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Melissa Konur

You might not think urban dwelling is possible in Fort Worth, especially with two kids, but Melissa Konur is making it happen. She and her husband, Sanjay, moved to Fort Worth from New York City in 2008 and have wasted no time making Cowtown their home. The couple is raising 4-year-old Dylan and 1-year-old Oliver in a loft apartment housed in a converted factory in the city’s Near Southside neighborhood. Melissa is the planning director for Downtown Fort Worth, Inc., a nonprofit membership organization that plans, promotes, advocates and implements projects and events for downtown. When you see projects such as The JFK Tribute and the Plaza at Sundance Square or hear about Plan 2023, a strategic action plan for downtown's future, chances are Melissa’s been a part of it.
 
How did you become interested in urban planning?
I was a sociology and government major in undergrad, and then I participated in an AmeriCorps program in Boston. It was there in Boston that I saw the relationship between the physical environment and the social and economic environment. I felt a calling to want to understand and to figure out how to make better places for people to live.
 
What’s the metroplex doing right in terms of urban planning?
We have a council of regional governments that talks about regional planning, which is a good thing and critical for our growth. I also think Fort Worth is really looking to engage young people. I think that’s positive.
 
And what could Fort Worth improve upon?
We need to create more connectivity between the neighborhoods in Fort Worth, making it easier to get to and from downtown and to other adjacent districts. We also need to create sustainable neighborhoods.
 
Why did you decide to continue an urban life here in Fort Worth instead of setting up shop in the ’burbs?
We wanted to be close enough to downtown so we could walk or bike to the things we like to do. We also like the idea of neighbors on the other side of the wall and the sense of community that it brings.
 
How does such an open loft space work for your family?
We liked the concept of communal space where I could be cooking and Sanjay could be playing with the kids all in the same room. We have privacy, of course. The bathrooms have doors and the kids have a door. Oliver can toddle all around and Dylan has plenty of room. They have the freedom of the whole space, and I can still keep an eye on them.
 
What do the four of you like to do the most?
We go to the museums a lot. Trinity Park, the library, the Water Gardens, Magnolia on the Green. Basically, any free or community activity, we do it. We also like to eat out and support local businesses. Dylan loves Paco and John on 8th Avenue, and we like Saviano's pizza downtown too.
 
Word on the street is that Dylan had a pretty cool piñata at his fourth birthday party this summer.
I thought since I had energy, we’d have a party at home. We like ice cream, so I thought that a make-your-own sundae party would be a simple theme. I tried to come up with activities, like pin-the-cherry-on-the-ice-cream sundae and the ice cream cone piñata. I thought it’d be a fun way to introduce the kids to an old-fashioned kind of party. I got the piñata at Jugueteria Nili, where they custom-made it.
 
Have the boys started talking about Halloween already?
Dylan was a lawn care maintenance guy last year, and Oliver was a pile of leaves. This year, I think Dylan wants to be a superhero.
 
Tell me about your book club.
The idea was that it’s hard to find the time to read nonfiction – even though it is a topic you want to know more about, you might not read it on your own. So we’ve read books about gender, raising young boys and girls, the environmental causes of cancer and food policy – we read The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. We also read a book about current issues facing our educational system and watched the documentary Waiting for Superman.
 
How do you teach the boys about Sanjay’s Indian heritage?
We read stories that we look for at the library. One of Dylan’s favorite foods is dal [an Indian dish made with lentils] and these sweets called pedas that my mother-in-law makes. If there’s a wedding in the family or among friends, we try to go. We talk about the outfits that people are wearing. When I go to an event, I always wear a sari [an Indian dress] and the kids wear their clothes. When Sanjay’s mom comes to visit, she goes to Dylan’s class and gives a little talk about Indian culture.
 
You like to cook. What would you create if you had an entire day to do nothing but cook?
I used to have a dinner group in New York. Kids have made cooking and entertaining more challenging. I’d like to try a few more things that are time-consuming. I’ve never cooked croissants. Right now I cook things that are easy and fast. We joined a CSA [community supported agriculture group] this year, so I do a lot of stir fries and roasted veggies. I would love to make gnocchi, pasta and bread from scratch if I had more time.
 
Do you have a signature dish for your pescetarian household?
I make a pepper paneer [cheese] dish that’s pretty quick, spicy and tasty. I have a black bean and scrambled eggs quesadilla and also a tandoori salmon that we like.
 
You like to go out for frozen yogurt. What do you get?
Vanilla. I’m so boring. If there’s a flavor that has sea salt or dulce de leche I might get that. If I get toppings, I may add a sprinkle of chocolate jimmies.
 
Favorite local shopping haunts?
I like going to Foch Street to The Greener Good. They have a little bit of everything. There’s a toy store on Camp Bowie – Toy Works – that’s good for kids’ birthday gifts.
 
What’s surprised you the most about motherhood?
How much I really like it. Not that I didn’t expect to, but I just really like them as people. The fact that they learn something new every day, and you can help foster that. I love watching their little minds work.
 
If Dylan and Oliver only learn one thing from you in this life, what would you hope it would be?
I guess to be open to new ideas and respect people. Explore everything.