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, Olinka Green
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 highlight Olinka Green.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your background, what were you doing prior to joining Trinity Park Conservancy?
A. My background is working with at-risk children and currently I work on environmental advocacy. I go to different cities and conduct workshops on environmental solutions in communities of color
Q. What sparked your interest in getting involved with the Conservancy?
A. The redesigning of the Dawson State Jail. I wanted to be a part of something that would dismantle a system of oppression and transform it into something positive.
Q. What’s your favorite way to enjoy the Trinity River? What are some of your favorite activities?
A. Going down to the river especially in the spring. I watch the birds and in the fall I watch the leaves change.
106 W Commerce Interview Questions
Q. What does 106 W Commerce mean to you?
A. It means transformation from a system of oppression to a system of endless possibilities. A space of freedom.
Q. What would you like the building to represent in the future?
A. Growth, transformation and rebirth. What it meant for me after I was released from the prison system. I experienced a rebirth and fulfillment. When you’re locked up, your potential is limited. Once I was released I took off like a rocket!
Q. What does design justice mean to you?
A. Removing systems of oppression and replacing them with systems of unlimited opportunity.
Q. How can the Conservancy utilize design justice practices with 106 W Commerce?
A. Through listening to the community. Those who have lived near that area, those who were incarcerated and young people who have ideas of what they want their future to look like. Active listening and participation from the community.
Q. How would you encourage others to challenge current systems of injustice?
A. To become active to seek out those spaces that oppress us and plan to have people who can support you and have a strong sense of action and urgency. You’re not doing it just for yourself but for future generations. There’s an African proverb that says if you come into a space, leave it better than how you found it.
Q. What are some major misconceptions about formerly incarcerated individuals you would like to address?
A. That we all will go back out and commit crimes. We don’t value our freedom. We’re lazy, we don’t vote. We all have a criminal mind. We’re all guilty. I believe there are two types of justices in this country, one for black and one for white.
Q. What kind of impact do you hope the future of building will have on the City and on Harold Simmons Park?
A. I’m hoping that the impact will be seen as a symbol of transformation, new growth and new opportunities. Going from a space of oppression to a space of opportunity.
Some of Olinka’s Dallas Favorites
- Favorite Dallas restaurant?
- Fadi’s Mediterranean Grill
- What’s your favorite park in Dallas?
- JJ Lemon Park, it’s where I grew up.