I call it the Aww Factor. You’ve driven off your normal route, looking for a shortcut to the dry cleaners. Or perhaps you’ve taken one turn too many on your eternal quest to avoid traffic. Whichever. The fact is that you’re out of your element, wandering in uncharted residential waters.
And that’s when you see it. That cute bungalow. Those cobblestone streets. A Victorian gem. You coo with delight, wondering why you’ve never discovered this community and, better yet, why you don’t live here. You’ve uncovered a hidden neighborhood. Something secret that doesn’t require a master plan or a guarded entrance. And in Dallas’ voracious real estate market, that’s something nearly impossible to find.
SUBURBAN SPLENDOR: Old Towne
One mile east of Central Expressway off 15th Street in downtown Plano.
A little Victorian, some prairie bungalow, but mostly typical 1960s-style dwellings.
AWW FACTOR: Small-town appealin Plano, of all places.
As multimillion-dollar edifices take over the prairie land of West Plano (or what’s left of it), the city’s historic downtown quietly hums along. Tea rooms and quilting shops line its redbrick main street. Lifelong residents thump melons at Georgia’s Farmers Market. But don’t mistake Old Towne for some sleepy little slice of Americana. The DART rail is poised to cut through its center, and Lincoln Properties is building an adjoining residential community called Eastside Village that complements this tranquil side of Plano.
All that and the Queen of Hearts Magic Emporium? What’s not to love?
THE NEXT FRONTIER: The Cedars
Directly south of downtown Dallas, bordered by I-30, Harwood, and Lamar.
Various commercial buildings, many built from 1890-1940.
Fairly bleak at street level but wait until you see the interiors.
So how cool is it to say that you live in Jack Ruby’s first night club, the Silver Spur? That’s right. Pretty cool. From the outside, the historic Cedars district looks desolate and deserted. But its what’s inside that counts: wide open spaces transformed into trendy lofts. Long neglected Dallas landmarks like the Ervay Theater and American Beauty Flour Mill have been reborn as inner-city residences with their history and hip quotient intact. The long ago abandoned Sears mail order plant on Lamar is now the very chic Southside on Lamar. Nearby Old City Parkthe oldest park in Dallasreinforces the area’s historical importance. The living isn’t always convenient. Development has been slow, and there aren’t any dry cleaners or grocers around the corner.
But Farmers Market is only two blocks away, as is a new Dallas police station. Besides, where else can you have your friends over for drinks and tell them, “Oh yeah. Bonnie and Clyde used to sit at that bar, too.”
OUT OF THE SHADOWS: Stevens Park Village
North Oak Cliff, bordered by Hampton, W. Colorado, Remond, and Fullerton.
Prairie-style and Austin stone homes from the 1940s, 15 of which were designed by noted Dallas architect Charles Dilbeck.
Cute, cozy, and super-secluded.
Stevens Park Village lives in the old-money shadow of its well-coifed sibling Stevens Park. But what this neighborhood lacks in size and stature it more than makes up for with its hamlet-like appeal.
Residents are active in neighborhood beautification, awarding a Yard of the Month at each association meeting. Neighbors watch out for each other. They even have ice cream socials, for crying out loud. Streets curve around wide, tree-lined medians. The Dilbeck-designed and -inspired houses all feel homey and welcoming, boasting natural materials and fine craftsmanship. The area even includes all the Texan necessities within walking distance: a Minyard’s, Luby’s, and Dairy Queen.
Sounds like a village, doesn’t it?
PARK CITIES LITE: Perry Heights
Near Oak Lawn, bordered by Lemmon, Cedar Springs, Wycliff, and the Dallas North Tollway.
A mix of styles, including classical, craftsman bungalow, and Tudor, developed in 1922.
Woodsy enclave of historical homes defies the onslaught of progress.
Let’s hear it for Perry Heights. It’s the only neighborhood near Oak Lawn that has yet to be invaded by luxury townhome developers. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But why tamper with Perry Heights’ lush, quiet perfection? With no north or south entrances, traffic is kept to a minimum. Yards are impeccably trimmed. Homes range from the quaint to grandiose, the most prominent being on Rawlins. Perry Heights is also a foodie’s dream come true. The neighborhood is a mere five minutes from such culinary treasures as Mia’s, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, Parigi, and the original Black-Eyed Pea.
SOUTHERN GRACE: South Boulevard-Park Row
Near Fair Park bordered by Grand, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X.
Various styles such as mission, classical, and Georgian.
More like a “Wow!” Historic dazzlers in a segmented South Dallas neighborhood.
Prosperous Jewish families settled into this four-block neighborhood after the temple Emanuel El was moved from downtown in 1913. In the ’50s, affluent and prominent black residents made South Boulevard a showplace with homes that rival Swiss Avenue’s finest.
Since then, however, this tarnished gem has slipped into disrepair because of the neighborhood’s seclusion. Over the past decade, families have returned, looking for a good buy to fix up. With Fair Park, Deep Ellum, and Exposition Park nearby, South Boulevard is making a comeback. But the key to its revitalization is gentle preservation not gentrification.