Over the coming weeks, we will be highlighting each one of the CDAs that is doing this important work to better understand why they are involved in this project, what they hope the messages they’re hearing will mean for the site and to get to know them all a little better.
106 W Commerce Spotlight: Community Design Advocates, Brian Washington
In 2019, the Trinity Park Conservancy (Conservancy) purchased the former Jesse R. Dawson State Jail at 106 W. Commerce as part of the vision to generate significant economic, social and environmental value for the neighboring communities and all residents of Dallas. This project is an immense opportunity to transform a former site of mass incarceration into a public-facing space that both reckons with its history and provides useful and needed community areas.
Over the past year the Conservancy and the 106 W Commerce Project team, which consists of
● Weiss/Manfredi and MMDA – Lead Architect and their local partner
● Colloqate Design – Design Justice
● HR&A Advisors – Financial Feasibility,
has been working in partnership with Community Design Advocates (CDAs) whose goal it is to broaden and deepen this project’s connection and responsiveness to the various communities it serves. CDAs work closely with the project team to identify the collective narratives within communities around Dallas. Through the program, designers and owners outside of communities can be in direct collaboration with community members on a consistent basis.
Working together we hope to develop an accurate understanding of how this building can best answer to its history as a site of mass incarceration, how it can best serve as a gateway into the larger Trinity River natural environment, and what spaces and programming it can host for the many communities it has the opportunity to serve. CDAs have been reaching out to their communities about the project, both informally and with scheduled gatherings and each CDA invites community members to scheduled gatherings with the project team.
Over the coming weeks, we will be highlighting each one of the CDAs that is doing this important work to better understand why they are involved in this project, what they hope the messages they’re hearing will mean for the site and to get to know them all a little better. This week we’re starting off with, Brian Washington.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your background, what were you doing prior to joining Trinity Park Conservancy?
A. My background is with nonprofits dealing with at-risk youth and teenagers. Before joining the Conservancy, I’ve always worked as a social worker and life coach. I’m also a youth and teen mentor.
Q. What sparked your interest in getting involved with the Conservancy?
A. The work they were doing with the jail and how they are planning to redevelop the Trinity River area with Harold Simmons Park.
Q. What’s your favorite way to enjoy the Trinity River? What are some of your favorite activities?
A. My favorite activity is walking over the bridge and looking at the area when it’s flooded. The amount of water that flows through the Trinity River to the gulf is pretty cool. Once the park is built, I’ll be exploring that.
106 W Commerce Questions
Q. What does 106 W Commerce mean to you? What would you like the building to represent in the future?
A. It means history, whether it’s good or bad. I would like it to be representative of what happened inside the building and representative of the individuals that were housed there whether that’s the inmates or the staff.
Q. What does design justice mean to you? How can the Conservancy utilize design justice practices with 106 W Commerce?
A. It means equality to me. Encompassing everything that happened there.
Q. How has activism or advocacy influenced your work or your personal life?
A. As far as my work, it helps those who don’t have a voice or those who are underserved.
Q. How would you encourage others to challenge current systems of injustice? Or advocate for causes they care about?
A. In one sentence I would say if you see it, don’t be silent.
Q. What are some major misconceptions about formerly incarcerated individuals you would like to address?
A. That they’re all crooks and criminals. If someone’s been in prison then they’re not worthy.
Q. What are some barriers after release some people don’t consider or even think about?
A. Housing, employment, food insecurity and education. For education, if you’re a felon you can’t get federal assistance for school.
Q. What kind of impact do you hope the future of building will have on the City and on Harold Simmons Park?
A. Togetherness. Bringing not only our community but our city together to see what went on at 106 and to realize the history. Not to move on but don’t stay still if there’s a race issue. Acknowledge it.
Some of Brian’s Dallas Favorites
- Favorite Dallas restaurant?
- What’s your favorite park in Dallas?
- Whenever Harold Simmons Park is finished it’ll be that, but for right now it’s Kylde Warren.