From nascent neighborhood beer, Better Block creations, the Calatrava and Aunt Stelle’s, here’s an update on some of the most intriguing neighborhood stories and photos of the year.
BELLY UP, BABY
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The dream of brewery ownership became a reality, following years of work and planning, for Joel Denton and Oak Cliff Brewing Co. in 2018.
An accomplished home brewer, Denton started working on opening his own brewery in 2015.
By late 2017, the brewery had taken up space at Tyler Station, and Denton expected to open the brewery and taproom in early spring.
Between converting a second-story space in a 100-year-old industrial building to hold massive brewing equipment and receiving approval from state and federal licensing agencies, it took a little longer than expected.
But Oak Cliff Brewing Co. opened Sept. 1. It’s a 900-gallon capacity brewery with a bespoke taproom, conveniently located on a DART rail line.
Manhattan Brewing Co., another home-brewer-turned pro the Advocate profiled in 2018, is still producing great craft beer out of another brewery in Addison. Plans for a West Dallas brewery and taproom haven’t materialized, and co-owner Karl Sanford didn’t respond to an emailed inquiry about it.
BEYOND THE GEODESIC DOME
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What good is a 14-foot geodesic dome made of plywood?
The one that Oak Cliff-based Better Block built for Fair Park’s Earth Day celebration last year later served as a stage for musicians and speakers.
It played the role of the Death Star in the city planning nonprofit’s Star Wars-themed design competition on May 4.
And in December, it was turned into “the largest snow globe in Oak Cliff.”
Its real purpose, though, is showcasing WikiBlock, the line of street furniture designs Better Block released two years ago. WikiBlock patterns for benches, kiosks, bus-stop shelters, stools and café tables are free and can be uploaded to a CNC router so that people anywhere can “print” furniture to improve their own blocks.
A router cuts the pattern out of plywood, and the pieces are fitted together so that no glue, screws or nails are required.
The nonprofit started staging its namesake events — transforming neglected blocks with temporary lighting, seating, landscaping, bike lanes and other amenities — in Oak Cliff in 2011. Since then, they’ve taken the concept to cities around the world.
“We started to see that, by using something that was more beautifully designed and unusual looking, that it can really transform a space,” says Krista Nightengale, the nonprofit’s managing director. “So we started pushing ourselves to design more interesting, beautiful structures, and the geodesic dome was one of them.”
The dome was designed with two woodcuts that repeat and snapped together like a puzzle.
This year, the Better Block is planning to start a workforce-development program that could train local youth in digital fabrication so they might “learn how to instantly reshape their community and find creative ways to make a living,” Nightengale says.
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They popped up like pimples on what seemed like every corner of Dallas.
Green Lime Bikes, orange Spin bikes, yellow Ofos and all the others.
So many dockless rental bikes hit the Dallas market in 2017 that we were knocking them over, moving them out of the way and imagining them as sentient robots here to destroy mankind.
Residents demanded something be done about the ever-cluttering bikes, so last summer, City Council placed fees on bike-share operators in Dallas, including annual licenses and a per-bike fee that gave companies incentives to keep the flood of bikes at bay.
After that, Beijing-based Ofo pulled out of the Dallas market, abandoning hundreds and hundreds of its yellow bikes in our city. Most of them are garbage. Some have been claimed by homeless residents or spray-painted and Bedazzled by silver-lining loving hipsters.
Just when rental bikes started clearing the streets of Dallas came another rentable convenience/menace: electric scooters.
While whizzing around with little effort in the Texas heat is a cool idea, scooter accidents are resulting in serious injuries and deaths across the country.
While the evidence to that so far is anecdotal, gathered from news stories and trauma-center reports, soon there will be an accounting.
The Centers for Disease Control currently is conducting a study of scooter-related accidents in Austin.
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One of the most stomach-turning stories to come out of City Hall in 2018 was the Interstate-30 bridge debacle.
The demure sister bridge of the Santiago Calatrava-designed Margaret Hunt Hill, the Margaret McDermott Bridge opened to carry traffic across the Trinity River on Interstate 30 in 2013.
That was all fine, but then parallel bike and pedestrian lanes never opened, although they appeared to be finished.
Roadblocks with stern signs warned against trespassing on the pedestrian bridges, but neither the city nor the Texas Department of Transportation would explain the delay.
As it turns out, there’s a major engineering problem with decks designed to hold those lanes.
The Dallas Observer uncovered documents in January 2018 that revealed City Council’s choice to use “value engineering” to save money on building the $115-million bridge had resulted in flaws that could potentially cause the pedestrian decks to fail.
In the spring of 2016, engineers had found that rods used to adjust suspension cables supporting the pedestrian decks had cracked from being blown around in strong wind. The cables support only the pedestrian part of the bridge, not car traffic.
Fixing the westbound lanes could cost about $500,000 and take about six months to fix. The eastbound lanes could cost more than a year and a half and $10 million.
They remain closed.
YOU’LL NEVER HEAR SURF MUSIC AGAIN
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Summer was canceled in 2017 when it was announced that Oak Cliff’s beloved snow cone stand, Aunt Stelle’s, would not open for the season.
We waited to see if she would return for 2018, but no.
Husband-and-wife owners Lee Albert and Ed Schwartz and their business partner Mark Harris decided to call it quits.
Albert’s mother, Estelle Williams, opened the stand in 1962. Utilizing the ice-shaving machine that Albert’s dad fabricated, Aunt Stelle’s at one time was open year-round from morning ’til night.
But they started scaling back their hours about 10 years ago until they were open half days only on the weekend and only in the summertime.
Albert told the Advocate in 2010 that the business is too personal to sell. Their daughter has a career in academia, and they had no one else to whom they could hand it down.
Summer days are long and fleeting, and Aunt Stelle’s is just a memory.
In the summer of 2018, Aunt Stelle’s reopened for one day. There were no snow cones. But the owners arrived to say goodbye to customers and sell off remaining merchandise.
The building, on Clarendon at Marlborough, is expected to go up for sale late this year.