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Thursday, September 29, 2022
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Dallas Nonprofit Plans Forest Theater Redevelopment


Old Forest Theater in South Dallas | Image by NBC DFW

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Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson recently toured the iconic Forest Theater in South Dallas amid plans to restore, expand, and renovate the building.

Johnson, who admitted to WFAA that it had been some time since he had visited the Forest Theater, spoke highly of the 45,000-square-foot building’s beauty and potential.

“What stands out to me the most is this is an opportunity to really transform this part of South Dallas,” Johnson explained. Such transformation is already underway in that part of the city as Fair Park undergoes its own redevelopment project.”

The nonprofit Forest Forward acquired the Forest Theater in 2017 after it was gifted by “a philanthropic couple committed to … the arts and education.”

Mayor Johnson and Forest Forward claim that the redevelopment of South Dallas will lead to economic, retail, and housing growth.

While Johnson told WFAA he was hopeful about what the Forest Theater could be and do for the area, he also voiced his frustration with the lack of progress.

“I’ve … been frustrated by fits and starts over the years with different efforts to revitalize this particular property. It is an iconic property,” Johnson stated.

Forest Forward’s plans to redevelop the theater and surrounding area include a state-of-the-art performance hall, music and art studios, meeting spaces, green areas, restaurants, and cafés.

“This is a massive project, and it requires all hands on deck,” stated Elizabeth Wattley, Forest Forward’s president and CEO.

According to Wattley, the non-profit organization started raising funds in earnest in November 2021. Still, it is $15 million shy of honoring its community commitment to start construction in early 2023.

It is unclear whether additional fundraising will be required or if the city will decide to use taxpayer dollars to subsidize redeveloping South Dallas.

Like much of the rest of the city, South Dallas has been dealing with a significant increase in crimes of all kinds over the last few years.

As reported in The Dallas Express’ Crime Boss series, City Councilman Adam Bazaldua’s district in South Dallas had the second most significant uptick in crime in August so far, only behind four-time Dallas Crime Boss recipient Chad West of District 1.

Also complicating economic development in Dallas, as reported by The Dallas Express, is the city’s backlogged and onerous building permitting process, which has elicited complaints from builders and contractors for more than two years.

“This is just yet, one of many things we are doing to help bring our southern sector to life,” stated Mayor Johnson, “and to really give folks in this part of the city what they’ve always deserved.”

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