Group plans fundraiser, says project would fuel economic development
A group of Oak Cliff residents and business people want to resurrect a historic streetcar rail line to help spur economic redevelopment in the area.
The Oak Cliff Transit Authority, which was founded in 2006, will hold its first public fundraiser at the Ice House Cultural Center, on Thursday, Sept. 6, from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The event, featuring food from Oak Cliff restaurants, live music and a silent auction, will lay out the group’s plans for bringing streetcars back to Oak Cliff.
The fundraiser will finance a streetcar feasibility study by Huitt-Zollars, a Dallas-based consulting firm. The consulting firm designed the McKinney Avenue streetcar system that now operates in Uptown and Downtown Dallas.
The coordinators of the project envision the proposed 4.6-mile streetcar line as a link between Oak Cliff’s entertainment and shopping district and Downtown Dallas. The project is intended to support area businesses by creating park-and-ride options for customers visiting Oak Cliff businesses while creating a more pedestrian-friendly environment and reducing automobile congestion and pollution.
The proposed route of the Oak Cliff streetcar line would run along Group to Bishop and Colorado streets to connect the Bishop Arts District’s restaurants and shops, the Ice House Cultural Center and the historic Texas Theater, which is being restored as a performance center.
Andrea Roberts, a member of the board of directors of the Oak Cliff Transit Authority, said the community has responded with enthusiasm to the project. A private fundraiser held at the home of one of the coordinators drew strong support from residents and developers, she said.
“Everyone seems real excited,” Roberts said. “It’s really been an overwhelmingly positive response.”
Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Elba Garcia, whose area of representation includes the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff, said she supports the project and will be at the fundraiser.
“I think it is exciting,” Garcia said. “It is something that is part of the Oak Cliff history, and why not bring it back.”
Garcia said the project’s viability is yet to be determined, but she suspects it is the right time to launch such an effort because of the Trinity River Corridor Project and the revitalization of Downtown Dallas.
“If the time has ever been right, this is the time,” Garcia said. “There’s a lot of momentum in the North Oak Cliff area. The Trinity River project has brought a lot of new opportunities and development.”
Garcia said every development project should include public transportation components.
“That’s been my drum all along,” Garcia said.
Roberts said that she and the other coordinators believe that the feasibility study will show that the project is doable.
“I definitely think it is viable,” Roberts said. “It’s proven in every city where they’ve brought the streetcars back that it has really improved the area as far as encouraging development and returns on investments. They were here once so there’s no reason why they can’t be brought back again.”
Eight cities across the country have brought back streetcars during the last decade, Roberts said.
One of those cities is Portland, the project after which the Oak Cliff project is modeled.
Coordinators of the project hope to raise a mix of private and public money to finance the Oak Cliff streetcar line.
They hope to complete the initial phase of the project by spring of 2011.
Roberts said the coordinators are expecting a big turnout for the fundraiser.
About 20 miles of streetcar lines once transported Oak Cliff residents, but the lines were paved over when the city replaced the electric streetcars with motorized buses in the mid-1950s.
For information visit www.oakcliffta.org.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 24, 2007