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Devon San Filipo says two friends of hers had seen Bishop Terrace on a home tour three and a half years ago and told her about it. She drove over on a lunch hour from her job as an administrative assistant.

"It was incomplete. The front yard was all muddy. I looked in the window of an apartment on the ground floor, and I said, 'This is mine.' I crawled in through the window in a business suit and high heels."

San Filipo bikes and walks throughout the neighborhood. She's a member of the neighborhood organization. She is especially happy not to be in the suburbs.

"When I was married, I lived in the suburbs in New Jersey and Mississippi, quite a few different places. This is peace.

"There are bird feeders out in front and a wrought-iron table and chairs. On Sundays I sit out there for an hour with my coffee and my newspaper. I hear the church bells ringing all over Oak Cliff. I see parents walking their children to church. It's that old neighborhood feeling."

The church bells and the parents walking their children may not be everyone's cup of tea, of course. But for the market of people who do find that texture appealing, it's a hard thing for the New Urbanist developers to reproduce, short of using elaborate animatronics or hiring actors. In fact, the special quality both Spence and Bartosh try to evince and then sell in their properties is love of the terrain--a difficult thing for anyone to fake.

"There was an article in the paper," Spence says, "about a real estate guy who bought a building downtown. The guy said, 'I violated a cardinal rule of real estate. I fell in love with my building.'

"I thought, what's wrong with falling in love with your work? I can't imagine not falling in love with a building I'm going to spend a year of blood, sweat, and tears on."

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze

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