Monday, April 11, 2016

Renewal, history, civic call-to-arms combine in trailblazing documentary with message for all

Garland's South 11th Street--oh, wasn't that the place that got the Pace House?

Isn't that where the neighbors had the street closed?

A Texas Historical Marker--didn't one get installed there last year?

Aren't a bunch of pretty restored homes situated there?

Many people by now may have heard something about our little street--only two blocks long at its core in the Travis College Hill historic district. But they may not know the full picture about how ridding the town of "Marijuana Avenue" (our nickname for a portion of West Avenue C that ran by our house) relates to historic preservation in an area that one sympathetic official once identified as "going nowhere" and that another community leader once called "that slum". Or how a major neighborhood re-invention was kick-started when Garland's Pace House was featured in Time Inc.'s 1.1 million-circulation This Old House magazine.

And how in the world did two retirement-age folks whose daily calendar now is governed by grandkids' carpools get so deeply involved in all of this—something so far removed from our globe-trotting days as journalists with a keen interest in all things religious?

 And what about this would be considered "magic", anyway? 

 All of those questions and more are answered in a new 25-minute documentary video, Saving Magic 11th Street, slated to premiere free at 2 p.m. Friday, April 22, at Garland's Plaza Theater on the city's historic downtown Square. The video will then be played continuously in the parlor of one of the 103-year-old homes (401 S. 11th Street) in Travis College Hill during the noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 23, historic home tour. Both events are part of Garland's 125th "birthday party" Heritage Celebration.

Afterward we plan to share the short film with troubled neighborhoods, wannabe historic districts, and other interested parties all across Texas and the U.S. that we believe need to hear the call-to-arms message the documentary has to offer.

Many neighborhoods in lots of cities across our country—and even overseas—could benefit from lessons we and our resourceful neighbors have learned—and the skills we all have developed—along the way as we watched, at first helplessly, as our beloved neighborhood slipped from respect and honor into neglect and abuse and then moved back again to well-deserved honor and regard in our community today.

As Garland Mayor Douglas Athas throws out the gauntlet on camera so aptly, "If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere." The principles are the same, though the geographic locations may vary!

This is a "neighborhood documentary" like few others you will ever have the opportunity to see. It shows a special glimpse of what can happen when resourceful neighbors, responsible government entities, and others who "get it" cooperate in such an ambitious civic venture. It features duplicatable how-to's for taking your neighborhood back, insights from citizens and city leaders, lavish aerial footage, and glimpses of past glory days that will strike a deep chord with many recalling their own hometowns. It shows the concurrent track between Travis College Hill's refurbishment and the downtown Garland rebirth just blocks away. 

A documentary of this caliber and magnitude would be too costly for us, or for other average citizens, to produce, despite high intentions. To hire an outside firm to chronicle such detailed and personal highlights over a three-year period of time while these events were taking shape would have had a price tag into the stratosphere.

But our son, Matthew J. Moore, whose work-life has been blessed with some exceptional professional opportunities, has been deeply committed to following and telling this phenomenal story, though he lives two states away. Thanks to his video-production talents (and those of his sweet-spirited colleagues), plus his devotion to his parents and to the memory of his grandparents (11th Street residents for nearly 50 years), Kay and I have had to invest only a modest sum for this magnificent short film. We have no intention whatsoever of ever even trying to earn back our costs.

The video is our gift to all the Garland movers and shakers, past and present—including mayors, city councilmembers, a Dallas County commissioner, a school-board president, doctors, preachers, school administrators, postmasters, small-business owners, and many others but especially to Kay's parents, J.D. and Mable Wheeler—who ever lived in Travis College Hill or who will come after us in this quaint 103-year-old vintage neighborhood.

It is also our gift to all the citizens of Garland who live in an aging, inner-ring Dallas community facing numerous hurdles as the city tries to reinvent itself for a brighter tomorrow alongside many other competitor-cities in the DFW Metroplex who are striving—sometimes with more wealth and resources—for the same thing.

Please join us for the premiere at 2 p.m. on Friday, April 22, at the Plaza Theater (the beautifully spruced-up movie house where, incidentally, my wife watched Saturday-afternoon flickers during her childhood)—and then participate with us in trumpeting forth the message that decay and ultimately the wrecking ball aren't the best answers for aging neighborhoods and downtown areas.

This renewal project has made us better citizens. We believe viewers will become better for having learned about it.