Urban Genesis Begins Bishop High Line Apartments this November

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Preliminary design for 70 apartments on the 400 block of Melba St., looking east from Adams St.

As soon as the rain lets up, demolition will begin on the four homes where 70 apartments will be under construction in November. Urban Genesis spoke with the Bishop Arts Neighborhood Association Tuesday night about the Bishop High Line project and the other 50 apartments they have planned just a block away. The projects are planned along Melba Street between Madison St. and Adams St. The site on the 300 block of Melba St., near Madison St., has been cleared. (Full disclosure: my sister owns the two-story brick home on the corner between their property and Madison.)

The building will extend west to the Nazarian family’s corner properties at Bishop Ave. Further west, their properties on the 400 block of Melba St. will form the corner at Adams St., as above. The two projects will be designed similarly, with minor differences.

Urban Genesis - 400 block rendering view
The 400 block of Melba, today. From the same corner perspective as the rendering. Though I don’t see the two enormous oaks in the right-of-way here in the rendering.

Urban Genesis is a merchant builder, planning to keep their investment for between 5 and 20 years, so they’re invested in spending more on characteristics that will pay out over the long term, such as conditioned interior halls and elevators. Also, the secured parking behind will have eight-foot, board-on-board fence along the back, with open gates on the side. “It’s not going to be ugly,” says Matt Shafiezadeh, one of the developers with Urban Genesis.

But judging by the recent state of neglect of the properties and a few serious issues of neglect with the homes on the 300 block before they were torn down, neighbors aren’t convinced their word is as solid as Urban Genesis developers would like.

Urban Genesis - 400 block B
The 400 block of Melba, facing west with Adams St in the distance.

Most recently, on the 400 block, the trees were cut down in each yard with little regard for the homes that would soon be torn down, letting the trees crash into roofs and smash windows. Excusable if the homes were immediately demolished, but then asbestos was found in one home, so now the homes have been sitting in this state for over two weeks. It becomes a safety issue when homes look trashed and neglected, attracting vagrants and allowing an inconspicuous place for troublemakers to play.

These homes aren’t securely locked and boarded up. Neither were the homes along the 300 block, where similar trouble began to brood months ago, until the developers took more conscientious steps to increase visibility in the backyards and board up windows and doors more securely.

“I know I’m the new guy here — give me a chance.”

– Matt Shafiezadeh, developer with Urban Genesis

Just a side note, then I’ll get off my soap box — the Bishop Arts and surrounding Dallas Land and Loan neighborhood is still in a very vulnerable state. Although lots of new investment is in the works, there is still a lot of the same code violations and general signs of neglect on residential properties that have existed in this neighborhood for decades. Many neighbors have diligently worked for years to take care of their own properties, to encourage pride in the area, and help spruce up this historically neglected part of town. All it would take would be a few armed robberies and break-ins for the reputation of Bishop Arts to be in peril and scare-off those big-spending visitors. It is essential that incoming developers take responsibility for their impact on the perception and actual state of the area.

And, unfortunately, the Urban Genesis developers were able to take advantage of a loophole in zoning that allows trees on residential lots to be cut down without any stipulations on replacement. Whereas, the Nazerians down the street saved every tree they could around every house they demolished, planning much of their development around the big old trees, and will be required to plant new trees to replace those that will be cut.

Oak Cliff is prized for its big, old trees. That’s the appeal of the area — and its namesake. It’s why the city recently spent $70,000 to move two mature oaks in the path of the Bishop Arts streetcar stop. It’s worth it — the value of a big, old tree is priceless. The Urban Genesis rendering doesn’t include the existing oaks along Adams St., and judging by their treatment of formerly existing backyard trees (which could have made their rear parking lot MUCH more appealing) it’s doubtful they’re planning to keep any trees at all.

Urban Gensis - 400 block closeupJPG
Large, mature tree trunks lie between two of the homes scheduled for demolition.

These young developers seem earnest, maybe they’re genuinely doing their best to develop a good product. In conversation with the Bishop Arts Neighborhood Association they did ask for the neighbors’ most constructive critiques.

