Bridge to Somewhere

Across the new Trinity bridge, a long-neglected but suddenly desirable neighborhood waits and hopes.

Part of the three-phase plan is built-in flexibility to accommodate changing economic conditions, community needs and a larger population. "Every chance we could, we said, 'Guys, these are a cartoon,'" says David Whitley, associate director of the CityDesign Studio. He means the plans are a flexible guideline, not a dictate.

Then he hit on what seems to be the community's raw nerve. "I don't think the skepticism is completely gone. How it happens is the real test," he says. Most who've seen it agree the plan looks great on paper, but if and when disputes arise between new developers and old neighbors, the question is whether the plan will remain intact. Development projects that require zoning changes will be evaluated in the context of the Design Studio guidelines. "We'll be a player" in implementation, Whitley says, but "to some extent, we've passed the baton."

It's this baton pass that concerns Rosa Lopez, director of Vecinos Unidos, a West Dallas nonprofit that supports affordable housing. "As much as the community wants the improvements...will there be a balance in trying to help the community maintain its presence?" she asks, echoing Losada. "We've got a lot of older folks in the area. We know that they've had difficulty maintaining their houses...They want to stay here. They want to be able to afford their property taxes."

Even if the NSO is put in place and zoning restrictions work in favor of La Bajada protection, "it's never a guarantee," she says. "It is a gamble. Everybody's just guessing at this point. It's all a gamble. It's all a design...Is it going to happen in five years, 10 years, 30 years? Something is going to happen."

Much of the outcome rests on developers. The developer whose name is most commonly heard in La Bajada is Larry "Butch" McGregor. He and his partners in West Dallas Investments own more than 60 acres of land, including several buildings along Singleton Avenue painted in bold and neon colors. McGregor works behind a desk in the bright red building, one of the first they purchased nearly 10 years ago.

"He's been seeing the light for a long time," Lopez says of McGregor, acknowledging with a laugh that the Trinity River is what's driving the development. "He's been seeing the water for a long time.

"He's a businessperson. I would say he's out for the best interest of Butch McGregor. His idea is that he owns the property, and people will have to pay to have a spot. I think that's just par for the course. Anytime business people want to come into the community, I think people are going to be concerned. But that's the way of the world, that's capitalism. There's nothing wrong with being a businessperson. It's just a matter of the way businesses want to be connected to people in the community. I don't think I've heard a lot of negative things about Butch McGregor. Now is Butch coming over here as a business person to preserve the neighborhood? No. I don't think he is. But he certainly has made his point about wanting as much land as possible along the riverfront."

McGregor might have nodded along with Lopez's characterization.


McGregor, like many West Dallas residents, wants to attract grocery stores, dry cleaners, coffee shops, restaurants and all the makings of an active, busy neighborhood full of pedestrians. His company's profits depend on it.

In his purchases of West Dallas land, he has stayed away from La Bajada. Mostly. Several properties came along with other land acquisitions as a package deal. Then, there were a few instances in which he asked whether the property owners adjacent to what he owned would be interested in selling. Once, he even offered to build a woman a nicer home right across the street.

She turned him down. "She grew up there. Her kids grew up there, and her grandkids," McGregor says. He lowers his voice to a whisper. "The house needs to be torn down. It's pitiful."

"I keep hearing that they want to save the La Bajada neighborhood in its entirety. You know, sometimes you ask for things that you may or may not really want," McGregor says. "Do you want to keep the drug houses? Do you want to keep it the way it is with no grocery stores, no neighborhood services? So, when you say you want to keep it in its entirety, you have to be very careful."

To attract businesses, West Dallas needs one key ingredient: more people—specifically, more people with more money. The neighborhood overlay Losada advocates would preserve La Bajada for single-family homes and work against high-rise development, so it's not in step with increasing population density. Additionally, McGregor says, a rise in property values is a good thing. "These homes are these people's greatest asset, just like most Americans...and they want their greatest asset to be worth as much as possible...By putting that NSO on it, it certainly doesn't do that...If you're a developer and you want to come in and buy a piece of property to build a high-rise apartment condo project on it, you can pay a lot of money for it. If it's got an NSO on it, you're not going to touch it."

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19 comments
BishopArtsBud
BishopArtsBud

A very balanced, fair and thoughtful accounting of what is happening in West Dallas. The CityDesign Studio is to be given a standing ovation for their smart, inclusive, win/win vision for evolving the area in a senstive way.

In contrast, I live in North Oak Cliff in the heart of something I read about in the paper several months back as the new Bishop Arts Village Something or Other. I had never heard a thing about it until I read about it in the paper. Havent heard anything about it since. Was never invited to participate in its design and if I had not liked some of it, probably would have been ostracized like the people who challenged the Davis Street land use plan were.

There will always be greedy, scheming, behind-the curtain good old boys in Oak Cliff and West Dallas who are out for their own good and couldn't develop in an ethical way if their lives depended on it.

Even if the final result of this skews off-target, at least the target was noble and the people who designed and put up the target had everyone's best interests at heart. It will be the leadership of West Dallas and Oak Cliff, not the CityDesign Studio, we all can blame.

John Finley
John Finley

I was thinking this was going to happen when plans for the bridge were announced. The city should have thought about the people in that neighborhood first. The same thing is happening along Samuels Blvd. in Fort Worth with the new developments there.

Steve
Steve

I just read the entire damn thing at work.

Excellent.

