there is water, people will gather. So it is no surprise that the neighborhood of Lake Cliff is one of the most beloved in Oak Cliff. Bordered by Colorado, Beckley and Marsalis, and stretching south just past Sixth Street, the lake and surrounding park are the center of this tight-knit community. Constructed in the late 1800s, the 44-acre Lake Cliff Park was once home to an amusement park and a theater where such notables as Al Jolson performed.
Though the amusement park and theater are long gone, the lake is no less an attraction. Joggers, dog-walkers and parents with strollers enjoy time under the cooling canopy of trees. The tennis courts teem with players, and spectators and softball players kick up dust fielding grounders while children play on the swings.
In addition to the lake, many homeowners are drawn to Lake Cliff by the varied and unique architecture. Victorian cottages; Craftsman, Prairie and Airplane bungalows; and American Four Squares offer home-buyers a wide range of styles, sizes and reasonable prices from which to choose. “I knew this was the only place to get the kind of house we wanted,” Lake Cliff homeowner Cindy Cervantes says of her decision to move to the neighborhood. Long-time resident Linda Holt echoes the sentiment regarding her home-buying decision: “We drove by, saw [our house], and wanted it.” Ensuring the integrity of the stately houses these homebuyers enjoy, the Lake Cliff Historic District was established in 1994.
Single family homes are not the only attraction in this area, either. Across Colorado Avenue, the renovation of Lake Cliff Tower into condominiums offers buyers sleek modern style in a 1920s Mediterranean-inspired high-rise. Chief among the selling-points are the stunning lake and downtown views. With over 50 percent of the units already under contract, the 12-story former hotel also appeals to those who work downtown and want easy access to outdoor activities.
Councilmember Elba Garcia moved here in 1992 not only to live in a bigger, older home, but also to ease her commute. “I hate driving,” she says candidly. The convenience to her offices and to events and attractions downtown, in addition to good property values, made Lake Cliff an easy choice for Garcia.
Other well-known Dallasites have made this part of Oak Cliff home as well. Famed artist Frank Reaugh’s studio, El Sibil, constructed in the late 1920s, still stands at Crawford and Fifth streets. Additionally, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price is renovating his second house in Lake Cliff.
Appealing architecture, close proximity to major highways, and easy access to the lake may be what bring people to Lake Cliff, but it’s the community that makes them stay. The diversity of the population — Latino, African-American, Caucasian, families, and single people of all ages — surfaces as a huge factor for many residents in making the neighborhood a great place to live. People put down roots in this neighborhood and look out for each other, Lake Cliff denizens say. Excited about the growth that’s occurring in North Oak Cliff, many residents also want to maintain the neighborly atmosphere that makes them so proud. The Lake Cliff Neighborhood Association bolsters community involvement by planting trees in the park, hosting a popular Halloween party, maintaining an active crime watch program, and working closely with the city to direct bond-funded improvements for the park.
While residents res-tore their homes to historic majesty and enjoy living in what they call one of the city’s best-kept secrets, homeowners are looking to the future. Dallas County Treasurer and Lake Cliff resident Lisa Hembry reports she’s getting more calls from investors interested in the area, and Garcia says that not a week goes by without a developer contacting her about all parts of Oak Cliff. Construction of the proposed Calatrava Bridges and the Trinity River Project put Lake Cliff at the gateway from downtown Dallas to points south. Holt calls it “the opening we’re looking for. A huge welcome to [the area] we’ve loved for 25 years.”