Sure, it might look like a developer wants to put three huge apartment complexes over existing businesses and homes in Oak Cliff, but that's only because Alamo Manhattan published a map of three huge buildings over existing businesses and homes in Oak Cliff. It's still all very preliminary, insist the company and its lobbyist, former City Council member Angela Hunt. If people don't want this "gateway" to the Bishop Arts neighborhood, as the project has been pitched, to be three huge, boxy apartment complexes, Hunt will tell the company not to do that.
"Let me be very clear about what I'm doing here. I'm not lobbying for a project that is not going to work for a neighborhood, and my purpose in working with Alamo Manhattan is not to advocate for a project that is rejected by Bishop Arts," Hunt says.
Hunt and Alamo Manhattan make a surprising pairing. During the eight years Hunt served on City Council, she earned a reputation for helping make Dallas a genuinely cooler city and fighting against Johnny Dallas-developer types. Yet when Alamo Manhattan presented a very Johnny Dallas-looking apartment project to suspicious locals and small business owners at Eno's pizza last week, Hunt was there to introduce the company. She offered a ringing endorsement of Alamo Manhattan, then vaguely described her relationship with them. She told the crowd about her experience as a councilwoman and did not say outright that she is now a hired gun.
"They contacted me a couple of months ago and asked if I would talk with them about Bishop Arts, and talk with them in general about new development in great areas like this. I said I'd be happy to," Hunt told everyone of her relationship with the company.
In fact, city records show she is a registered lobbyist for Alamo Manhattan. "They essentially hired me to criticize their project," she says over the phone. Like Alamo Manhattan, Hunt describes a project that is far from finished. The architecture on the current proposal doesn't look right, she says. "I don't think that the project is where it needs to be. I think aesthetically there has to be changes to make this project fit in with the architectural style" of the rest of the neighborhood.
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Although the project is still on the drawing board, the company has already begun the process of asking the city for $11 million in public money through the neighborhood's TIF program, which invests some taxes paid in the TIF district directly into its development. It hired Hunt to help it do that. "My assistance has been helping them understand the TIF process and helping them go through the TIF process," she says.
But what if locals don't want the company to understand the TIF process? A Change.org petition asking Dallas to kill the entire Bishop Arts Gateway project has 3,700 signatures. Hunt said she hadn't seen that when the Observer interviewed her.
Alamo Manhattan appears to be more interested in Oak Cliff than Oak Cliff is in Alamo Manhattan. When the company made an offer to Oak Cliff property owner Jane Bryant in October 2014, its real estate agent told her in an email: "They are very bullish on the Bishop Arts area and are currently looking at some other properties close by in order to create critical mass and enhance the unique overall lifestyle of the neighborhood."
So, it's all very preliminary, even though the company is already making offers, and Hunt won't lobby for the project unless people like it, even though she's already helped the company understand how to get $11 million from the city.