My Accidental Discovery - the Twelve Hills Nature Center.

   One afternoon while wandering the city, I came across a surprising nature center in the middle of an Oak Cliff neighborhood. After a little research, I learned that the Twelve Hills Nature Center was created by the neighborhood with the help of area businesses on a plot of land that once was the abandoned Twelve Hills Apartment complex. 

   The apartments, as often are the case, started out a safe and friendly place to live. In its final days, the buildings became crime ridden and in disrepair. In 1992, the 500 unit, 20 acre complex was torn down and the city, county and DISD took over the land in lieu of unpaid taxes. A portion of the land was used for the new Rosemont Elementary. Another section was was sold to a developer, who turned over 5 acres to the neighborhood to be used as a nature center.

   The center was completed with $260,000 in donations


The entrance plaza to 12 Hills Nature Center

The main trail at the neighborhood nature center

The Modern Homes of the Kessler Woods Neighborhood looks out onto 12 Hills.

One of Oak Cliff's best kept secrets, Kessler Woods, was built next to the nature center

The trails give a glimpse to what came before, bricks and concrete from the old apartment complex peek out

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Main Street Garden - The Undiscovered Gem

   While many have been enamored with the opening of the Deck Park over Woodall Rogers Freeway, it's another downtown park that may end up being the bigger success story.

   Last week I drove past Main Street Garden. I noticed that the University Center of Dallas was doing a major renovation of the old Titche - Goettinger Department Store, adding an impressive set of windows looking over the park.

Windows being added to the wall of the University Center
The University Center before the renovation of the outer wall

The TG Store with sign that covered the 1950 addition. 

   Main Street Garden was once a city block filled by the Gold Ring Parking Garage and a host of other run down buildings. It was surrounded by a variety of once majestic buildings. Sadly, most of them spent the better part of a decade vacant. The fact that someone had the vision to create a park around the massive but empty block long Mercantile Complex, the abandoned Mercantile Commerce Building, the vacant Statler Hotel, the abandoned old Dallas Public Library, the vacated Lone Star Gas Building and the mammoth but empty Titche Department Store is visionary. 
    There literally might have been more vacant office and retail space in one square mile than any place in America. Today, it's quite possibly the most impressive turnaround of any block in downtown Dallas. 

Once the site of a parking garage, the entire block was removed for Main Street Garden

A pleasant surprise, Rusty Taco located in the park

Looking west, toward the Mercantile Center

Looking east across the lawn toward the Dallas Municipal Building, soon to be the home of the new UNT Law School

The old block long vacant Mercantile Center has been adapted for luxury apartments

The Mercantile Pool Deck, overlooking Main Street Garden
The Hotel Indigo - Notice the Hilton sign is still partially visible. This was Conrad Hilton's first hotel

The Mercantile Commerce Building with its distinctive mosiac recently reopened as an apartment complex

The Lone Star Gas Building, now the Lone Star Lofts

Another glamorous downtown pool, this one part of Lone Star Lofts

Enjoy my blog? You might also enjoy my book, The Travis Club