11 takeaways from the design panel at the Texas Theatre

the human scale

Neighbor Rob Shearer organized a panel of architecture, design and urban planning experts following a screening of the documentary “The Human Scale” Tuesday. The meeting, which drew about 500 people, was prompted by Alamo Manhattan’s plans for a massive development in Bishop Arts.

Here are 11 takeaways from the night:

Sponsored Message

1. Reopen the Bishop Arts Zoning case.

The biggest news from the meeting came from City Councilman Scott Griggs, who said the Bishop/Davis zoning, which was put in place five years ago and allows buildings up to six stories in the Bishop Arts District, ought to be reopened and reviewed.

2. Nothing good can be built without a good architect

Sponsored Message

Dallas Morning News Architecture critic Mark Lamster told the crowd, “I wish our architecture firms were slightly less rapacious.” He pointed to JKS and Good Fulton & Farrell, who is the architect for the Alamo Manhattan project, as firms that are guilty of that. “If we got the right people, we’d be getting better work,” Lamster said.

3. Uptown is not so bad?

Robbie Good, whose father owns the architecture firm Good Fulton & Farrell, said the West Village development is a “Disneyland,” but that the surrounding area is a walkable, urban neighborhood that works. He shamed us for saying we don’t want Bishop Arts turning into Uptown because what we’re really saying is we don’t want certain Dallas people in our neighborhood and that, he said, “is shitty.” Bishop Arts has room to grow, and we should encourage smart development with good design, he said.

4. We should always hold public meetings where you can drink.

After weeks of neighbors trading vitriolic barbs on social media, everyone was surprisingly chill in person.

5. Developer Michael Nazerian is stunningly handsome.

“OK, he can build whatever he wants,” one meeting attendee told me. Also, what he had to say was encouraging. The plan for his family company’s Bishop Arts Village development will include small retail spaces — about 500-1,000 feet each — that would encourage “artisinal, interesting businesses,” and would discourage “the Gaps of the world.” He also said the overall development would have four acres of green space.

Sponsored Message

6. Tax reimbursements are one of the few ways to control developers.

Alamo Manhattan wants $11.5 million in future tax reimbursements for underground parking, to bury power lines and for “exterior materials and details.” Because they want that money, their design has to be reviewed and approved by a Tax Increment Financing board and City Council.

7. TIF board meetings should be more transparent.

By the time a development makes it to City Council, much of the plan often already has been worked out by the TIF board. Griggs says he wants TIF board meetings to be broadcast and to generally be more accessible to the public.

8. We ought to review what “affordable housing” means.

As a condition for the TIF reimbursements, Alamo Manhattan would have to create a number of “affordable” apartments, which are reserved for those earning 80 percent or less of the median income. The median income for a family of four in Dallas is around $55,000. But the median income for the census tract just south of Davis is about $26,000.

Sponsored Message
Sponsored Message

9. We have to organize.

Sponsored Message

Sending the message that we don’t want development in Oak Cliff will not work. “To simply say ‘no, we don’t want this,’ we’re going to end up with another Sylvan Thirty,” Shearer told the crowd. “That’s what happened in that case. The developer got tired of us and just did whatever he wanted.” If we want good development with smart designs that fit into the neighborhood appropriately, we have to organize and have a unified voice to tell them what we do want: A higher quality of developer and architect.

10. We should stop making fun of Houston for its lack of zoning.

There is no unified zoning standard for the City of Dallas, either. Dallas’ zoning is a mess because of Planned Development Districts. There are 199 in Oak Cliff, including those that cover the Bishop Arts District and the Oak Cliff Gateway, and there are 691 of them in Dallas. “Anyone who has a good lawyer can get a PD,” Lamster said.

11. Sara Tillman is awesome.

She and her late husband, Ricky, opened Tillman’s Corner in 1992. That restaurant has evolved into Tillman’s Roadhouse, a destination spot for neighbors as well as our friends across the river. But in 1992, things were different. Someone once asked her whether it was safe to drive her BMW and park it at Tillman’s. “I told her, you should leave your hubcaps at home,” she said. Tillman said the overpowering brick buildings Alamo Manhattan has shown won’t work. “It just doesn’t fit to me,” she said.

Written By
More from Rachel Stone

City seeks public input on gas drilling Thursday

The city’s Gas Drilling Task Force is expected to make recommendations to...
Read More
  • Cairenn Day

    And Those are the groups that kept OC going, until BA happened. I see a lot of small Hispanic businesses.

