Is Oak Cliff the new Uptown?

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Uptown does not have this vintage office building, Jefferson Tower, which Jim Lake Cos. is renovating. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

There’s a new refrain among Oak Cliff neighbors at planning meetings: We don’t want to turn our neighborhood into the new Uptown.

Back when former mayor Laura Miller was a city councilwoman representing Oak Cliff, in 2001, she said this about the Oak Cliff Gateway: “This can be the next Uptown, the next Cityplace, the next Deep Ellum.”

From an urban planning perspective, she had it a little backward. Uptown was built on a model of “new urbanism,” which calls for residential density, pedestrian friendly streets and clusters of small shops and restaurants. Those qualities were designed into our neighborhood originally.

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We don’t want the Mickey Mouse “new urbanism” of Uptown’s West Village. We just want our authentic old urbanism back.

In rewriting the zoning rules for areas such as the Oak Cliff Gateway, we’re asking the city to undo suburban-style zoning from the mid 1900’s that called for loads of parking but did little to encourage walkability or public transportation.

To say we don’t want to be the new Uptown means we don’t want to be overrun with cookie-cutter apartments and cheap construction. We don’t want to be shiny and new like Dallas.

There still is hope for that, and it’s all in preserving our neighborhood’s old buildings.

Being an underdog for 50 years or more accidentally gave Oak Cliff a great advantage.

While Dallas was developed and redeveloped, builders and prospectors ignored Oak Cliff. Until around 2001, there had been virtually no major commercial construction in our neighborhood for decades.

That is changing, and fast.

New apartments, condos, town homes, shops, restaurants, parking garages and people are coming. Oak Cliff is going to change. But we can refrain from changing to the new Uptown if we can preserve what is here already.

Our neighborhood is lucky to have real estate developers, including Jim Lake Cos. and Good Space, whose mission is to restore and activate old buildings instead of tearing them down, but those are the exception in the business of real estate development.

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The Dallas City Council is wrestling with ways to prevent real estate developers from continuing to tear down old buildings like this one.

What would Oak Cliff be without buildings like this and this and this?

Our neighborhood’s historic buildings must be preserved.

Any old building that is outside of a historic or conservation district could be at risk for demolition. City Council must find a way to make it harder for these buildings to be thrown away and give builders economic incentives for preserving historic structures that we want to keep.

That’s the way to keep Oak Cliff real.

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  • Linda

    They are cheaply built. We moved in here before construction finished believing the advertising. We also we so disappointed to see the finished style. Love the layout and the location. But in no way does it live up to its advertising.

  • Raven Patrick

    I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

  • Ted

    You are correct. What they finally built versus what they proposed in the beginning to win over the neighborhood are two completely projects. Final construction is ugly and appears to be very cheaply built.

  • lakewoodhobo

    Gosh, I would never suggest losing Tops, Lulus, Hugo’s or any other beloved establishments there. My suggestion was to develop the empty surface parking lots into housing with additional retail spaces to serve the neighborhood.

  • cjr_9@hotmail.com

    I moved from Uptown to Elmwood 15 years ago and have long enjoyed it’s unique charms. Part of those charms include the surrounding area like Wynnewood Village. Tops Cafe over in Wynnewood Village is one of the reasons that I stay in Elmwood, even though I work on Legacy drive up in Plano. http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/13/170143/restaurant/South-Dallas-Oak-Cliff/Tops-Cafe-Dallas. The commute is bad, but where else can I enjoy Tops, Lulus, Hugo’s, and our local Elmwood flavor? If we lost Wynnewood Village to development, we might as well all move to Plano, or worse, Frisco…A land of houses with no character; just row after row of soul-less boxes where nobody knows their neighbors.

  • majape

    Here is the link to the building when it was announced on here. It’s an eye sore of an apartment complex built on Bishop Ave over by the Bishop Arts District. http://oakcliff.advocatemag.com/2012/10/good-space-announces-39-new-apartments-on-bishop/

  • Robbie Good

    The blank slate of West Dallas is almost identical to what State-Thomas looked like in the 70s (albeit with more industrial sites).

    West Dallas is the new Uptown. Same developers even (Robert Shaw).

  • Frank Turrentine

    Do you really think you can stop this from happening? The neighborhood is already overloaded with entertainment venues, such that it must rely on outside traffic to remain viable. It’s cooked into the dough already. What it really is is a cross between Uptown and Lower Greenville. So it’ll maybe take a little while for the five-story condo canyons to completely fill in, but in the meantime there are all of the issues that come with being an entertainment district dropped on top of an historic neighborhood.

    Wouldn’t it have been great if there were just a handful of great eateries and perhaps an entertainment venue in numbers small enough for the neighborhood to support, and everyone could walk to most of them. And wouldn’t it be great if Dallas didn’t have this obsession with wanting everyone else to think our neighborhood or our city is the coolest and just start making it great for ourselves?

    So in order for Oak Cliff to get the city services and revitalization it deserves and other neighborhoods take for granted, it had to become a destination. Just like Dallas: a middle aged hooker at a business convention now getting her mother-in-law all gussied up for the passing trade while her kids tag the pretty new bridge.

  • Bob Dobbins

    Just remember, real estate developers get what they want in Dallas (as in most cities). Those Jim Lake signs everywhere…Jim is a decent guy…but the signs mean he doesn’t have to ask. You will get what Jim thinks will sell. He can’t take the good times you had.

  • KennethDenson

    Welcome! I’m the President of the ElmWood Neighborhood Association and can’t wait for you to get here 🙂 My email is kenneth@kennethdenson.com, feel free to contact me if there is anything we can help with as you move into your new neighborhood!

  • Tex

    What’s happening is that the late comers are buying single-family homes and trying to get them re-zoned so they can cram in more units. This is the current threat to our neighborhoods.

  • lakewoodhobo

    I am moving to Elmwood in a month and I’m looking forward to living in Oak Cliff. While I don’t want any part of my neighborhood to lose its character or history, I can’t help seeing Wynnewood Village for its potential as a new West Village. All of the variables are there to make the formula work, and I can understand why some people think that’s a terrible idea, but if I were Lincoln Property or CBRE, that’s where I’d put my money.

  • Anonymous

    What is Good Space building on Bishop?

  • majape

    Are we really singing the praises of Good Space? Have you see the monster the are building on Bishop. Which btw is a National Historic District. Set back, architectural style, etc were all ignored.

  • greasybritt

    well, there aren’t going to be any high rises along zang. currently that’s set for 3 story WMU. That doesn’t change the fact that some of us live along zang and have for years. You might be lucky to enough to live further west, but those of us on the east side of Kidd Springs are getting the shaft.

  • downtownworker

    Yes and no. First of all, Oak Cliff is so big that Uptown can fit inside here many times with room to spare. And Uptown was a blank slate when Cityplace started construction, with many of the wood shacks cleared for new construction. You’re seeing the same thing happening in West Dallas along Singleton and Ft Worth Ave, so you could argue that West Dallas is the new “Uptown.”

    But if any part of Oak Cliff is the next Uptown, it’s the Beckley-Zang-Colorado corridor. The new high-rises planned for that area should have the best views of the downtown skyline.