One of the biggest winners in Trader Joe’s decision to open its first Dallas store on Lower Greenville in East Dallas could well be Oak Cliff. The reason? Because Oak Cliff’s redevelopment is following more or less the same path that East Dallas’ has taken, and Trader Joe’s arrival points to the success of the East Dallas approach.
How important is Trader Joe’s decision to open its first Dallas store on Lower Greenville, instead of the usual suspects like the Park Cities and Far North Dallas? Very important. Retailers don’t get much better than Trader Joe’s, which has a cult-like following among both consumers and retail analysts. It’s the kind of company that cities woo and shoppers start Facebook campaigns to attract. Consider just one fact: One of the selling points for the wets in last year’s wet-dry referendum was that the city couldn’t get top retailers like Trader Joe’s and Costco as long as its most desirable neighborhoods, like Far North Dallas, were dry.
But Trader Joe’s isn’t opening in Far North Dallas, is it? It’s opening in a neighborhood that’s very much like Oak Cliff.
This doesn’t mean that top retailers like Trader Joe’s are going to start looking at Oak Cliff right away. Rather, it means that they’re open to neighborhoods that don’t fit the 1990s model for retail location — Anglo families with children and higher incomes that are neatly located inside 1-, 3-, and 5-mile circles around the store’s location. They’re looking for neighborhoods that are more urban, where density and foot traffic are as important as traffic counts. And that’s Oak Cliff.
In this, Oak Cliff is closer to current modern urban development theory than neighborhoods like Lake Highlands and Far North Dallas, which conform to 1980s models — strip centers built around larger single family homes, and where the car is paramount. And it’s another reason to stay the course for sensible development that reinforces what makes Oak Cliff unique, instead of development that turns the neighborhood into a Plano clone.