leaders at The Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff. As GrowSouth enters year six, Mayor Rawlings discussed its successes, reflected on key lessons and outlined the initiative’s future.

“I am proud of the progress we have made in southern Dallas in the last six years,” said Mayor Mike Rawlings. “We have seen companies join this effort because they understand that southern Dallas is a strong investment opportunity. GrowSouth has been a perfect example of what we can achieve through public-private partnerships, and I hope to see more organizations, neighborhoods and residents take part in this growth.”

Data in GrowSouth’s eight focus areas showed steady progress and a positive outlook for southern Dallas. For the first time, southern Dallas is experiencing growth at a higher rate than northern Dallas. The tax base has increased over $4.5 billion since 2011. Southern Dallas has also had a higher tax base growth rate than northern Dallas, 25.3% vs 12.1%. Since 2012, real property values have increased by 43.5 percent, while real estate investment has increased $163.2 million annually. The eight focus areas are Greater Downtown/Cedars, DART Green Line, West Dallas Gateway, Lancaster Corridor, Red Bird, Education Corridor / International Inland Port of Dallas (IIPOD), North Oak Cliff and Pinnacle Park Expansion.

To sustain growth, the Mayor drew attention to neighborhoods in this year’s presentation. In 2016, GrowSouth increased its focus on neighborhood empowerment by engaging over 1,000 volunteers to assist with projects like tree plantings, mural paintings and community garden installations. Neighborhood organizations designed and installed over 250 neighborhood signs. The Mayor highlighted the importance of these projects to continue the growth in southern Dallas.

“Southern Dallas needs strong neighborhoods to thrive,” said Mayor Rawlings “They are the backbone to this growth, and when neighborhoods are engaged, the entire city flourishes.”

The Mayor called for unity as a key step forward. He alluded to last year’s deadly ambush attack on police officers and its aftermath as a prime example of how essential it is to be a united city.

“July 7th was the most difficult time for our city, yet for the first time, I felt like we were one city,” said Mayor Rawlings. “I then realized that sometimes we can focus too much on the important work that we’re doing in southern Dallas that we forget that we are one Dallas. Southern Dallas is part of Dallas, and we must work each day toward a more unified city.”

The Mayor in 2015 introduced four overlaying initiatives, known as accelerators, that would help accelerate growth in southern Dallas. The first accelerator, the GrowSouth Advisory Council, has led to two key focus areas of GrowSouth Arts and GrowSouth Real Estate. The latter group will focus on residential real estate and why people should live and buy homes in southern Dallas.

The Mayor’s Neighbor Up program, led by three full-time general managers, is focused on jobs, schools and development. Due to the other two accelerators, more middle class single-family homes are available for ownership and the city of Dallas has gotten more serious about landlords’ upkeep of single-family rental homes.

Among other key lessons that the Mayor stressed are the need to collect and follow the data, encourage more active listening and leverage pride in southern Dallas. The private sector has given millions to GrowSouth, and Mayor Rawlings urged businesses to continue investing. He also reiterated that GrowSouth cannot just be “the mayor’s Initiative.” He urged city leaders to own GrowSouth and develop strategies that would last beyond his term.

The mayor’s address came on the same day Starbucks announced the opening of a unique new store in the Red Bird shopping district, the latest victory for the GrowSouth effort in that area of town. The Starbucks, expected to open in Spring 2018, will provide in-store training opportunities for youth and will work with local minority-owned businesses.

The full 2017 GrowSouth annual report is available to view here –

Watch the 2017 GrowSouth Film: