Southern Dallas Buyer’s Guide: The Trail Ends at Fair Park

Toot-toot! End of the line! I have been riding myself ragged up and down DART’s Blue and Green lines in Southern Dallas for our Southern Dallas Buyer’s Guide. My goal was to see what kind of housing and neighborhoods are out there for those wanting a home close to the city without the North Dallas price tags.  Some neighborhoods are rougher than others, but many were surprisingly vibrant and full of housing stock many would recognize from more talked-about areas … near the Zoo might as well be called East Oak Cliff.  Of course, if you’re a renovator, there are cheap as sin gems in the rough awaiting new life.  Equally surprising (and a little saddening) were the number of new builds that are stylistically more at home in an exurb tract development. Sure, they’re better than an empty lot, but they hardly blend into the neighborhood (doubly true when they knock down old-growth trees in the process).

This last installment focuses on the area south and west of Fair Park serviced by the Hatcher, MLK, and Fair Park stations.  It seems like a large area (and it is), but there’s not a lot of homes for sale here.  I suspect the never-ending breath-holding for Fair Park’s revival plays some part in this.  But these days, it’s not only Fair Park that could drive a renaissance here …

As we’re reported on before, the Smart District south of City Hall between the convention center and Farmer’s Market will be a boon to housing in the area.  While it’s unfortunate there is no housing component in that 20-acre development, the set of office high-rises will bring jobs and the workers wanting to be close to them.

Fair Park back in the day

It’s funny.  Remember when the Powerball was scratching $1 billion last year? During the hullaballoo, I had dinner with a Southern Dallas advocate.  We daydreamed what we’d do with all that money.  I said I’d give 90 percent immediately to charity. I amended that to say I would buy the naming rights to Fair Park in exchange for pouring hundreds of millions into completely restoring and rejuvenating the grounds. Then I’d name it something like Prejudice Park or Bigot’s Meadow. I figured that would be a sure-fire way for private donors, shamed and horrified by my plans, to finally step up, outbid me, and figure out Fair Park.  We had a delicious laugh at the prospect (and I’d still be able to donate tons to charity).

And so after all my writing about Fair Park, this final stop is a bit of a homecoming. You may also recall I wrote a pair of columns about fascinating history of the South Blvd. and Park Row area adjacent to Fair Park in May 2016 (refresh yourselves here and here). In the early 20th Century, Jewish families leaving The Cedars settled near Fair Park and built the era’s mega-mansions, creating an area reminiscent of Swiss Avenue.

But that’s not our first stop.

There is a lot of open space in Frazier neighborhood

South of Fair Park is the Frazier neighborhood and Hatcher station where I jumped off for some spicy chicken at Church’s and to plan my day (about the only time you’ll catch me in a Church). When you picture a poor area, this is what’s envisioned.  There are many vacant lots where homes were lost … there could be three to four homes remaining on one side of a block. The homes are small, clad in clapboard instead of the brick and stone seen in other Southern Dallas neighborhoods. Homes are 1,000 square feet, give or take.  Many are well-maintained, but many are not.

It’s not housing stock poised to attract renovators looking to bootstrap a neighborhood. No, the solution here is new construction, and lots of it. And there is some.

Frazier Townhomes community

There are several new affordable housing complexes in the area that are a welcome change along with satellite hospitals and clinics. Affordable housing developers like SouthFair Community Development, EDCO, Innercity Community Development, and Frazier Revitalization are helping Frazier.  So far they’ve proven that with the right mix of investors and city help, good, affordable housing can be created for the working poor.  Some developments are rental, but many offer opportunities for buyers. The Frazier Townhomes development, complete with the Margaret Cone Head Start Center adjacent to Wahoo Park (love that name), is but one example.

For these reasons, unlike the other areas of Southern Dallas, I don’t foresee this area suddenly transforming into a vibrant, market-rate area.  It’s going to take time.  It’s going to take overflow from Smart District and a resuscitation of Fair Park to give the neighborhood the goosing it needs.

That said, if you’re looking for help with affordable housing in newer buildings that are close to downtown and transportation, this is definitely a place to look and learn.  I say learn because there are a plethora of education programs available from those same developers listed above to help those whose income would qualify for affordable living.

South Blvd. and Park Row

Just west of Fair Park is the historic South Blvd. and Park Row neighborhood.  These few blocks of mansions are really something to see. In just the decade I’ve been in Dallas, the area has really transformed.  I recall looking at a 4,000-square-foot house for approximately $100,000. Sure, it was a big renovation project, but still.

It’s unfortunate that the early Jewish residents didn’t stay longer. The heyday of the area lasted less than 20 years and so it was never able to really take root in the way it should.  Instead of a vibrant neighborhood trailing out from the blocks of mansions this area got the mansions and little else.  Today, the area is using the mansions as anchors to attract new building.  From townhomes to single-family homes, there is life in this neighborhood.

It’s also in a very sweet spot between Smart District and Fair Park.

Good-sized home (too bad about lost trees).

