This morning’s panel discussion on Oak Cliff: Challenges + Opportunities for the Urban Neighborhood was a strikingly honest — almost uncomfortably honest — conversation, both between the panelists and in the Q&A. The panel brought together two well-established Oak Cliff developers — David Spence of Good Space and Monte Anderson of Options Real Estate — and two newer developers — Michael Nazerian of Exxir Capital and Wade Johns of Alamo Manhattan. The DFW REimagined breakfast seminar was hosted by one of Munsch, Hardt, Kopf, & Harr’s recent additions to their law team, Angela Hunt, who is overseeing zoning and development regulations.

Conversation cues were well-curated. We learned of Anderson’s “gentle-fication” process, Nazerian’s pivotal “ah-ha!” moment in the West Village, and the stark contrast in development processes Johns has experienced in Seattle and Portland versus Dallas.

They all seemed to agree that “Developers create the canvas for people to bring the place alive,” as Nazerian put it. And that even developers with good intentions can get “pushed around by the market,” Anderson said.

The agreement began to unravel when Hunt started asking about gentrification, which resulted in one of the most educated discussions on this topic as I’ve ever heard. Many who think of developing in Oak Cliff imagine the pushback from engaged citizen activists, such as those who attended the first community meeting with Alamo Manhattan in the Second story of Eno’s years ago.

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Bishop Arts 7th St House12

Source: Google Maps, Jan 2016

The landscape of  the Bishop Arts District is changing quickly — tiny historic Craftsman homes by the dozens are being razed for apartment complexes, half-million dollar condos, and five-story mixed-use developments going up. One developer, once demonized by the community for their rudimentary design out of the gate, just won major Brownie points with the help of Rogers Jr. House Moving.

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Exxir - Bishop Arts - Interior

Rendering of interior plazas of the Bishop Arts Village project   (Source bishoparts.com)

Update 12/16/16 from yesterday’s Plan Commission meeting: after much conversation, commissioners voted to hold the motion until the January 19th meeting. Neighbors will be meeting with Rob Baldwin, the developer’s zoning rep after the New Year to clarify recent changes to the zoning amendment request.

Arts Village, LLC (aka Exxir Capital, aka the Nazarian family) will be going before the Dallas City Plan Commission Board this week to amend the zoning for Planned Development District No. 830, just south of the Bishop Arts District in North Oak Cliff.

Nazerian Subdistrict Map

In September, I reported on this zoning change request, and since then the developers have held at least one community meeting. Yet they failed to include two of the most important requests I heard at that meeting:

1) To word the 15,000-square-foot market use to prohibit one singular tenant, and …

2) To limit hotel and entertainment uses to the portion of the 11 acre site south of 9th Street, where these uses are currently planned to be built — away from the residential neighborhood north of 9th and surrounding the development site.

We must remember that in this PD, zoning change requests are not subject to a specific development plan. Once uses are allowed by right in an area, plans can change, even owners can change. And although the Nazerians have proven to have great ideas for this development, these changes effect the land use allowances for the indefinite future, regardless of who the owner is.

At Thursday’s meeting, their zoning request will include the changes listed below, to be applicable within this one new subdistrict which will cover the entire 11 acre site resting between Melba Street, Madison Street, 10th Street, and Bishop Ave.

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BAD Aerial-small

Developer builds big project in Anywhere, USA.

If you’ve been following the Bishop Gateway project near the Bishop Arts District in North Oak Cliff, you know it’s been quite a contentious project. If you haven’t been following, here’s an overview along with an update. Either way, take note of the process they’re going through.

The first-pass draft of the project showed hideously sterile five-story blocks, just as the current zoning allows, covering three blocks in three phases.

Planned for both sides of Seventh St. from Zang to Madison and the northwest corner of Zang at Davis, the project would have replaced popular businesses such as Zoli’s Pizza, Local Oak, and Ten Bells. The neighborhood was in an uproar.

The properties had not yet been purchased — as with many large developments, the developers like to get the project details lined up before pulling the trigger on the purchase — so the plans were still somewhat negotiable.

And, luckily, the project is in a TIF (Tax Increment Finance District) and planning to apply for incentive funding. The process for TIF-elligible projects triggers a design review and requires TIF Board approval and City Council approval.

Alamo Manhattan hired former City Council rep Angela Hunt to assist, and held a number of community meetings to gain feedback. The one I attended in May was a bloodbath of criticism. But the developers seemed to have heard what was being said on multiple levels.

At the community meeting in September, all stakeholders seemed to at least accept the proposal as “less objectionable.” The project has been scaled back to two blocks, which takes out fewer beloved buildings and businesses, and the design and project focus seems to be a huge improvement. Some of the highlights:

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Rob Shearer leads panelists (left to right) Sarah Tillman, Councilman Scott Griggs, Michael Nazarian, Jim Lake Jr., Robbie Good, Mark Lamster, Allison Cuellar, and Patrick Kennedy.

Surprisingly, the discussion this past Tuesday (last week) over the future of Bishop Arts didn’t devolve into a gripe-fest. The evening began with a showing of The Human Scale at the Texas Theater. The film by Scandinavian architect Jan Ghel explores the state of cities and the evolution of our understanding of  the human habitat.

The tone of the conversation was “How do we get more of what’s great about Bishop Arts?” Rob Shearer, principal at Kickstand marketing and host of the program, pointed out that there are thousands of apartments and hundreds of square feet of retail planned for the North Oak Cliff neighborhood over the next few years.

In the lobby, two boards covered with butcher paper asked attendees what they fear losing the most, and how they feel about Oak Cliff. (more…)