Real Estate

Oak Cliff Conservationists Race Against Developers to Preserve Neighborhood

In one narrative, a Dallas developer hoping to capitalize on Bishop Arts has decided to listen to citizens and do what is right. Alamo Manhattan, the company that once promised to make Oak Cliff cool with giant apartment structures over existing homes and businesses, in a project that was to be built in three phases, is now promising to build a nicer-looking, smaller apartment building in two phases. The third phase on the old plan had been especially controversial, because it occupied the spot that business owners had lovingly referred to as the "weird" part of Bishop Arts — as in, the slightly cheaper and less snooty commercial section. In that section is Red Pegasus Comics, the store whose owners went viral when they closed their shop to get married shortly after the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage ruling. Ten Bells Tavern, Ten Bells Tavern's patio, and the Local Oak restaurant also faced impending doom under large buildings in the third phase. This section also covered old, charming homes where poor people lived (and some still do!) long before the gentrification of North Oak Cliff.  
The good news for this crowd in "Phase Three" came in Alamo Manhattan's meeting late last week, at which the company unveiled its new, redesigned project to much fanfare. The first two phases — which would go over the spots where Sonic Burger and Zoli's are, are still in place. But the third block of the building was nowhere to be seen. Kenneth Denson, Red Pegasus' owner, asked the company at the meeting if this meant his business was safe.  "They said they still plan to buy that lot," Denson says. "And according to them, they would be the landlord and they could revisit that at some future point."  If and when Alamo Manhattan acquires that land, of course, the developer would be able to more easily build over what's there. In interviews, the Alamo Manhattan President Matt Segrest has said they want to work with the community and encourage people to keep coming to meetings. 

But Oak Cliff conservationists say they have a better plan than to speak out and try to work with big developers: Zone them out. "I'm not sure we have this kind of energy to keep doing this month after month after month, because this is just going to keep happening," says Michael Amonett, a past president and member of the Oak Cliff Conservation League. Currently, the section outside of the Bishop Arts square, where Alamo Manhattan plans to develop its project, has looser zoning than most of the Bishop Arts area. Essentially, buildings there can be bigger and taller than the rest of Bishop Arts. Amonett hopes to stop big developments in the future. To make the zoning change happen quicker, the league now needs to fork over some money to the city of Dallas and to pay a lobbyist. The estimated price-tag of all that: $10,000, Amonett says. He says that the new renderings from Alamo Manhattan are an improvement, but not enough to stop him from trying to raise money for the zoning-hearing on GoFundMe. "The sooner we get this done, and the sooner we get what we like written into the ordinance, the better future projects are going to turn out."
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Amy Martyn
Contact: Amy Martyn