Silicon Valley corporations like Facebook and Google are reviving the notion of a “company town.” For decades, Silicon Valley has been single-minded in a pursuit of wealth via technology. The minting of tech millionaires has driven real estate out of reach for many not caught in the thrall of stock options and IPOs. Constructing housing in this environment seems a way to add capacity that benefits all. But there’s a likely far darker outcome.

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Latino Center for Leadership Development Panel Discussion

We all know what gentrification is. But what about the decade-old term “gentefication” that got its start in the Latino neighborhood of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles.  The mashup (what young people call portmanteau) refers to Latinos with more money returning to the older neighborhoods their parents couldn’t wait to get away from. Armed with money, they attempt to gentrify from within.  “Gente” (hen-tay) is Spanish for “people,” in this case the forward movement of an ethnic neighborhood spurred by investments from within the same culture to preserve rather than strip away.

And while it sounds like a better alternative to white-washing areas (Uptown), it’s not without its own controversy.  Newly middle-class entrepreneurs (yes, minorities have hipsters too) are a concern to existing working-class residents who fear being priced out of their communities … regardless of the ethnicity of the renovator.  Wealth-based suspicion is a societal hallmark, particularly with gentrification.

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Monte Anderson, right, with Wana Smith, an agent for Options Real Estate that focuses on Oak Cliff. Photo: Monte Anderson

Monte Anderson, right, with Wana Smith, an agent for Options Real Estate who focuses on Oak Cliff, champion the idea of small business ownership to rebuild communities. Photo: Monte Anderson

Monte Anderson thrives on shaking up standard ways of thinking about development in Dallas.

After he sold the historic Belmont Hotel five months ago, a bellwether renovation and restoration project that put his name on the map in 2005, he got right back to work doing what he does best.

“I took all the money from the hotel sale, and we invested it into more ugly properties to turn around, every penny of it,” he said.

Those “ugly properties” are in south Oak Cliff, around South Polk Street and South Beckley Avenue, and Anderson is ready to perform microsurgery.

“With microsurgery, you go into an area that has good bones, like Elmwood southwest of Bishop Arts, and you start by buying one property and fixing it up or building one small building and making it into a good retail or residential space,” he said.

He’s one of the original Dallas pioneers of urban “gentlefication,” moving into distressed neighborhoods and slowly redeveloping in an effort to reduce crime, create harmony, and build community.

This is radically different from gentrification, which usually forces out low-income residents with high-income folks seeking the next hip place. Gentlefication helps long-term residents take back their neighborhoods, stabilize property values, and build safe communities for their families.

It’s also different from what Dallas is doing with its Grow South plan, Anderson said.

“The mayor’s Grow South plan is nothing but superficial marketing—it has no sustainable wealth-building characteristics,” he said. “Find the one deal that has changed somebody’s life that lives in South Dallas. It’s typical Dallas thinking: the rich people in Dallas think it’s got to be big; it can’t be good unless it’s big. Yet all the special places we love are small.”

Anderson is a self-proclaimed “hard-core new urbanist,” spreading his message of gentlefication with his company Options Real Estate, which specializes in southern Dallas County.

“Owner-occupied neighborhoods is really the message I have for gentlefication,” he said. “The only way they can get in and own is to get in early…I’ve got so many of these kind of business success stories, everything from pet stores to call centers and yoga studios to insurance offices and restaurants, all kinds of people that own their own buildings now, not to mention the housing.”

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BarPolitics-napkin

By Amanda Popken
Special Contributor

It’s only the fifth installment of Bar Politics, so if you have no idea what this is, you’re not that out of the loop. You’ll definitely want to check out this amateur roadshow this month if you’re at all interested in housing, development, real estate, and the gentrification-storm we’re preparing for in North Oak Cliff.

Hosted by Josh Kumlar, the event is formatted similarly to the Late Night Show or the Daily Show. Political news jokes, a skit or two, and interviews with special guests. And music, of course.

Once a month they pick a topic, pick a bar, and start talking smack. Josh is a recent SMU grad, a theatre major. His friends help him with the show’s shenanigans. The interviewed guests are local celebrities, knowledgeable on the issue at hand. As Josh describes it: (more…)

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We knew this day was coming. The day we’d see new construction of high-density, mixed-use projects all over North Oak Cliff. We rezoned less than a year ago to allow the growth we knew was coming, and hopefully have some control over how it transpires.

