Although the Dallas neighborhoods Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs are technically part of Uptown, the potential “uptowning” of the gayborhood is imminent. Mike Ablon of real estate development giant PegasusAblon is looking to take The Strip to the next level by building two residential high rise buildings.
One of the buildings will be located behind Station 4 and the other behind Roy G’s, with the building behind the Caven-owned Station 4 planned for completion first. An LGBTQ community-centered meeting was held this Wednesday evening at The Mining Club to discuss the high-rise project.
Former City Council member Ed Oakley, who has previously led construction projects in the Design District, led the meeting, telling the crowd that the gayborhood would remain “a place for the community to call their own, like a mini Times Square, if you will.”
In an attempt to assuage fears of gentrification, he added that Caven Enterprises “will own everything [in terms of their bars], except for the land and the buildings.”
Oakley is a Caven board member and no one from PegasusAblon appeared at Wednesday’s meeting.
“The whole [point] of the project is preserving the LGBT community, preserving the existing buildings, preserving all [of] the establishments that are there,” Ablon tells the Observer. There’s no displacement. Projects like these fortify neighborhoods.”
“The LGBTQ community is an integral part of our city, of our culture, and our future,” Ablon adds. “And the fortification of the neighborhood for who's there, for the inclusive nature of what is there, should go on for another 50 years.”
Oakley did not have an exact timeframe for the completion of the high-rise project, but Ablon previously told Dallas Voice that he hopes for the ground to be broken by 2022, with the first phase to be completed by 2024.
Residents and business owners near The Strip are concerned about how the neighborhood will flow. Those at the meeting asked questions about parking and proposed scenarios in which residents of the high rises complained about noise coming from the gay bars, which would potentially result in them getting shut down. Oakley didn’t offer a clear answer for either question.
While Mariel Street, owner of Roy G’s on Cedar Springs, trusts that Ablon will handle this project with care and respect for the LGBTQ community, she has mixed feelings about it.
“I think as a business owner, I'm concerned about having a new landlord, just because it's not always a bloodless transition,” Street says. “I think as a property owner, I'm excited for the future of the property values around here. As a lesbian and a member of the LGBTQ community ... I hope that my kids still have the opportunity to have a gay strip in the area. So I think depending on which hat I'm wearing my perspective’s a little bit different.”
During the meeting, Oakley mentioned the possibility of affordable housing, although he was unclear about how this would work. Regardless, Street is excited to welcome a new crowd to The Strip.
“I think by adding the modern residential right behind The Strip, that it's going to hopefully expand the community and give more people an opportunity to live down here,” Street says.
Some gayborhood frequenters are opposed to the project entirely. Longtime Oak Lawn resident Franklin Stevens believes the neighborhood should be left as it is.
When he previously lived in New York City, Stevens witnessed the gentrification of West Village and fears the same will happen to Oak Lawn.
“It just seems like [the neighborhood] is just becoming all high rise buildings that people aren't going to benefit from,” Stevens says.
While the gayborhood seems to be divided on the high-rise project, both Oakley and those opposed to the project insist that the local LGBTQ community remain vocal and involved every step of the way.
“I think it's important for the gay community to stand up and stick together and support one another,” Stevens says. “That means going to City Hall or going to senators or local politicians and saying ‘Hey, this is our territory.'”
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