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CitySquare tests bringing coffee shop to South Dallas

A pop-up coffee shop and café outside the historic Forest Theater is a delight to some neighbors in South Dallas.

DALLAS — There is something unique brewing around the historic Forest Theater in South Dallas this week. A pop-up coffee shop and café is catching some community members by surprise.

Staffers from CitySquare and students with Southern Methodist University’s Master of Arts in Design and Innovation program were busy outside the theater on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard on Thursday morning. They were holding signs advertising coffee and drawing crowds of curious community members.

“I’m very nosey,” said Ruby Haggerty, as she stopped by to check things out.

A Union Coffee truck and mobile café is part of a two-day test run, of sorts, for Forest Theater’s new owner CitySquare.

”So far, it seems like we are booming,” said Elizabeth Wattley, CitySquare’s Strategic Director. 

Wattley said the nonprofit and its design partners want to see how the community may respond to a coffee shop, where people can meet, convene, and use wifi. The idea and concept is part of the historic building’s future renovations.

Haggerty was excited. She said, ”Seriously? Are you serious? It would be awesome!”

Some other South Dallas neighbors believe the plan is a plus for the space that’s been sitting vacant for years.

"Conceptually, people see that and automatically think that the neighborhood is devalued," Scottie Smith II said. "It doesn’t have value because you see a major landmark like this, just kind of falling apart.”

Organizers said a coffee shop is just one perk people could see as the South Dallas landmark is renovated and reimagined. With the theater’s renovation, there are also plans for an updated retail strip, community classrooms, performance spaces, a rooftop movie theater, and hospitality training programs.

"You have a lot of people here, it’s in their natural behavior, they are going out to local coffee shops, and it’ll be a good look to have one right in our own backyard," Jason Brown said.

CitySquare is now working to raise $15 million to restore the Forest Theater. Some neighbors call the renovation ideas piping hot with potential.

The pop-up coffee shop and café will continue in front of Forest Theater on Friday from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.

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