-By Derrich Phillips, Lake Highlands Liason
Skillman El Fenix Closes
After 23 years in Lake Highlands the local El Fenix Mexican Restaurant on Skillman will close its doors at 6:00pm today (4/28). The Town Creek Crier hopes you were recently able to enjoy their original TexMex one last time in our neighborhood setting.
Lake Highlands resident and Merriman Park mom, Blythe Harrell Grates, Senior Marketing Director at Firebird Restaurant Group, which owns El Fenix, posted a message earlier this month on Nextdoor.com announcing the news. This El Fenix location in the Royal Plaza Center outlasted another local favorite, Sweet Temptations, which was located just the other side of the fountain.
She got her master’s, moved away and now she’s back to champion Hamilton Park
For the first time since finishing high school, 29-year old Taler Jefferson will again call Hamilton Park home. Taler left the neighborhood to attend Bennett College in North Carolina. She graduated three years later and earned a master’s degree at Life University before moving to Iowa with her mom, Nichole. They’ve since returned to revamp the family home and the neighborhood.
Bordered by Central Expressway, Interstate 635 and Forest Lane, the now historic neighborhood of Hamilton Park was developed as an African American subdivision. Five developers sold about 750 homes to middle-class black families, according to Dallas Morning News archives. In its heyday, residents ran errands to the Hamilton Park Shopping Center, attended one of three churches and sent their children to the neighborhood’s elementary and high schools.
Taler’s great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson, worked three jobs to purchase a four-bedroom house on Rialto Drive for $10,000 in 1956. Jefferson and his wife, DaveElla, raised eight children and planted a Hackberry tree in the front yard. Later they converted the garage into a living room, added a laundry room and a master bath.
Much to her extended family’s dismay, “the tree has to go,” because it’s dying, Taler says. The home’s foundation needs to be fixed. The bathrooms, bedrooms and floors need to be renovated. Eventually, they’ll redesign the kitchen. Taler also wants to repaint the exterior in its original white and sea-foam green.
Over the years, neighborhood businesses have shuttered, and Hamilton Park has evolved. Yet the house has remained in the Jefferson family for four generations. “Every Jefferson lived in the house at some point,” Tayler says. “You walk in, you feel the spirit of them there. That house is my heart.”
They’re not the only ones who have returned. Several of the original neighborhood residents have moved back to revamp Hamilton Park and prevent developers from razing its houses and its history. Taler is one of the neighborhood residents the old guard is calling “next generation leaders.” They advocate for the community’s needs and attend Hamilton Park Civic League meetings which are spearheaded by Taler’s great-uncle and the “unofficial mayor,” Thomas Jefferson II.
She remembers when the tennis courts and baseball field near Willie B. Johnson Recreation Center weren’t falling apart, and the grass between them was a public pool. The space is where Hamilton Park Pacesetter Magnet used to hold an annual party for sixth-graders, and where Taler had cheerleading practices.
“There’s no reason for the tennis court to look like that,” she says. “There’s no reason for the baseball field to look like that.”
Last August Taler founded The Salome Foundation. The nonprofit’s goal is to improve inner-city and low-income neighborhoods through “educating, building and serving.” Its creation stems from a church service she attended while visiting her uncle in Houston. The pastor’s sermon revolved around making change within minority communities. It resonated with Taler.
In its first year the nonprofit has awarded a $500 scholarship, organized a neighborhood clean-up event and distributed Christmas bags to the homeless.
“In the next five years, Hamilton Park will definitely be back to what we remember and know it can be,” she says.
Learn more about The Salome Foundation here.
LBJ East is the reason you’ll go elsewhere for your Egg McMuffin (for now)
Thriving businesses along LBJ between Greenville Avenue and Forest Lane have closed their doors before being demolished in recent months. Among them, Jack-in-the-Box, Metroplex Piano, and McDonald’s. This has left many Lake Highlands residents scratching their heads. What gives?
Councilman Adam McGough says the closures are part of the $1.3 billion widening of LBJ East from Central Expressway to Interstate 30 and the $31-million addition of sound barriers now under construction. New contiguous service roads will make it easier for the 200,000 cars per day which travel on the stretch to patronize Lake Highlands businesses along the way. The sound barriers are designed to insulate nearby Lake Highlands homes from what is already near constant traffic noise.
The LBJ improvement plan was given the green light by the Texas Transportation Commission in May after teams of LH residents and business owners traveled to Austin to advocate for the proposal. A compromise was required, however, due to opposition by then State Sen. Don Huffines and current State Sen. Bob Hall. Their objection was to the proposed two toll lanes in each direction, like those already built on LBJ West. Instead of 14 lanes total, LBJ East will have 12 – five free and one tolled on each side.
The massive project is expected to be completed in 2024.
State-of-the-District – submitted by Jennifer Duval
District 10 is “thriving,” according to Dallas city council member Adam McGough. He addressed several dozen residents during an annual event at Oak Highlands Brewery last week. During his presentation, McGough reported on a significant reduction in violent crime over the last year, a robust economic development program, pay raises for the beleaguered Dallas Police Department, and several successful programs designed to help young people in Lake Highlands.
McGough introduced Will Toley, the twenty-something featured in the Dallas Morning News for helping Hamilton Park residents with their property taxes. Also shared was a new website to foster volunteerism.
During the meeting, McGough talked about what Lake Highlands and Hamilton Park have to offer new businesses such as the district’s unique “Opportunity Zone” that makes neighborhood real estate more valuable in terms of property tax benefits.
Along with a demonstration from kids who’ve received training from the Forest-Audelia Boxing Gym, which features programs to teach young people discipline and fitness while providing them with a productive after-school activity.
Students from Lake Highlands High School gave a demonstration of their speaking abilities while promoting a raffle to fund their appearances at competitions. LHHS School Resource Officer Anna Kubeer spoke of her success with the student body. She helps maintain discipline, rewards good behavior, and teaches kids how to engage with police officers during positive and not-so-positive situations. As a result of her programs she said on-campus incidents have gone from 70 to 16.
During his address, McGough expressed a desire to bring apartment-dwellers and single-family homeowners together. He plans to do this through community events, such as “Trunk or Treat” and “Hope for the Holidays.” He spoke of bridging the gap between the disparate communities in District 10. “It’s not a competition,” he said. “It’s not ‘us versus them.”