Saturday, March 21, 2009
Oak Cliff’s Bishop Arts District faces potential expansion
Residents hope that changes will maintain the historical integrity of the neighborhoods.
Nestled in a cluttered strand of colorful taquerias and tired tire shops, the Bishop Arts District represents what many civic leaders say is the rebirth and rebranding of Oak Cliff.
The area, located at the intersection of Davis Street and Bishop Avenue, is an oasis of independent art galleries, quirky retailers and upscale dining − often found in converted former US-Highway 80 auto shops.
By Flickr user Scutter
Drawing parallels between the Bishop Arts District area and the artsy city of Austin, President of Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce Bob Stimson says the Davis Street area has seen a metamorphosis of younger traffic take place over the past five years.
“This place is just funky,’” Stimson said. “There’s an incredible amount of energy for hip, young folks.”
Many residences and shop owners say the diversity and quirkiness of Oak Cliff is exactly what makes the Davis Street area so popular. Amid recent buzz about re-development, most hope that any changes will maintain the historical integrity of the neighborhoods.
A group of local developers, homeowners, and shopkeepers recently commissioned a study to find ways to improve the area. Working with an architect, the group came up with ideas that include installing more mixed-use development with upscale retail venues, a chapel, and subsidized artist living space.
But some residents and shop owners are fearful that this sort of development could encroach on the area’s rich history. They want to preserve the older buildings and many of the Hispanic-run businesses that operate at the edge of the Bishop Arts District.
SMU alum, Oak Cliff native, and owner of Zola’s Everyday Vintage in the Bishop Arts District Annette Norman has mixed feelings about the talk of change coming.
“I don’t want things bulldozed just so someone can say, ‘I live in the hot, new area of Oak Cliff,’” said Norman.
As a shop owner though, Norman knows that change means a population shift, attracting even more young, urban professionals, which for her translates to more business.
“Bring it on,” said Norman. “The time has come.”
Testament to the increasing youthful draw of Davis Street, SMU senior Sam Stravinski recently took a party bus of 12 girlfriends to Tillman’s Roadhouse in the Bishop Arts District to celebrate her twenty-second birthday.
Despite having lived in Dallas for almost four years now, Stravinski says it wasn’t until a few months ago that she and friend even heard about the area and are glad they did.
“Being down there makes you feel like an insider,” said Stravinski. “I’m totally going back.”
Christopher Zielke, owner of Davis Street eatery Bolsa, believes that this movement of early adopters is exactly what will fuel the street’s commercial expansion.
“It’s the people who live and love here that will make the future happen,” said Zielke.
He says the people who’ve flocked for a meal at his converted garage café since its opening in July 2008 are those who are looking for something less flashy and more authentic.
“People don’t crave a cookie cutter experience,” said Zielke. “They find the atypical here and that’s cool to them.”
Piggy-backing on the growing enthusiasm for the area, homeowners and developers have formed a 12-member oversight committee, raising nearly $60,000 to fund the “Davis Street Study.”
With help from architect Larry Good of Dallas firm Good Fulton and Farrell, the study will help revamp stale zoning regulations and analyze what the best next step is for development in the area.
“Just putting zoning in place isn’t going to change the world,” Stimson said.
While the zoning changes are essential to profitable development, Stimson notes that the Davis Street Study serves more as an invitation to investors and developers to come look at the area for future projects.
Former Dallas city councilmember and current Chair of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce Ed Oakley agrees that change requires serious effort and time.
He believes that while the Davis Street area will eventually become a walkable, urban sanctuary, any sort of visible reformation will take at least five years to begin, given the current recession facing the economy.
Despite his hopes and enthusiasm for the area, this 25-year Kimball Estates resident plans to pack up, head to the other side of the Trinity, and settle into a townhouse in the Greenville area.
“I want to walk to the things I want to do,” said Oakley. “And Oak Cliff’s just not there yet.”
PAYOR -- PRINCIPAL CONTACT -- DOLLAR AMOUNT
Good Space, Inc. -- David Spence -- $10,000
Bishop Arts Leasing -- Scoggin Mayo -- $500
Ric Moore -- Ric Moore -- $250
Beckley Building -- Joe McElroy -- $750
Davis DQ, Ltd. -- Joe McElroy/Bob Stimson -- $750
Maghag, Ltd. -- Joe McElroy/ Bob Stimson -- $750
LJ Field, LLC -- Joe McElroy -- $750
1400 Davis, Ltd. -- Joe McElroy/Bob Stimson -- $1,000
Beckley Properties -- Joe McElroy/Bob Stimson -- $1,000
Bishop Street Partners -- Jim Lake -- $5,000
South Alley Loft, LLC -- Robert Bagwell -- $1,000
Fusion Advertising -- Rob Shearer -- $500
M.A.N. Partners -- Michael Nazerian -- $2,500
Incap Disbursement Co., LLC -- Alan McDonald -- $25,000
Kings Highway Conservation District -- Rick Garza -- $10,000
This story was submitted by a member of the Pegasus News community.
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