So here we are, faced with a developer wanting to listen to the community and do a ‘good’ project. Enter: Matt Segrest and Wade Johns of Dallas-based Alamo Manhattan. They’re developing the proposed Bishop Arts Gateway project, three 5-story buildings along Zang Blvd at Davis St and Seventh St. They say they’re in it for the long term, and that they cut their teeth developing in Portland and Seattle so they understand Streetcars and well-built neighborhoods. So they called a meeting with the neighborhood Thursday to get our input.

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It’s all a bit ironic if you think about it – a meeting of past gentrifiers to talk about future gentrification. Granted, not all of us at the meeting moved to O.C. from somewhere else. A couple attendees had a tenure longer than a few decades. The rest of us moved here after the police station storefront opened and closed on Bishop, after the city spent over a million dollars to build great sidewalks and plant trees, after the Texas Theatre and The Kessler were restored…

So what are we really talking about here? The changing character of a neighborhood and its people. The issue isn’t unique to Bishop Arts though, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Some call it gentrification (that dirty word), others progress.

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Monte Anderson

On Tuesday night, the Greater Dallas Planning Council honored North Texas developer Monte Anderson with its inaugural Urban Pioneer Award at the Urban Design Awards.

Anderson is the president of Options Real Estate, a multi-service real estate company that concentrates its work in southern Dallas and Ellis counties, specializing in creating sustainable neighborhoods that invite “gentlefication,” as opposed to gentrification.

Here’s a great working definition of “gentlefication”:

Moving into a neighborhood in an effort to reduce crime, create harmony, and build community. As opposed to “gentrification,” which changes neighborhoods by forcing out low-income residents with high-income folks seeking the next hip thing. Gentlefication helps long-term residents take back their neighborhoods, stabilize property values, and build safe spaces for their children and grandchildren.

“The award means a lot because it means people are staring to recognize that incremental development, or ‘microsurgery’, not big silver bullet deals, works in our southern Dallas neighborhoods,” he said. “My approach is to come in and get other small developers and entrepreneurs to come in very early and be a part of the change. These are the people who make it cool, like artists and restaurateurs, and they [usually] end up not owning anything and getting pushed out in the end.” (more…)

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Back in the early 1990s, developers, who were attracted to the Third Ward’s prime location at the southeast corner of downtown Houston, began tearing down the shotgun houses and displacing residents. It was then that Rick Lowe decided to act. Lowe, a contemporary artist, helped purchase and renovate 22 shotgun houses in Houston’s Third Ward for what was supposed to be a temporary, guerrilla-style project. Twenty years later, the structures still shine as a beacon in a neighborhood that has survived institutional racism, unemployment, crime, and neglect.

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gentrification demonstration

As Silicon Valley buyers moved in to San Francisco, prices for rentals and single-family properties have pushed sky-high. As Candy reported, the bus routes that shuttle employees to and from the Facebook and Google campuses have been protested and picketed by folks fed up with increasing cost of living and being pushed out of the city.

But two laws that went into effect this year to slow speculation and perhaps curb the high rate of evictions under the Ellis Act, which allows owners to evict renters in the case they no longer wish to be landlords. The city is prohibited from issuing permits on Ellis Act properties for 10 years after an eviction, or for five years if the owners chooses to move back into a property.

Realtors have filed suit, saying the law restricts property owners from seeing the full benefit of their real estate ownership. Here’s what they said in the SF Examiner story:

“The San Francisco Association of Realtors supports the rights of private property owners for the free use of their property as their needs suit them. This legislation only exacerbates the problems families face in finding adequate housing and drives out the families that have created the diversity we want and celebrate in our city,” said Walt Baczkowski, the trade group’s CEO, in a statement.

The question still remains — at what point does the city step in when housing prices grow so out of control to threaten the very makeup of the city? If you haven’t already, read Candy’s thoughtful breakdown on the matter and tell us: Do Realtors have a leg to stand on in this fight? Or is the city’s mandate too harsh in that it impedes development?