A Change.org petition protesting Alamo Manhattan’s planned “Bishop Arts Gateway” development has garnered more than 300 signatures in just 3 hours. Signers oppose plans for a five-story, mixed-use development that would be constructed near the intersection of Zang and Davis St., at the site of the terminus of the future phase 2 extension of the Oak Cliff Streetcar. Those plans don’t share the neighborhood’s “vibe,” the petition says, and signers “believe that the ‘locally owned “organic” businesses’, as you put it, are happy where they are currently located, do not need to be displaced, and do not want to be your tenants.”
As I reported in the April edition of D Magazine, the neighborhood has been bracing itself for this moment. Zoning approved in 2010 set the stage for a redevelopment push that has recently driven up the cost of land in the area as developers cross the Trinity with hopes of building-out the next dense, Uptown-style neighborhood in Dallas. Those zoning plans weren’t passed without some controversy, but the rezoning does demonstrate a desire among many in the neighborhood to see in-fill development and a denser urbanization of the hip enclave of 1920s bungalows and reclaimed trolley stop storefronts.
But residents are right to be wary and protective of the on-the-ground successes that have helped to make Oak Cliff so popular and attractive to developers. The Alamo Manhattan plans showcase Good, Futon and Farrell’s typically mediocre designs. They are cookie-cutter blocks that could be plopped in Addison or adjacent the Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, and they threaten to uproot — at least temporarily — some beloved Oak Cliff establishments, such as Zoli’s Pizzeria and Ten Bells Tavern.
In the Lakewood Advocate, Rachel Stone does a great job breaking down the plans, of which many long-time Oak Cliff investors are skeptical:
Developer/new urbanist Monte Anderson says of the initial plans: “They are trying to put a 10-pound bag of sand in a 5-pound hole.”
Anderson says the plan encourages “the wrong kind of density,” with long unbroken blocks and imposing buildings.
“Just because the zoning says this is the maximum here doesn’t mean it’s the right thing,” he says.
Architect Joe Wilkins of Design Alchemy says the design, by Good Fulton & Farrell, looks a little too suburban. He suggested they should contract several architects with different styles to find diversity and uniqueness for the project.
“It’s a very delicate project type because it’s going to set a precedent,” Wilkins says. “The last thing we want are trends that will date it.”
For their part, Alamo Manhattan has shown willingness to work with neighbors, Stone reports, and they have hosted at least one neighborhood meeting about the Oak Cliff project. Angela Hunt has commended the company’s receptiveness to input in the past.
Still, no one in Oak Cliff should be too surprised by these new pictures of generic, Uptown-style apartment blocks. You will recall that those pushing for the Oak Cliff Streetcar were never shy about the real benefit of that mode of transit: stirring dense development along the path of new steel rail.