    OC is not ONE group, in fact one of the things that attract folks to OC from other areas, is that is NOT an all white, all urban area. It is Hispanic and black, and gay and young and old. It is a mix and it needs to be kept that way.

    We do need new housing. Too much of the housing stock was poorly maintained during the years of absentee landlords and HUD ownership. Some homes are historic enough to reclaim, but lots are not.

    I drove by Adams and 10th street, yesterday where the townhomes are planned. A vacant lot, at least it was mowed, a for sale 50s type doctor’s office (with weeds) and a single family home with multiple additions are what is there. Catty corner from it is 60s style apt complex. That area is a good one for development. Find the reclaimable buildings and reclaim those into shops or restaurants. Allow townhomes, but have them to be in a variety of styles, just not just one.

  • Ray-Mel Cornelius

    I’m sorry that someone in Oak Cliff made you feel unwelcome. I also don’t know why they would have. Snobbishness and exclusion should be the last characteristic associated with Oak Cliff.
    I say that because we have lived here 25 years. When we first moved here the reaction to that was “You’re doing what? Are you crazy?”, not “How cool.” Even today I have heard comments referring to someone who supposedly lived in Bishop Arts (in a location actually almost two miles west of BA) as being acceptable to the speaker, as opposed to what she called “Oak Cliff proper”, a less desirable option I suppose. “Cliques” can come about when people are turned into outsiders, whether it’s high school or a neighborhood.
    The only people “unwelcome” in this neighborhood may be the types who act like they are doing us all a favor for lowering themselves to slum in “the hood, babe”, as a couple of recently well publicized visitors seemed to do. Everyone should be, and I think probably is, welcome as long as we’re all here to enjoy life and not look down on anyone, regardless of original zip code.

  • Michael

    You guys completely missed how handsome Michael Nazerian is. Thank goodness that part was “reported on”. Another well done article.

  • Samuel Stuard

    Challenge accepted 🙂

    Thank you for the discussion!

  • lakewoodhobo

    I don’t support the project as designed, but I do support the density. I have no illusions about being in the majority of public opinion here, but we’ll see how many clicks in an emotionally worded online petition result in $ to pay for such a study.

  • Samuel Stuard

    His comment to study the zoning was meant to mean that a zone study would change the zoning that is currently in place, not to review what current zoning allows.

    While there may be some people, yourself included, that want to the proposed development, 5000+ signatures on a petition say otherwise. With all due respect to you and your opinion, sincerely, I ask, how many signatures do you have?

  • Rob Shearer

    Totally agree, Ramon. Look forward to getting together and talking with you about how to start really addressing the points you’ve raised. Thanks for being there and participating.

  • Rob Shearer

    Stacy- totally agree with your comments about keeping ‘them’ out and the global shift to increased density in the urban core of our cities. It is coming no matter what. Oak Cliff has always been about inclusion, from my perspective, and I think that should be a core value moving forward.

    As for the Oak Cliff groupies comment – hits a little close to home, but point taken. I have joked more than once recently that setting a mission statement for Go Oak Cliff as helping to make this the most livable community in the country might have been too aspirational. But the developers clearly think something is happening here that is worth paying attention to. That is not to say that Go Oak Cliff is actually responsible for developers coming, or the success that the area is experiencing. Just part of a ton of efforts to make this a great place to be, and my favorite part of Texas.

  • lakewoodhobo

    I’m glad you mentioned the effort to study the zoning because Advocate wrote a very helpful article about what is allowed to be built near Bishop Arts right now.

    http://oakcliff.advocatemag.com/2015/06/heres-what-developers-can-build-in-bishop-arts-right-now/

    I actually don’t have a problem with the way it was rezoned because the part in yellow (Bishop Arts, as it was drawn in a map back then) was always meant to be protected. The reason there was such an uproar over Alamo Manhattan had to do with the area immediately to the east in orange, which back then was not considered Bishop Arts. It’s an unfortunate “oversight”, but I suspect it was zoned higher density because the streetcar terminus was already being planned for that intersection, and many people – myself included – feel like there should be high-density housing along Zang to support the streetcar.

  • Stacy

    I am all for the little guy and the right to stand up for what you believe in….but Im very sick of the pretentious attitude. Especially with terms like ” across the river” …. it sounds like The Confederacy vs The Union. The way that all of you guys talk…how dare you let the yuppies.

    Does everyone realize that most large cities in the world have way higher population density per square mile. Mexico City 20 Million, Moscow 16 Million , Tokyo 37 Million, this world isn’t getting any smaller and either is our city. If all those cities can handle high-rises, than we can handle a few apartment building.

