A public art garden is part of the plan for the upcoming Bishop Arts development at Bishop and Ninth, whose developer also is seeking a change in the mix of commercial and residential space.

Utility work is nearing completion, and vertical construction could start any day on Exxir Group’s $42-million Bishop Arts development.

The developer on Monday asked the Oak Cliff Gateway TIF District board for a change in the first phase of development: An increase in retail space, from 20,000 square feet to 50,000 square feet; and a reduction in apartment space, form 180,000 square feet to 140,000 square feet. The board approved it.

art garden mapThe company, owned by Farrokh Nazerian, also pitched to the board its planned art garden. Nazerian has hired a full-time metal artist, Manuel Sarmiento of Oak Cliff, to create all the details for the development — benches, signs, light fixtures, trash cans and the like.

Sarmiento also is developing sculptures for the project, and Nazerian rented a warehouse on Zang at Seventh to house a temporary art gallery. Several local artists — Carlyn Ray, Christopher Bingham, Meagan Cope, Ryan Rankin and Travis Haas — are creating and showing work at the gallery, Bishop Arts Gallery, which is open to the public.

The idea is to foster an arts community here. Putting the “art” back into “arts district,” if you will.

“It’s like an incubator and showcase for art in Oak Cliff,” says Rankin, also an Exxir designer. “We want to establish [Bishop Arts] as a place you think about when you think about art.”

The public art garden would be placed in an internal courtyard mid-block between Melba and Ninth streets. The developer envisions public art as well as an educational aspect — on-site glass-blowing, for example.

Buildings in the planned development could open as soon as next year. An official groundbreaking ceremony and gallery opening are planned for March 9. We’ll have more details on that coming up.