Advocating for Black Business Owners in Planning Processes
Desiree Powell, founder of the urban planning and design consultancy BLCK SPCES, knows first hand the importance of helping the Black and Hispanic people in the Dallas area to create spaces beneficial to their communities. Oscar Perry Abello reports on Powell's journey from processing occupancy requests and zoning inquiries to advocating on behalf of people of color for fair processes in dealing with the tumult often involved in working with planning departments.
Abello relates the story of the case that catapulted Powell into consultancy on behalf of Black and Latino residents: helping near-retirement couple through the zoning requirements and building inspections process required to attain an up-to-date certificate of occupancy.
It took a few weeks and many meetings, but Powell successfully walked them through the zoning requirements and building inspections process to update their certificate of occupancy. After becoming recognized as a familiar, friendly face in the planning department, Powell started getting private requests from community members to facilitate complex processes, Abello says.
"Prospective entrepreneurs started coming to Powell to ask about sites they had their eye on to open a business. They wanted to check and make sure the zoning allowed for the business they had in mind. Or they wanted help going over what the buildings department would be checking as part of approving a new certificate of occupancy," writes Abello.
BLCK SPCES was born out of the desire to support the Black community in claiming space in the city. Powell works to change the reality that, despite having a majority-Black city council and a Black mayor, "where there are large concentrations of Black people and businesses, there is a predictable winner between large corporations from out of town and local Black business owners."