In this weekly roundup of Dallas news, the city is trying to dig itself out of a big backlog in construction permits, and is also wading through a COVID-19 vaccine cluster. There's a new "affordable" housing development, and Dallas' new police chief is taking care of business.
Here's what happened in Dallas this week:
Home sweet shipping container
There's a cool new apartment complex made of shipping containers being built in southeast Dallas. Called the Lomax Container Housing Project, it converts old shipping containers into affordable housing for Dallas residents.
The first, located at the intersection of South Malcolm X Boulevard and Louise Avenue, consists of 19 one-bedroom apartments, 300 square feet each, including living area, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Rent will be $906 per month, including utilities. The units are reserved for renters who earn 60 percent or less of the area's median income.
The complex is from Nonprofit CitySquare Housing, in partnership with Merriman Anderson/Architects. The containers are built off-site and then installed by Falcon Structures. The project is a prototype, with other shipping container housing projects coming to other locations around Dallas-Fort Worth.
Dallas has always had issues with its building permit department, and COVID-19 has made it gravely worse, causing massive backlogs for businesses and homes that want to do construction.
According to Fox 4, the backlog started when the pandemic forced the process to move from in-person to online.
To get the process back on track, the city will spend $5 million to hire three outside companies. It's a mystery to all since other cities are not facing the same delays despite the pandemic.
"After getting the same complaints so many times, it is embarrassing," said City Council member Adam McGough. "It takes a few days in Richardson and Garland. In Dallas, it takes six to eight weeks."
There've been some bumps in the road with the deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine, which is still in limited supply and therefore available to some but not all. There were originally plans to administer by zip code, but that interfered with the directive that it should be available to anyone. There have also been accusations that it's not reaching minority populations.
On January 29, a group of Dallas leaders — including Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, Dallas County Commissioner Dr. Elba Garcia, and Dallas Council members Casey Thomas, Adam Medrano, Chad West, Omar Narvaez, Adam Bazaldua, Paula Blackmon, and David Blewett — held a press conference urging people to register for the COVID-19 Vaccine Wait List, to assist in planning for future allocation of more doses when available.
Hillcrest Village Green Park
The city of Dallas will celebrate the opening of Hillcrest Village Green Park, a uniquely constructed green space at 6959 Arapaho Rd. that was once a strip mall parking lot. The 1.5-acre park will be the centerpiece surrounded by revitalized stores and restaurants, and is being credited with renewing this north Dallas area. Hillcrest Village was acquired and is being re-developed by Shop Development, with the park being a partnership with the city. There'll be a ceremony on January 30 at 12 noon.
Dallas' new police chief Eddie Garcia has passed his Texas Commission on Law Enforcement exam and firearms training course, and is now a certified Texas peace officer. He'll be sworn in when he begins his job February 3, and wearing a Dallas Police uniform, perhaps learning a lesson from the hubbub over his predecessor Renee Hall, who took more than four months to take and pass her TCOLE exam and was not in a Dallas Police uniform when she was sworn in. Garcia was previously chief of the police department in San Jose.
The Reform Dallas website has published an election guide for the upcoming elections in May, which includes a list of candidates running for Dallas City Council, not unlike the list published on CultureMap — which makes sense since writer Micah Moore did them both — plus a calendar and list of rules.