    I am sure Oak Cliff groupies can still keep their “cliques” because one thing Oak Cliff has never made me feel and is accepted. If you guys stopped having parades, street cars and bragging so much about your “town” than maybe the developers might not have come.

  • Samuel Stuard

    I understand and appreciate your perspective as well.

    My response is let’s not assume what is able to be accomplished amidst diversity. If it is hard for you to imagine the possibility of unity amongst diversity it might be because you have yet to ask in order to receive.

    A mentor once told me, “The confused mind says no.” We fail to believe in what is different from our present reality because have failed to seek understanding. How do we seek and increase our understanding of this situation – we ask, simple as that. We ask the comminity NOW, while the community is still small, local, organic and homegrown – before development starts. We must start while middle to low class businesses and people are still here, while poor minorities are still here. Everyone who has been a part of Oak Cliff’s long and rich history should participate.

    Council member Scott Griggs stated this very similarly at the community meeting hosted by Ten Bells Tavern Monday night. We need a vision of what we want to see for our community. Essentially what he is asking us to do is participate in the ARC cycle (Affinity, Realization and Communication).

    We that are here have all been brought here by our mutual Affinity to this neighborhood, as is evidenced by the fact that we are all here, for whatever reason. Which leads to our Realization of our Affinity to each other, this comminity, this place. Our Affinity is Realized by our COMMUNICATION, us talking to each through words, deeds, actions, business decisions, community events, etc. We must start this conversation now, or rather, continue this conversation in a more formal way.

    Criticism must offer a solution. We will have a void to fill by just saying no to this project. We need to send a unified message now to those that would seek to join this community about this community and the generations prior and afterwards.

    It might take some time, but landmark businesses like Urban Acres with their concept of “slow food” and landmark organizations such the Old Oak Cliff Preservation League with their principle of “Keeping Oak Cliff Real” through conservation and authenticity efforts has taught us about what we want to see in our community and how it must be done. It will be slow at the times when authenticity, originality and sincerity require it. It will be challenging, but it will be rewarding when the final product is exceptional and enduring.

    In the meantime we can protect ourselves by supporting the raising of funds for a review study of our current zoning laws. That will stop us from bleeding out before our Communication can bring forth our unified vision.

  • lakewoodhobo

    I understand what you’re saying and I appreciate your perspective. I just think Oak Cliff is too diverse for everyone to sign off on a single set of values, ideals, etc. We all have different reasons for living in parts of Oak Cliff and have different ideas of what we want to see here.

  • 75216

    During the discussion it was said that oak lawn has 199 PDD, not oak cliff.

  • 75216

    The ice cream shop signed a 7 year lease in which they were able to lock in $1600 a month rent. Additional information is needed, like what is the yearly property tax? Houses in that area are selling for a quarter of a million to over half a million which surely drives up property value. FYI if a business isn’t able to recoup their initial investment within 7 years, they need a new business plan and I don’t think that this ice cream shop had that problem. They are forunate enough to relocate after building a up market for over 7 years and many including myself wish they success. It’s important to have all the facts first before assuming the worst.

  • Samuel Stuard

    The statement that he made was that not wanting certain types of people in Oak Cliff was shitty. But, that statement was without context.

    If I were to say that I didn’t want blacks, mexicans, etc coming into my community on the sole basis that were racially different than me, there would be obvious problem with that statement. Or, if I just said that they weren’t “cool” enough that would be an issue there as well.

    However, if I was to say that I didn’t want a person of a higher socio-economic background (i.e. more affluent) to come into my neighborhood because their presence would change demand in business type, demographic and local culture from what currently exists and slanted to what that incoming group prefers – based off their purchasing power, which ultimately is the largest influence on the local economy and therefore culture – that isn’t the same thing.

    Saying that you don’t want rich affluent uptown Dallas types isn’t like saying I don’t want black or hispanics or people who just aren’t cool enough. It’s saying that you want to ensure that those who come to a local community understand that they are coming into a local that CURRENTLY exists, and yes, anyone is welcome with the understanding that some things – such as values, ethics, tradition – are preserved, especially when considering the noble values, virtues and principles the community of Oak Cliff is based around because of the unique history of this area.

    Many people will, with the best of intentions, think that by coming to an area like Oak Cliff and “making improvements” that they “know” to be best for the community, allow their misguided intentions to justify changing connections to history and tradition, no matter how marred or flawed, to something more beneficial, suitable or pleasing to them. Just as you stated, Uptown’s community allowed that to happen, because they were okay with those changes. The current community of Oak Cliff is not okay with the changes that have been suggested, nor by the people whom they have been suggested by, in this instance. Therefore, to not express our opinions of who we feel comfortable advertising and attracting to the existing community is a matter of preservation of culture, tradition, morals, values, etc that have made Oak Cliff attractive to those from other areas in the first place.

