Neighborhood Spotlight: Quality of Life in the North Cliff Conservation District

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The Oak Cliff Nature Preserve, one of the gems of living in Oak Cliff.          Canine Model: Big Turkey

Oak Cliff covers about one third of Dallas, with a lot of variety throughout. You’re probably familiar with the small craftsman homes around Bishop Arts, the historic homesteads of Winnetka Heights, and the eclectic estates of the Kessler neighborhoods. A little further west near Hampton and south of Jefferson you’ll find many neighborhoods like the North Cliff Conservation District: adorable homes with classic architectural details and three key amenities close by.

From the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, ooccl.com
From the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, ooccl.com

The Old Oak Cliff Conservation League has mapped many established Oak Cliff neighborhoods, each generally comprised of homes built around the same time period. It’s a lively, diverse area — especially if you’re the type who revels in adventures in Central and South America. Yes, there’s a heavy Hispanic vibe in Oak Cliff, if you hadn’t noticed. It’s a refreshingly different neighborhood than you’ll find in the more expensive parts of Dallas, with a unique set of quality of life assets (aside from the awesome taco stands and Jefferson Boulevard of course.)

Three Key Amenities

1. The Grocery Store

If you live on the side of Oak Cliff closer to downtown, you likely shop at Fiesta, or you drive across the river to your pick between the Uptown or Greenville Ave. grocers, or you head to the Hampton Tom Thumb at Hampton and W. 12th St. Five years ago, there were so few organic brands or products or anything sold here. But it continues to get SO MUCH BETTER! There’s even a small section of the best gluten-free crackers and snacks you won’t find anywhere else. You may still need to go to other stores on occasion to enjoy their overabundance of fresh organics, but you can bike a few blocks to get groceries from Tom Thumb. For only organic produce and health foods, there’s Cox Farms Market at Sylvan | Thirty.

2. The Parks

I almost hate to say it because it’s one of Dallas’ best kept secrets, but it’s a major quality-of-life asset here. The Oak Cliff Nature Preserve, maintained by the Dallas Off Road Bicycle Association (DORBA), is 121 acres of native grassland fields, creeks, woods, and trails. You can even trail run with your dog here. And the fields are full of wildflowers in the spring. It’s less than 1 mile from the North Cliff Conservation District.OCNPtrailmap

The integrity of this natural asset was preserved through a partnership with the Texas Land Conservancy. Development rights were consolidated to form the Primrose Oaks Apartments and land was donated to the City for the Hampton-Illinois branch library. It was truly a public-private partnership to create this special place. I challenge you to name another major city in the US with an off road bike park this beautiful within 7 miles of the downtown.

Kiest Park is a City-maintained gem of a 264-acre park with tennis courts, playgrounds, a baseball diamond, rec center, natural woods, 3 miles of nice big paved paths, and a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) era picnic area. It’s great people watching too. And only 2 miles down Hampton from the North Cliff Conservation District.

OCNP & Kiest3. DART Rail & Bike-ability

The Hampton Park & Ride Station is within a mile of the Tom Thumb. The morning and afternoon commutes can get pretty packed (as on most DART trains during rush hour) but the convenience is real. It’s actually practical to bike in heels and a dress to the station to “bike to work” downtown. I did that three days a week for five years. It was amazing. As was biking the long way home over the Trinity, through Bishop Arts, and winding through the miles of adorable historic neighborhoods. Oak Cliff has an amazing street grid for biking without ever needing to ride on a main thoroughfare.

The Homes & People

The area south of Jefferson and east of Hampton was part of famed landscape architect and city planner George Kessler’s grand plan for Oak Cliff neighborhoods. The stately S. Oak Cliff Blvd. runs through the Sunset Hill neighborhood, designed as a carriage boulevard back when Sundays were for taking the horse and buggy to visit friends.

To the west of Hampton, the neighborhoods are a mix of Austin Stone and brick Tudor cottages and wooden Craftsman bungalows from the late 1920s through 40s, as well as small ranch-style homes from the early 1950s. Many homes around the curvy roads of Duval Drive, S. Ravenia Drive, and McCain Boulevard have their own distinct character, with some Spanish revival, 50s contemporary, and an occasional historic farmhouse. You’re likely to find in these homes authentic historic character and charm of times past.

The North Cliff Neighborhood became a Conservation District in 1996. “North Cliff Neighborhood was once the proud domain of large estates, picturesque dairy farms, and modest rural frame homes, many of which still stand,” says the District’s northcliffneighbors.com

The family-oriented neighborhoods are the best asset though. Three or four households on a block may be related. And likely you’ll see grandpa walking the grandkids to school. If you’re doing yard work you’ll have a chance to chat with neighbors walking dogs and children biking on the sidewalks.

And you’ll find plenty of big, old trees.

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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

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