bishop arts gateway

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A planned development would bring hundreds of new apartments, plus retail storefronts to the future streetcar stop in the Bishop Arts District.

Developer Alamo Manhattan so far is planning two five-story buildings taking up several blocks on Seventh Street at Zang. The project would call for demolishing existing buildings, including some with established businesses, most immediately, the Local Oak and Zoli’s.

The developer is seeking $11 million in future tax reimbursements for the $55 million project. It would include 57,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space topped by four stories of apartments, plus underground parking.

The project, called the Bishop Arts Gateway, aligns with the Bishop/Davis zoning. So the developer owns the properties, and current plans for the development are within the existing zoning. In other words, take a deep breath and accept that something like this is going to happen. Encouraging increased density and transit-oriented development is what City Council and city planners have been pushing with these massive rezoning cases such as Bishop/Davis and the Oak Cliff Gateway.

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The good news is that Alamo Manhattan received an endorsement from neighborhood-friendly former City Councilwoman Angela Hunt. While still in office, she worked with the developers and neighbors on a project on the Katy Trail that drew compromises for both sides. She says the developer is very receptive to input from neighbors.

The developer already has hosted at least one neighborhood meeting to receive input on the plans, and they “are going to have a ton of meetings,” with neighbors before it’s all over, says the company’s president, Matt Segrest.

And that’s a good thing because every architect and urban planner we’ve spoken to this week says the plan needs work.

Developer/new urbanist Monte Anderson says of the initial plans: “They are trying to put a 10-pound bag of sand in a 5-pound hole.”

Anderson says the plan encourages “the wrong kind of density,” with long unbroken blocks and imposing buildings.

“Just because the zoning says this is the maximum here doesn’t mean it’s the right thing,” he says.

Architect Joe Wilkins of Design Alchemy says the design, by Good Fulton & Farrell, looks a little too suburban. He suggested they should contract several architects with different styles to find diversity and uniqueness for the project.

“It’s a very delicate project type because it’s going to set a precedent,” Wilkins says. “The last thing we want are trends that will date it.”

Segrest of Alamo Manhattan says highly dense urban developments that maximize transit options are his company’s specialty. The Oak Cliff streetcar, scheduled to expand to Bishop Arts in the next couple of years, is a big part of what attracted Alamo Manhattan to this location.

“You do something that’s consistent with the neighborhood because the neighborhood is what’s exciting,” he says.

The developer does not want chain restaurants and major retailers in Bishop Arts, he says, but rather locally owned “organic” businesses as tenants.

“The goal is not to be transformational,” he says. “The goal is to be evolutionary.”

Alamo Manhattan plans to break ground on the project as early as next spring.