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Commercial Real Estate

Why Mikial Onu Is Pursuing Opportunities in Southern Dallas with The Adaline

This week marks the groundbreaking of the 12-acre mixed-use development by Onu Ventures near the intersection of Interstates 45 and 20.
| |Renderings courtesy of Onu Ventures
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Mikial Onu can rattle off the stats from memory. Off the top of his head, he’ll tell you that a little over 5,700 people work blue collar jobs in zip code 75241, that the annual income range for those jobs in that area is $40,000 to 70,000, and that of those 5,700 employees, fewer than 3,500 actually live there. 

As for the ones that don’t, Onu can recite the area median income (AMI) of where they do reside: $81,000 for DeSoto, $84,000 for Cedar Hill, about $104,000 for Red Oak. They’re the kinds of facts and figures you’d want to know when you’re trying to use 12 acres in Southern Dallas to stimulate private investment.  

This week marks the groundbreaking for The Adaline, a 12-acre mixed-use development by Onu Ventures near the intersection of Interstates 45 and 20. Phase one plans, valued at $5 million, include construction of a 4,100-square-foot market and cafe dubbed “Miss Eddie’s,” a 10,000-square-foot outdoor event space bearing the name BKYD, and 5,200 square feet of leasable retail space. Completion is slated for this upcoming fall.

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Overall plans for the $50 million development also include 198 apartments and 40 townhomes, with workforce housing product intended for renters in the 65 percent to 90 percent AMI range. Work on The Adaline kicked off in 2022. In the beginning, Onu says, the goal was to bring fully private investment to the area that featured market-rate products. And, he adds, there’s a misconception about what that means. “All market rate really means is that it’s market relative to the county,” he says. 

As Onu puts it, a lack of market-rate housing has skewed local income information in a way that makes it look like nobody has much money in the area. “And the absence of money leads to the absence of retail, the absence of market-rate housing, the absence of single-family housing, the absence of restaurants, the absence of grocery stores, which everyone talks about,” he says. 

People are working in the area and making good money, Onu says, but they’re living elsewhere because of a lack of supply. “And the reason there’s no supply is because people don’t understand the market enough,” he says.  

That’s where Onu comes in. After growing up in a Houston suburb, he got to know Dallas while studying finance at Southern Methodist University. After getting an MS in leadership from the University of Colorado Boulder, he eventually returned to Dallas in 2021 and founded Onu Ventures. The company’s portfolio boasts about 10 projects, including the Adaline. 

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“I was looking for that area of Dallas where I could actually make an impact,” Onu says. “You know, a young 22-year-old can’t come into Park Cities and start developing retail. That doesn’t make a ton of sense. But in southern Dallas, I understood the people. I understood the community. And I understood all the different things that are happening there.” 

He points to the communities comprising the outer ring of growth around Dallas—the Rowletts, the Red Oaks, the Planos. But in Southern Dallas, Onu sees opportunity. “I think this is the only one of those that is still ripe for development, where you can still purchase land at a feasible price, to where you can get creative,” Onu says. “And I hope that other people sense that.”

Miss Eddie’s was designed by Dallas-based Plan B Group, whose portfolio includes Haywire in Uptown Dallas and Legacy Food Hall in Plano. Onu says the project would have appeal if it was put in Highland Park or Plano. “Because it’s in Southern Dallas, that does not deter from the quality,” he says. “And that’s what I’m excited about. You have this very high-quality project that when it’s complete will be designed, again, by people that are doing some of the best retail in Dallas.” 

Onu is clear to note: this isn’t about being charitable. “We’re not a nonprofit,” he says. “We don’t do things that we don’t think can make money.” For him, the Southern Dallas project isn’t about The Adaline or about being the only entity to pursue a future in the area—it’s about kickstarting something new.

Onu says, “I want a new generation of innovators to show what they can do in Southern Dallas.” 

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Audrey Henvey

Audrey Henvey

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