In August, the City of Dallas proposed development of permanent supportive housing for the homeless at 12000 Greenville Avenue near Forest Lane. So many Lake Highlands neighbors turned out to oppose the plan that capacity for the library meeting room was exceeded and the fire marshal shut down the gathering.
In recent weeks, a plan has been brewing to use the land in a new way. The site would become Bonton Village, an expansion of the successful urban farm in South Dallas which grows food and creates jobs.
Daron Babcock founded Bonton Farms in 2012 to aid inner city men determined to work rather than return to prison. Jobs were scarce for folks with a record, he says, and South Dallas was a food desert.
“Today, Bonton Farms serves men and women coming out of incarceration, homelessness, domestic violence and addiction,” says Babcock. “We are rebuilding lives, and in eight years we have not had one reoffender.”
The 12-acre Lake Highlands Bonton Farms proposal includes construction of a restaurant, a bakery, a coffee shop, a co-working space, a 3,000 square foot community room, a farmhouse with roof and patio and 120 13’ x 30’ tiny houses. Services for residents would include workforce training and onsite jobs.
The city water department currently owns the land at 12000 Greenville, so site acquisition is the first step of the plan. The next step is raising $15 million for phase one of construction. Community meetings will be held in the coming weeks to solicit feedback from neighbors in Lake Highlands. The proposal is expected to go before the city council later this month, but several have already expressed their support.
“Every part of the city of Dallas needs a site like this,” said Council Member Tennell Atkins. “I’d like to see it on West Side as well,” agreed Council Member Jennifer Staubach Gates.
“I am extremely encouraged about this proposal,” said Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam McGough, “and I look forward to hearing all the input from the community. Bonton Village at Lake Highlands would provide community assets like a Farmer’s Market, cafe & co-working space in order to provide shared spaces for all to come together while providing opportunities and a pathway forward to help all reach their full potential. ”
“The single most likely cause of homelessness, the catalyst, is loss of family,” Babcock says. “Our magic sauce at Bonton Farms is giving people a place to belong.”