They spoke openly about their design solutions to difficult PD requirements, and neighbors offered creative recommendations. Such as the requirement under Architectural Design Standard g1:

If a building exceeds 150 feet of frontage along any street, and exceeds 36 feet in height, that building must have a minimum of 500 square feet of sloped-roof area. The sloped-roof area must be visible from the street, and the slope must exceed a pitch of two in 12.

This resulted in the odd sloped protrusions from the roof in the rendering. The requirement might be met by a parapet with a pitched roof detail – like many of the buildings around Bishop Arts have.

Bishop Arts - 706 Bishop Gate-GoogleMaps
Source: Google Maps, Digital Globe
Gloria's Bishop Arts - GoogleMaps
Source: Google Maps, Digital Globe

The red clay tile roof detail attached to the parapets on these historic Bishop Arts buildings conceal a flat roof behind while adding the historic character and valuable detail that add to the district’s pedestrian-friendly feel.

The Urban Genesis developers aimed for a  “converted warehouse design”, as Shafiezadeh mentioned at the Neighborhood Association’s meeting, which some neighbors compared to an Uptown feel. The Urban Genesis team encouraged neighbors to put together a design committee to recommend design changes before they go to the TIF Board for approval. If not granted TIF funds, the developers would not be able to make planned improvements to the alleyway and streetscape. If they do accept TIF funds they will also be subject to design recommendations from the Urban Design Peer Review Board as well as required to include 20 percent affordable housing.

Lida Hooe Elem-1
Simple architectural details on the historic Lida Hooe Elementary building make this brick, ‘converted warehouse’ style building a special place.

As more developers are attracted to the area, the most valuable thing the Bishop Arts Neighborhood Association could do is form a design review board such as in Oak Lawn to help developers understand simple, elegant ways to meet PD requirements. Basically, what Urban Genesis is asking for. If the neighborhood can help them out, we might see a really great project under construction in a few months!

Hey, and if all this sounds like a great reason to buy in the area (and you won’t be too bothered by all the upcoming construction) 513 Melba, just 3 houses down, is on the market for just over $350k. Contact Daniel Quintana with Homespun Real Estate Group for details.

Bishop Arts- 513 Melba




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Amanda Popken

Amanda is a community strategist & economic development specialist focused on placemaking and urban design promoting, inspiring, teaching & engaging communities to grow their own social capital. She is President of Congress for the New Urbanism North Texas and can be found at amandapopken.com

Reader Interactions


  1. mmCandy Evans says

    Amanda! Fabulous write-up as ever. We need to get on that loophole asap. If the trees were diseased, that is one thing. We had to cut down a BEAUTIFUL Live Oak in our front yard — you didn’t get to see it, he was sick and had to go — that we replaced of course (the little guy next to him) but I literally bought our home for that tree. It branched out over the driveway. Not only are those trees a huge asset to the neighborhood, they help us breathe!

    • mmAmanda Popken says

      Thanks Candy! I know that a volunteer group of real estate development and environmental specialists have been working on update our Tree Ordinance, coming to council next month (last I heard) – perhaps I can get ahold of it to see whether this type of situation is addressed. Sorry you lost your big gorgeous tree! I’m imagining how stunning it must have looked in your lovely yard. Trees do get sick and diseased though.

      • Todd Johnson says

        I’m actually buying one the first townhouse developments being built on Melba. One of the reasons why we’re moving in to Bishop Arts (from East Kessler) is we like the mix of old and new and a variety of architectural styles all in a highly walkable neighborhood. I’m hoping the development is organic and sensitive to BA and its residents. And trees. Yes, please lets try to keep as many trees as possible. Great job reporting on this story, Amanda.

        • mmAmanda Popken says

          Thanks Todd. Glad you’re able to find a place you like and stay in the neighborhood! Yes, variety is the spice of life! If you’re interested in joining the conversation on a fledgeling neighborhood design committee this Thursday evening, we’ll be meeting at Daniel’s house – he’s the BANA president. I checked and they would welcome any interested neighbors to attend and participate! https://www.facebook.com/events/1102658703146154/

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