    Some will argue that this is a dollar and cents issue and that morals, value, ethics, etc have no place in this conversation and are irrelevant when discussing who should move an area. I disagree. As a community, we represent purchasing power and are very similar to shareholders or investors. Just like any company, group or organization, at our foundational level we are allowed to, should and must have a unifying Vision and Mission Statement that reflects what we want to accomplish collectively with our purchasing power. Any group or organization or person that seeks to “do business” with us as shareholders/investors of Oak Cliff must have similar Vision/Mission statements, goals, objectives that align with what we have decided our dollars will accomplish for our community.

    If any company, organization or person wishes to engage in this exchange whilst attempting to circumvent our Vision for our community, the question must be asked, “What is their intention?” “Is this person or group a threat to existing structure of investors/shareholders (i.e. community), or do they seek to conduct business in exceptional, professional manner?”

    To dismiss their sentiment of being leery of the incoming population and the buying power they represent as being “shitty” is a shortsighted view of a bigger issue. When I heard the statement during the discussion my question then was, “Have you ever heard the expression, ‘If the shoes fits…?”

    I’ll let you fill in where that goes next.

    To a community of locally owned, organic, holistic, middle-class, green-planet oriented businesses and population, Uptown is hell on earth. If people from Uptown want to play, they must do so with an understanding that Oak Cliff believes in sharing the sandbox, not bulldozing it and replacing with a astro-turf and charging a fee that no one who used to play in the old sandbox can afford.

    My grandfather opened a business on SOUTH Beckley, south of I-35 about 50 years ago, and though we no longer own that business or the building the tradition and legacy continues. We stayed in the community during “white flight” when the only money to be made came from poor black families. We made it work and learned about making the best out of any situation, living in harmony with your neighbors – no matter their color or the economic status – and supporting the community that provided you a good living.

    Those that wish to enter this neighborhood, if they value new, sterile, modern chic, etc threaten that tradition, that legacy, that memory. It would “shitty” to not be concerned about that.

  • Ramon Mejia

    Well a few takeaways from yesterday are:

    1. The clearly missing demographic not in attendence. All descriptors, luxuries, amenities discussed were for an affluent group.

    2. The panel was not diverse. Unless diversity referes to affluent white: BA business owners, professionals, writers, architects, politician.

    3. A topic that should really be priority no. 1. No mention about the low socio-economic community members and making sure that any construction doesn’t adversely effect them.

    If Latino/a, African-American, non-salaried households, marginalized people, etc. are not sought out for input, then this whole project and everyone involved should be ashamed of themselves.

    How can politicians, so-called community leaders and “activist” dismiss and/or ignore the voice of the low socio-economic neighbors?

  • Andrew Howard

    Rachel I misspoke there are now 938 planned developments in Dallas.

  • Cairenn Day

    That is so true, there is Jefferson and Wynnewood that need comprehensive plans. Zang is the key to tie those together and even Beckley.

    Also needed is ways to address the small in neighborhood retail areas, like Elmwood or the area along Franklin or Pierce, I think. There should be ways to get businesses into them.

    The problem of owners raising rents sky high needs to be addressed, like the ice cream shop that found their rent raised from $1,600 a month to $6,000. Many folks took the chance of opening a new business and they often sunk huge amounts into it and they deserve a chance to recoup those expenses and then some. If we don’t do something to protect them, then all we will get is chains and ‘cookie-cutter’ shops.

  • Rachel Stone

    Oh, that was another thing Griggs addressed, that we should be talking about these same issues in more parts of Oak Cliff, including Wynnewood and Hampton/Clarendon.

  • lakewoodhobo

    I wasn’t there so I can’t speak to all the points, but I have to agree with Robbie. Some of these people talk about Uptown like it’s hell on earth. Give me a break. Yes, Uptown isn’t a close-knit community and they should’ve fought Alamo Manhattan when it destroyed the Mason Bar, but Uptown has some businesses that I would love to see in North Oak Cliff. And let’s please not talk about Bishop Arts as if that’s the only part of Oak Cliff, because I see vast amounts of space along Zang, Beckley, Edgefield, etc. that is ripe for redevelopment.

    To quote Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, “if we can get to the kitchen, rearrange some things, we could certainly party with the Haitians.”