Uptown does not have this vintage office building, Jefferson Tower, which Jim Lake Cos. is renovating. Photo by Danny Fulgencio

There’s a new refrain among Oak Cliff neighbors at planning meetings: We don’t want to turn our neighborhood into the new Uptown.

Back when former mayor Laura Miller was a city councilwoman representing Oak Cliff, in 2001, she said this about the Oak Cliff Gateway: “This can be the next Uptown, the next Cityplace, the next Deep Ellum.”

From an urban planning perspective, she had it a little backward. Uptown was built on a model of “new urbanism,” which calls for residential density, pedestrian friendly streets and clusters of small shops and restaurants. Those qualities were designed into our neighborhood originally.

We don’t want the Mickey Mouse “new urbanism” of Uptown’s West Village. We just want our authentic old urbanism back.

In rewriting the zoning rules for areas such as the Oak Cliff Gateway, we’re asking the city to undo suburban-style zoning from the mid 1900’s that called for loads of parking but did little to encourage walkability or public transportation.

To say we don’t want to be the new Uptown means we don’t want to be overrun with cookie-cutter apartments and cheap construction. We don’t want to be shiny and new like Dallas.

There still is hope for that, and it’s all in preserving our neighborhood’s old buildings.

Being an underdog for 50 years or more accidentally gave Oak Cliff a great advantage.

While Dallas was developed and redeveloped, builders and prospectors ignored Oak Cliff. Until around 2001, there had been virtually no major commercial construction in our neighborhood for decades.

That is changing, and fast.

New apartments, condos, town homes, shops, restaurants, parking garages and people are coming. Oak Cliff is going to change. But we can refrain from changing to the new Uptown if we can preserve what is here already.

Our neighborhood is lucky to have real estate developers, including Jim Lake Cos. and Good Space, whose mission is to restore and activate old buildings instead of tearing them down, but those are the exception in the business of real estate development.

The Dallas City Council is wrestling with ways to prevent real estate developers from continuing to tear down old buildings like this one.

What would Oak Cliff be without buildings like this and this and this?

Our neighborhood’s historic buildings must be preserved.

Any old building that is outside of a historic or conservation district could be at risk for demolition. City Council must find a way to make it harder for these buildings to be thrown away and give builders economic incentives for preserving historic structures that we want to keep.

That’s the way to keep Oak Cliff real.