2816 Meadow Street

The home at 2816 Meadow Street is one example of new construction.  It’s a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with 1,655 square feet that was listed for $150,000 and is currently under contract.  I chose to show this home because a similar, nearby home at 2307 Harding Street isn’t finished yet … but you’ll get an idea.

The open-concept home has a granite-countered kitchen with engineered wood floors throughout the living areas.  Yes, you have to supply your own range and refrigerator, but for $150,000 …

The two bathrooms are pretty similar.  One is an en suite to the master while the other serves the two other bedrooms and guests.  It’s pretty builders’ standard, but the finishes are on-trend white that allows a buyer to paint however wildly or neutrally as they want.

If you’ve always wanted a big vintage home but Swiss Avenue or Kessler Park were out of reach, try South Blvd.

2733 South Blvd.

Sorry folks, it’s another active option contract property.  But I had to show you.  It’s another three-bedroom, two-bath home, but it’s upsized to 2,597 square feet listed for $350,000.  It’s been spiffingly renovated too.

Get a load of the living room and original fireplace.  Oh, and original hardwood floors too.  Oh, oh, and a wonderful original leaded glass window.  Sure that niche above the fireplace isn’t going to fit a TV, but in 1926, when this house was built, there was no TV.

In 1926 there also wasn’t open-concept living. There was servant living and this home likely had some form of help.  The kitchen has been opened to a large family room (for that TV) with an adjacent dining room.

Renovated kitchen with a peep of brick

Now I know y’all think you like the cleanliness of a cabinet-free upper space, but hello, storage?  Where are you going to put the wine glasses?  Much as I love the tile and recesses, I’d be nailing a few uppers to the wall.  Otherwise, bravo.

The master bath has a double vanity and a wet area.  Most I hate, this one I like.  That’s because the world isn’t getting splashed here.  The antique claw foot tub rests on a tile floor with a drain.  Around the corner in a splash-controlled area, is the shower.  No glass or curtains needed and what should remain dry, remains dry.

Still too small?

2401 South Blvd.

This home will have you saying “gracious” a lot and it’s still “active.”  First of all, I’ve been in this home before and wow-wee! — it just keeps getting better.  It’s a three-bedroom mansion with two full and one half bathrooms topping out at 3,580 square feet.  This 1923 corner home is being marketed by Century 21 Judge Fite for $512,000.

Before you enter the home, there’s the generous lemonade porch. I call it that because when this home was built, prohibition had been going on for four years already and wouldn’t be repealed for another decade.  So hot summer evenings were spent in a rocking chair on the porch with a lemonade.

The entry is, as I said, gracious.  Like most center hallway homes, one way led to the living room and the other for the dining room.  Like most older homes, the ceilings are high and the floors look great.

As I said, the dining room is opposite the living room.  I’m pretty sure it could hardly be any more light-filled. I might want to wham-bam that chandelier for a lot more crystal. It’s a large room and cound handle the extra glam.

The kitchen area is properly big.  The semi-circular sunroom/breakfast nook is almost as good of a space as the dining room.  I can see family gatherings where there’s definitely an “A” table (which for me may be this one).  You’ll notice the floors are different in here.  That’s because kitchens were work spaces for servants and typically didn’t have the same flooring as the rest of the home. This space has also been opened for modernity.  Back in the day I’m guessing the back area was the kitchen with a butler’s pantry between and then a more stand-alone breakfast room for the family.

The kitchen itself is also plenty big to easily serve one of those apocalyptic Thanksgiving dinners we’ve all experienced once or twice.  Before you wonder where the dishwasher is, it’s that peep of stainless steel on the right edge of the cabinets. That means someone can be in charge of the mechanical dishwasher and someone can be the human dishwasher without collision.

The master suite is large with an anteroom for receiving guests (I never know what to do in a bedroom besides sleep). To the right you get a hint of the pocket-doored master bathroom. Before we go, nice ceiling, eh?

This is half the bathroom.  Behind is the double vanity, linen closet, and walkway/entry to the get-lost master closet.  But here we see a double-size shower and the freestanding tub.  You’ll note for privacy that the shower is a half wall and the tub is under half windows. Should you forget to draw the blinds, your naughty bits are pretty screened from view.

When you think about it, you could get a lot less house for a lot more money just by crossing I-30, but why?  You can see downtown from the second story windows and walking out to the street you can see the Texas Star glowing from Fair Park.  And pretty soon, I predict you’ll see a whole different neighborhood as the Smart District is built out.

So that’s it kids.  Did you enjoy the ride through Southern Dallas? As I opened, this has been a real journey into parts of the city I’d not spent much, if any, time in.  I was surprised at the history of prosperity that started these neighborhoods and saddened by the decades of race-based neglect that followed.  But I also hope you learned (along with me) that these neighborhoods aren’t to be feared just because the people who live there are different (in any number of ways).

Thanks go out to CandysDirt.com commenter “US Navy Veteran” for giving me the idea for this series.

 

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors has recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com.

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