Developer Promises to Keep Oak Cliff Cool with Giant Apartment Buildings

Alamo Manhattan, the Dallas real estate firm that demolished the old Mason Bar in Uptown last year to build apartments, now has its sights set on Oak Cliff. Last week, the company asked City Hall for $11 million in tax incentives to built three five-story buildings in Oak Cliff. The project, called the Bishop Arts Gateway, would sit just outside the Bishop Arts District near Zang Boulevard and Davis Street. Business owners and homeowners in Oak Cliff say they've known  for awhile that the project was in the works, but last week was the first time they saw an exact map of the proposal. The map provided by the company shows three large buildings on top of spots already occupied by trendy small businesses, the kind that arguably helped make Oak Cliff a popular destination in the first place — Ten Bells Tavern and the restaurants Local Oak and Zoli's are among those in the way. 

Executives so far have provided few specifics to the public about their plans for the existing businesses. Alamo Manhattan Vice President Wade B. Johns said at a meeting Thursday that he hopes Zoli's would move into the bottom floor of the proposed apartment project, where Alamo plans to put in retail space. The fate of Ten Bells Tavern, under the second proposed building, is uncertain. "This is phase two," Johns said of Ten Bells."We haven't gotten to that yet." He could not provide a timeline of when phase two would begin. An attorney who represents Ten Bells and other businesses affected didn't want to comment so as not to negatively affect contract negotiations. 
Johns was at Eno's pizza in the Bishop Arts District on Thursday night with the rest of the Alamo Manhattan team, trying to ensure the suspicious business owners and homeowners not to worry. Former City Council member Angela Hunt introduced the company, because, she promised, "they were great to work with and they were open to listening and working with the surrounding businesses." Over free pizza, the company told everyone they understood the Bishop Arts district. 

"This is not Uptown. We recognize this. This is nothing but Bishop Arts," said company CEO Matt Segrest. Maybe so, but many of the people there said the apartment buildings were too big to fit the character of what, in theory anyway, is supposed to be one of Dallas' few cool neighborhoods.The company was noncommittal about their own map of the project. An architect for the company said the drawings they provided weren't necessarily what the final apartments would look like.  "This is the beginning of the process, and what we want to hear are comments from everyone that has a comment." 
Several of the businesses are already in negotiations with the developer and didn't want to talk, but not all.  Kenneth Denson opened a comic book shop in Oak Cliff just a month and a half ago, and he doesn't know what will happen to his shop if the apartments are built.  On the map, he noticed that his Red Pegasus Games and Comics is in the parking lot of one of the buildings. He says company executives told him a section of Eighth Street, the part just outside Wild Detectives and the Bishop Arts District, would get turned into an alleyway. That section of Eighth Street, for those of you unfamiliar with Oak Cliff, is where poor people's houses currently are.