Forest Forward says it has at least half of the $75.2M goal for historic South Dallas theater
South Dallas nonprofit Forest Forward says with $11.5 million in investments, it has raised more than half of its capital campaign for renovation and expansion of the historic Forest Theater.
Forest Forward, which launched its capital campaign of $75.2 million in the fall of 2021, said this ensures construction will begin this year. Over the past year, Forest Forward has received $5 million from the Communities Foundation of Texas, $4 million from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, $1 million from the Constantin Foundation, $1 million from the Rainwater Charitable Foundation and $500,000 from an anonymous donor. among other donations.
“With this infusion of funding, Forest Forward is strongly positioned as a catalyst for sustainable community and economic development in sunny South Dallas,” Elizabeth Wattley, CEO of Forest Forward, said in a press release. “Our strategy is focused on holistic and inclusive revitalization including arts education, cradle-to-college support, building of mixed-income housing, and the restoration of the historic Forest Theater.”
Forest Forward is focused on South Dallas as a whole, and not just the theater. The nonprofit forged a partnership with Dallas ISD and the Martin Luther King Jr. Arts Academy to foster arts education in the community and plans to build mixed-income housing in the area.
Forest Forward is set to hold a grand opening in December 2024, the theater’s 75th anniversary. The new Forest Theater will include a 1,000-seat performance hall, a 13,000-square-foot arts education hub, a studio theater, café offerings and a roof top feature.
The theater, built in 1949, primarily served the Jewish population of South Dallas. Black attendees were segregated and required to sit on the balcony. Forest Theater struggled to stay open over the years until it permanently closed in 2008 after former owner Erykah Badu left. Forest Forward acquired the property in 2017.
For Wende Burton, chief philanthropy officer at Communities Foundations of Texas, Forest Forward was the best choice to revitalize the theater.
“I think Elizabeth and her team have done a really great job of including the voice and the needs and the desires of the community and bringing them along with her so that the community feels a sense of ownership on this project,” Burton said. “It’s not being done to them, but with them and for them.”
Revitalizing the community and not gentrifying it is Wattley’s and Forest Forward’s goal.
“We are elated to receive these substantial investments in support of our work that will create lasting impact for our neighbors,” said Wattley in a press release.