Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Standing up for urban form

When CVS moved to tear down an old stone warehouse on Beckley Avenue last year, Alicia Quintans bird-dogged the developer.

The Oak Cliff-based architect and preservationist went to every obscure public meeting on proposed zoning changes related to the project to express her opposition. She was the only one.

CVS eventually won out, as Quintans assumed they would, but she did take a consolation prize. The developer allowed her to salvage whatever she wanted from the building, including stone from the façade. The stone is an exact match for bridges and walls in her neighborhood, Beckley Club Estates. The neighborhood association squirreled away all of the matching stone in the event of future repairs or restoration.

Now CVS plans to build a suburban-style store at the heart of our neighborhood, right on the streetcar line on West Davis at Zang.

The developer, Orange LLC, razed the 1940 building that most recently housed El Corazon de Tejas restaurant as well as an adjacent retail strip. So far, plans call for building a typical CVS store set behind a parking lot, boxy with a synthetic stucco façade and a pharmacy drive-through.

That doesn’t appeal to those who envision the corner of West Davis and Zang as a walkable, urban extension of the Bishop Arts District.

CVS, like many major retailers, builds most of its stores to certain specifications, whenever allowed, and deviating from that likely increases their costs.

But if neighbors want more expensive materials, such as brick, or a storefront that meets the sidewalk, what power does the neighborhood have to negotiate with the CVS developer?

Neighbors in Oak Lawn successfully negotiated with CVS developer Orange LLC in 2015.

The retailer donated a small park, built a security wall and used brick instead of stucco for its store on Maple Avenue.

That’s because the developer needed neighbors’ approval for a zoning change. The property had been zoned for apartments, and building the store required a change to allow retail. There was strong opposition from about 10 neighbors with homes adjacent.

“When pushed to it, [CVS] did a really good job,” says Rob Elmore, who was involved in the effort through the Oak Lawn Committee.

On that corner of West Davis at Zang, however, no zoning change would be required. The lot is just outside of the Bishop/Davis zoning that prohibits drive-through windows. And it’s outside of the Oak Cliff Gateway zoning, which requires urban form. It also is not included in the area that requires a delay before certain old buildings can be demolished.

The developer is requesting a replat — to make two lots into one — but approval for that lies with the City Plan Commission and not City Council.

In the case of the Maple Avenue store, as well as the Beckley consolation prize, it took neighbors standing up for the cause.

“They are capable of changing their form,” Elmore says. “It’s just a matter of, do they want to be good neighbors?”

Jason Price of Orange LLC, the CVS developer, told City Councilman Scott Griggs earlier this year that he would agree to meet with a committee of Oak Cliff residents about the development.

We asked Price to comment for this story, and he referred us to CVS corporate, which did not respond.

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Going forward

CVS could build its prototype store on Zang, despite protest from neighbors.

How does Oak Cliff resist undesirable development in the future?

Among other moves, City Landmark Commissioner Michael Amonett suggests expanding the “demolition delay overlay,” which requires a waiting period and public meetings before certain old buildings can be torn down.

City Councilman Scott Griggs pushed for parts of Oak Cliff to be included in the overlay when City Council approved it for Downtown last year.

But it only covers a small portion of Oak Cliff.

Amonett would like for the overlay to cover parts of the Kidd Springs neighborhood, plus all of West Davis from Jefferson to North Rosemont, part of the L.O. Daniel neighborhood and all of West Jefferson from near Marsalis to Hampton.

Since the overlay was created in Oak Cliff, it has resulted in one old Bishop Arts house being moved to West Dallas, and negotiations are underway for a Bishop Arts duplex that could be demolished.

“It’s a great tool because it gives everyone a chance to just talk about it,” Amonett says. “Sometimes if the owners just hear from neighbors, they can come to a solution that everyone can agree on.”