Bridge to Somewhere

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

If there is a point of reconciliation between high-rise development and neighborhood preservation, McGregor isn't sure where it would fall. "What do you do? I don't know," he says.

CityDesign Studio's plan centralizes high-rise development south of Singleton Boulevard. Buildings would increase in height gradually from La Bajada so it doesn't appear as though the neighborhood is surrounded by a giant wall. McGregor attended the CityDesign Studio meetings with residents, but his feelings toward the final plan are mixed: "Some of [the ideas] are good, some of them we don't agree with." As to which are which, he's fairly vague. "I haven't thought about it that much lately...They put townhouses up against the railroad tracks. Well, that's not going to fly. I mean, that's just an example." Later he says that "density" and "heights" were points of contention between his plan and the city's.

But it may not matter anyway. "It didn't influence our plans whatsoever," McGregor says. "We had plans before they existed." CityDesign Studio was created eight years after West Dallas Investments began buying in the area.

Felix Losada advocates preserving Bajada for single-family homes.
Danny Fulgencio
Felix Losada advocates preserving Bajada for single-family homes.
CityDesign Studio director Brent Brown designed the surrounding plans for the future of West Dallas.
Danny Fulgencio
CityDesign Studio director Brent Brown designed the surrounding plans for the future of West Dallas.

"When somebody comes along and tells you how to do something, you say, 'To hell with you. You go do it,'" he says, drumming his hands on the table, adding that by "somebody" he means, "Oh, just anybody."

Nevertheless, he says he feels a duty to develop the area responsibly. "We have to set a standard that will be a benefit to the city for the future...We're not looking at a quick nickel or something. That's not our agenda at all."

Though their means and motivations may differ, McGregor, like Brown, sees this as a progressive step for Dallas. "West Dallas isn't West Dallas...This is Dallas. This is the future of Dallas, it's not just West Dallas," McGregor says. He and his business partners, Phil Romano and Stuart Fisk, originally wanted to call their company "Long Term Investments," but the name was taken. The three partners met because their children go to school together, and they plan on this project benefiting their children more than themselves.

Monte Anderson, another area developer who is also a real estate broker and the owner of the Belmont Hotel and Smoke restaurant in Oak Cliff, also takes a long-term approach. "My mission is to build better communities...for seven generations," Anderson says. "What I build is for my great-granddaughter's grandkids." When Anderson discusses development, it sounds like a spiritual experience, and in the case of West Dallas, that would make CityDesign Studio his religious guide. "I think that plan is one of the most progressive, unbelievable beginnings of any plan or plans I've ever seen," he says. "The plan implemented and followed through will be incredible...It will be very soulful. It will be a soulful place." Anderson grew up in Oak Cliff and has made it his mission to improve southern Dallas County. "I make my money rebuilding old properties," he says. The Texas Theatre and the restored Bishop Arts firehouse, now Gloria's restaurant, were his projects.

He purchased the Belmont Hotel on St. Patrick's Day 2004, when it was a "fleabag," and he reopened it in 2005 as a trendy boutique hotel. He included a hotel bar with a patio furnished with reclaimed wood benches and tables. Anderson is a master of turning down-and-out spaces into desirable and profitable hangouts. He's working with another local landowner to create a mobile marketplace along the Fort Worth Avenue side of the trailer park less than a mile down the street from the Belmont. "We'll have an insurance office, snow-cone stand, shoe repair, just general services," he says. And these businesses will all be housed in trailers. "It's a portable space for small entrepreneurs," he says. "I'm obsessed with small, affordable, cool spaces."

His preferred method of development is to consider the culture of an existing neighborhood and fill in the voids with new businesses and improved neighborhood spaces or "figure out what the missing parts are." His ideal neighborhood is a mix of cultures and incomes. "Any time you build a neighborhood with cul-de-sacs and all the same income level lives there, you've failed," Anderson says. This is why he favors slowing gentrification in La Bajada. "I think we evolve as humans, and it allows us to evolve and not just throw us out of our house overnight...So, if the overlay helps that process, I would be in favor of it," Anderson says. He hasn't given the possible outcomes of an NSO enough thought to wholeheartedly stand behind it, but he would like to see the neighborhood preserved, even down to the style of "old cottage" homes.

"It's really about creating walkable, sustainable—when I say 'sustainable,' that doesn't only mean environmentally sustainable, but economically sustainable. I'm interested in the evolution of land, of what it can be today," Anderson says. He identifies himself as a "hardcore New Urbanist" who's worked within these basic tenets since before he even heard the phrase. New Urbanism centers on creating walkable, mixed-use communities with integrated commercial and retail locations. "We're all made for something, and I was made for this," Anderson says. Not surprisingly, Beasley, who worked with the CityDesign Studio, is known around the world as a leader of New Urbanism.


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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...

Coleman
Coleman

*coughstanleeisn'tanartistcough*

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.

BishopArtsBud
BishopArtsBud

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

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.

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...

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! :)

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.

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.

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.

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.

 
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