It’s easy to drive in many places on Martin Luther King Boulevard on Holmes Street and Dallas and not see a change and miss an opportunity – but it is there.
“We are focused on turning this land into a food park this week,” said Krista Nightengale, executive director of the non-profit organization. Better Block Foundation. “Creative seating, green space and more healthy choices for dining, and even some seating options. We’re trying to bring all of those elements into this space.”
Better Block and The Real Estate Council are the main partners behind MLK Food Park, opening Friday as part of a month-long pop-up event in the South Dallas Forest district.
“It was a hallelujah moment when we discovered that the thoughts and ideas we’ve been talking about for the past seven, 10, 12 years are now emerging,” said Donald Wesson of Cornerstone Community Development Corporation. “It’s desperately needed. It’s a forgotten neighborhood in South Dallas that lacks the infrastructure to build a community. We don’t have coffee shops or parks, but we have lots of liquor stores.”
Wesson was among those in the parking lot on a sunny Monday morning helping to turn it into a lively place where vendors would sell food and families would gather.
“This is like the beginning of a real transformation that is taking place in the Forest district. And for many residents here, this is the first time they will see some real change come to life,” said Kristen Leiber, senior project manager for The Better Block.
Better Block is a non-profit organization at Oak Cliff that uses design to activate spaces and bring people together. Better Block conducts a survey of residents in the Forest District and designs a plan based on what they want.
“We want to know what they want to see and why. And one of the top things that is being asked for is art, music and landscape in this space. So, we want to bring greenery to them. We want to present the sights and sounds they want to see. So , we have lighting. We have art. We have sculpture, “Leiber said.
The food park will open on weekends and feature a weekly rotation of food trucks and trailers, vendors, as well as musicians and entertainers. Every slot is filled.
“It costs them nothing to be a part of this. They have to go through a licensing process,” said Nightengale.
The temporary food park will also provide important information. This will be a testing ground to see if Dallas is ready to expand its policy on mobile food vendors.
“The policy we have at the moment regarding mobile food vendors is mostly food trucks. And food trucks are good, but they have a higher entry level. About $ 50,000 to $ 250,000 to build a food truck. With a food trailer, it’s more like $. 25,000. So the city started allowing food trailers. And we just wanted to show people what it would be like if we had a full-fledged food park built around various forms of mobile food vendor, “Nightengale explained.
“It’s always been something we want for society. The food and food business, not only to provide fresh nutrition and access to food but also to provide food-related jobs,” said Wesson, who runs the non-profit organization of Cornerstone Baptist Church. The congregation has a community kitchen and will allow multiple food vendors to use the space.
Over the course of 30 days, the vacant lot will develop into a vibrant place for family, food, and fellowship. The hope is that everyone will see what is built and tested can work – and it can work in South Dallas.
“We wanted to test the concept and then, there’s a lesson to be learned from that. So, we set things up to emerge and be destroyed. Some people expect them to stay. Some people want to change, and that’s kind of beauty in what we do, “said Leiber. “It’s a quick win for the community. It’s a fast build, and it helps people imagine a more permanent item.”
Wesson believes the community will embrace transformation and lasting change will result.
“We act on faith and belief and something bigger and bigger than us. And, we also realized that to make an omelette, we had to break an egg to get there,” smiled Wesson.
“People will be very happy. We have so many amazing vendors that I think people will be excited to come here and see the possibilities.” Nightengale said.
MLK FOOD PARK
1611 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
April 9 – May 2, 2021
Friday: 6pm – 8pm
Saturday & Sunday: 11am – 2pm