Which side are you on? Neighbors divided over Bishop Arts development

photo by Heather Ezell
photo by Heather Ezell

If developer Alamo Manhattan’s strategy is “divide and conquer,” consider it done.

Virtually no one one in Oak Cliff appears to be on board with the developer’s plans to build five-story apartments on Seventh at Zang while destroying existing businesses, but there are two deeply divided factions in opposition to it.

On one side, there are neighbors who want to stop Alamo Manhattan from tearing down existing businesses and stop the planned development. Period. No exceptions.

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One strategy to that hardline approach could be to fight Alamo Manhattan tooth-and-nail through the tax-reimbursement process, known as TIF. The developer is seeking $11.5 million in future tax reimbursements from the city, which means its designs have to pass muster with the TIF board and City Council.

If we can stretch out that process and delay the outcome, then maybe City Councilman Scott Griggs can reopen the Bishop/Davis zoning case and amend it to discourage jumbo developments in time to stop Alamo Manhattan.

Or, maybe we can make the process so frustrating and drawn out for Alamo Manhattan that their investors will back out and they won’t have the money and will be forced to give up on it.

On the other side are those who see things as inevitable: The zoning is in place, and the developer has the properties under contract. If they had the money to do it now, and if not for the $11.5 million in tax reimbursements they are seeking, Alamo Manhattan could build the project as soon as they close on the sale and the leases are up on existing buildings.

The approach from that side could also be to bird-dog Alamo Manhattan throughout the TIF process. Let them know, and let City Council know, we won’t accept bad architecture and overbearing design in our beloved neighborhood. Second-wave gentrification and big-money development are coming to Bishop Arts inevitably. And we have to work to make sure we are getting the type of development we want.

These two factions have some of the same goals, but there is so much online vitriol between them that it seems impossible they will ever come together.

In fact, there is a protest planned for one of Oak Cliff’s biggest annual events, Bastille on Bishop, because Alamo Manhattan donated $500 to be a sponsor of the free event, which costs about $27,000 to produce, according to event organizers Go Oak Cliff.

We hope that exercise of free speech makes a positive impact on the future of Bishop Arts somehow.

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But all this clacking at keyboards to throw stones at our own neighbors is making gashes that will not heal quickly. And it’s not doing anything to address the real conflict.

Instead of fighting each other, these two sides should agree to target the real enemy: Over-sized, bad development that destroys the character of Bishop Arts.

Together or separately, both sides need to have strong, unified and active strategies against greedy developers and quit slinging online disses at each other. All that does is distract us from the real fight.

We don’t have to get along, but it would be wise if at least we could agree to aim at the same enemy.

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  • Pecos45

    I liked you better when you were doing voice work on The SImpsons..

  • Dana Gillham

    Why use the picture of the Alamo Motel land in the picture. Put a picture of the Bishop Arts.

  • OakCliff4Life

    If Rob Shearer is involved it is a safe bet, a lock really, to run as fast as you can in the opposite direction. He mentions someone not knowing his intentions, and his track record in the community. His true track record has been that of a man who tries so very hard to attach his name, very loudly I might add, to the idea of the day, conceived by someone else, and in his perception, beneficial to him. He was very enthused about Sylvan 30, and was quite vocal about that as it was being developed.

  • Tex

    Why is a bad idea “inevitable”? There are already similar developments in Uptown. Build it there. Oak Cliff needs to remain low rise buildings and single-family homes. Otherwise we are just like every other neighborhood. Keep Oak Cliff Real, or live in Plano and save yourself the freight.

  • Rob Shearer

    Andrew- I would assume you know me as well as I know you, which is to say I don’t know you at all and wouldn’t dream of assuming anything about your intentions. I’m happy to let my track record over the last dozen or so years around the neighborhood speak for how self serving I am. But you’re certainly entitled to throw stones.

  • Rob Shearer

    That was Monty Anderson’s Facebook quote, right?I completely agree with him and consider him a leader in our community and a mentor of mine. I have zero financial interest in the Alamo Manhattan situation and no real interest in any perceived fame or power connected to this situation. I do care deeply for our neighborhood and look forward to working together through these challenges.

  • Andrew Hudson

    Any time anyone makes reference to the “truth”, beware! There are more sides to this issue than a Rubik‘s cube… and those sides are equally as dynamic. There is no singular side to the neighborhood… only a diversity of individuals possessing a diversity of opinions and motivations.

    The neighborhood has a financial stake in this as well. But the neighborhood does not have the luxury of considering profit only. Long after the developer has sold out, reaped their profits and moved on, we of the neighborhood have to live with their short-sightedness and lack of stewardship!

    You sound terribly confused. You somehow have convinced yourself that you have facilitated the neighborhood “voice to influence the process”. If you indeed are on “any side of this other than the side of the neighborhood” as you’ve stated, then you are nothing more than another self-serving plutocratic propagandist.

  • JG

    Let this sink in. “It takes real community commitment and study to keep our culture and scale. Developers should respect that, but generally don’t. What is worse is that local activist will quite often turn on their own community for gain of fame, power or money.”

  • Rob Shearer

    Fascinating perspective. In truth, there are three sides. The side of both the developer and the affected businesses, who are all acting in their own financial self interest as you should expect them to. And then there is the side of the neighborhood. My only effort in this situation has been to try and give neighbors a voice to influence the process. Beyond that, I’m on on any side of this other than the side of the neighborhood.

  • lakewoodhobo

    I don’t understand why the landlord shouldn’t ask for whatever they think is fair. The Raven Pharmacy building is now a Cricket Wireless store. If they’re willing to pay the asking rent, more power to them.

  • Smokey

    Simple solutions are often overlooked. There is still time to be heard, the aggressive nature of this proposed development will do irreversible damage to the spirit of this area. I am impressed with the activism on this issue.

  • Andrew Hudson

    Such an elegant solution. “Little strokes fell great oaks.”

  • OCPower

    A simple, and fairly foolproof method to determine the correct side of an issue in the hood – First, find out which side Rob Shearer and Amy Cowan support. This is a very easy task since they both love the sound of their own voices. Then simply choose the other side.

  • lakewoodhobo

    At the end of the day, doesn’t the landlord have a right to charge what they want? It’s their property after all. The market will decide if they’re charging too much.

    I am very proud to own my home in Oak Cliff, but I’ll be damned if someone tells me that I can’t sell it if I want to or that I can’t sell above a certain amount.

  • Antoinetty

    Last three paragraphs: BINGO! Except I would say “Oak Cliff” and not just Bishop Arts……

  • 75208

    Why aren’t the landlords getting called out on all this? SqFt, Shidid, the Brumley Gardens building, 5k for Raven Pharmacy, heck even Garza for being a driving force in getting the zoning changed 5 years ago. Why not see what they say about being one of the main sources of changing the existing face of Bishop Arts?

  • lakewoodhobo

    Well said, although I think most people will eventually be ok with redevelopment as long as it respects the character of North Oak Cliff (not just Bishop Arts, because redevelopment is coming to a much greater area).