Alamo Manhattan takes neighbors’ comments back to the drawing board

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Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Bishop Arts developer Alamo Manhattan, in a meeting with neighbors at the Texas Theatre Wednesday night, presented an exhaustive list of everything Oak Cliff residents have asked for since outrage over the developer’s initial design for the Bishop Arts Gateway began a few weeks ago.

The company’s president, Matt Segrest, said they plan to take the community’s input and go back to the drawing board. He expects to present a new design in August.

Neighbors’ complaints so far fall into four categories: architecture and style, commercial tenants, affordability and artistic community.

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Architecture

The list of architectural concerns took up two slides in the presentation. They included using high-quality exterior materials, breaking up the building mass, having wide sidewalks, incorporating green building features, using native Texas landscaping and planting large trees so that we don’t have to wait a generation for shade.

About 60 neighbors showed up to the meeting Wednesday. They added water drainage and flood prevention to the list. Zang and Davis, the site of the planned development, is at a low point. And the Bishop Arts area already has some issues with flooding. A large development could contribute to flooding if it doesn’t include permeable surfaces and bioswale, for example.

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The initial design for the project was a behemoth built out to the max with little thought to how it would fit into the neighborhood. But the company has the opportunity to build something truly smashing that could stand out as a shining example of good design, neighbor Les Hall told the developer. Please do that, he told them.

Commercial tenants

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Segrest told neighbors that the existing tenants of Bishop Arts “are exactly what we want.” He says the company has no desire to draw big boxes or chain restaurants to the area.

Some things neighbors have requested include small office spaces, a maker space and high-demand neighborhood services such as childcare, dry cleaning, specialty grocers, a butcher and a pharmacy.

Affordability

To receive $11.5 million in tax reimbursements from the city of Dallas, about 20 percent of the apartments Alamo Manhattan builds in Bishop Arts would be “affordable.” That means they would be reserved for people making 80 percent or less of the median income, or about $45,000 for a family of four. Other than that, Segrest did not have much to say about affordability, but neighbors did.

“Affordable does not mean charging $1.50 a foot but making the apartment 200 square feet,” said Megan Wilkes. “You’re going to price out the people that you’re supposedly trying to keep.”

It was mentioned in a meeting about Bishop Arts development last week that we should reconsider what “affordable” means since the median income for the census tract south of Davis is about $26,000.

Artistic community

It’s called the Bishop Arts District, but it’s really more about restaurants and gift shops. Where is the art?

Neighbors have asked Alamo Manhattan to create space for murals, public art and shared work spaces for artists and craftsmen.

The developer is expected to bring back a new draft proposal to the community around the middle of August.

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