I hope Pagoda makes it. :)

Guest
Guest

The zoning restrictions Losada supports would restrict the heights of new buildings in his neighborhood.

What's the point of that when "the ground" has been shown to be a very flexible concept in Dallas real estate?

Art101
Art101

"Cartoon" in the sense that Larry Beasley referred to it is a common technical term for a large preliminary drawing for a fresco painting; Michelangelo and Leonardo drew them, not Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. One might have assumed that Dallas had long ago evolved to the point where its movers and shakers -- and writers -- would understand the distinction, but evidently not...

sheik yerbouti
sheik yerbouti

The City of Dallas sees only one color and it is GREEN...the poor of any color need not apply.

craig
craig

Everytime I hear the words "signature bridge" I chuckle.

It's SOOOOO Dallas.

cheapoldgeezer
cheapoldgeezer

Bridge to somewhere....like maybe to a Mexican drug cartel. Who the hell would want to live in an apartment on Singleton Ave.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Yep when the city is not trying to close existing established business they can focus on forcing people from their homes by raising property values so the resident's tax bill will sky rocket. And to think that last legislative session the city (along with the county of Dallas and Collin county) spent around $600.000.00 of tax payer money with former rep turned lobbyist Fred Hill (the darling of municipal spending enabling) to lobby the leg about property taxes. Remember that Fred won awards from municipalities on his work against the proposed lowering of the cap that the appraisal district can raise the taxable value of your homes from 10 percent to 5 percent per year. The city loves it when they drive people out of their homes all for more squandering of tax dollars.

Catbird
Catbird

I hope it works out for the residents but I really think that the "donors" who pay Brent Brown and his little crew down at city hall probably have ideas of their own for the "front door" of Dallas and aren't worried so much about people like Mr. Losada. Nice story though.

Sharon Boyd
Sharon Boyd

Good for Mr. Losada. Your home doesn't have to be in Preston Hollow for it to be precious to you. La Bajada and the community around the old Bataan Rec Ctr are the same kind of neighborhoods that Jerry Jones wiped out in Arlington. Generations of memories mean nothing to politicians. If Rawlings is elected Mayor, Mr. Losada will be forced to move and paid pennies for his home. With Arlington's Mayor & council's help, Jones paid "residential" prices for taking people's homes and land that was going to be used for commercial development. That's what will happen to Mr. Losada, and Rawlings and his cronies will say it's good for Dallas. Homeowners like Mr. Losada are good for Dallas -- people who have roots, commitments and memories. Thanks for posting this thoughtful story.

Coleman
Coleman

*coughstanleeisn'tanartistcough*

BishopArtsBud
BishopArtsBud

Yeah I agree. Sort of like saying "It is SOOOOOO...". Cause you really hear people in Chicago and Boston talk that way.

Monicaannetterodriguez
Monicaannetterodriguez

Look mister old geezer,I live in West Dallas, grew up there all my life in my grandfather's house and still live there to this day. I go to college (SMU), work hard to pay for my tuition, and tutor kids from the neighborhood to encourage them to do the same. If you took your head out of the ground and quit stereotyping all Mexican neighborhoods as drug havens, you would realize that things have changed and there's a new generation coming up. We will do something with our lives despite all the bad mouthing from you!

Rderrickwhite
Rderrickwhite

what a rascist load of crap. not all poor people are criminals. get out of north dallas once in a while, would you...

Catbird
Catbird

Sharon Boyd is accurate - the eminent domain "taking" process is supposed to be governed by an unbiased panel of appointed citizens.

The big problem in Dallas County (everywhere really) is that the politicians who appoint the panel who decides how much a contested property is worth are obligated to the people who want the take the property in the first place...and many of whom are paying Brent Brown's salary and providing him free office space in city hall.

Its the same circle jerk that went on with the old "Dallas Plan". Don't believe that anyone has your back because nobody does.

If I could say anything at all to the individual land owners in West Dallas,I'd say that they should see their end of the Margaret Hill Hunt Bridge (the bridge to somewhere?) as the business end of a shotgun held by a twitchy thug in a brazen armed robery.

It can't get anymore serious than this people - you are about to lose your homes. The only thing in question is how much money you can leverage out of the public/private developer class holding the gun.

Band together now and get yourself the best lawyer you can afford...and not Domingo Garcia either, he and his wife are not on your side.

If you don't you'll be on the street very soon with nothing to show for your decades of hard work.

The is true.

Bob
Bob

uhhh not all racists are from north dallas

also, there wasnt really any indication of racism, I believe YOU are the one linking socioeconomic level/location to race

not really in agreement with OP, but your response was just as weak/lame/stereotypical...gotta work on your trolling brah! :)

Its so sad
Its so sad

Absolutely true. You won't be able to stop "progress" but you can get enough out of it to survive. The Arlington folk that held out the longest made the most money.

So Mr Losada & friends, band together, retain counsel, threaten lawsuits and stall, stall, stall. You will eventually get paid your millions!

Sorry about the memories, but life goes on.

BishopArtsBud
BishopArtsBud

Uh Bob heal thyself. Rderrickwhite's point is that there are Caucasians and Blacks living all around Singleton and West Dallas not to mention Latinos from Guatemala, Costa Rica etc.. To describe the area solely as Mexican...and then say it is Mexican drug cartel.

Yeah, dude, that would be racist. Like saying Preston Hollow is nothing but Italian mobsters.

 
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