Big Changes Coming to Dallas' Bishop Arts Neighborhood

1,000 apartments under construction

Big apartment buildings are going up in the popular Bishop Arts District neighborhood with about 1,000 new units coming soon.

The first new units are on Zang Boulevard along the Oak Cliff street car line.

People in the existing retail and restaurant district of older restored buildings near Davis Street and Bishop Avenue have mixed feelings about the new construction.

"We're really, really excited about the growth that's happening," said Bishop Arts merchant Cody Ellison, who operates two existing business in Bishop Arts and plans to open an art gallery.

Ellison said the new development will compliment what is already there.

"We are already a destination. I have people from Oklahoma, Arkansas, we have a big draw from North Dallas, Allen, Plano that come in. And it's really a way to get away when you don't have the time to travel far," Ellison said.

Sisters Lea McCall and Lynn Mitchell grew up in Oak Cliff and enjoy returning to Bishop Arts for shopping and dining. They can see why more people would like to live there.

"It's fun. There's plenty of things to do right here, and you're a hop, skip and a jump to Dallas," Lynn Mitchell said.

But the Oak Cliff natives do not like the new construction.

"To me, it just ruins the neighborhood," Lea McCall said. "So many people are going to fluctuate in here. And cars? I mean, look at it. There's traffic already."

Ellison said the new developments will all have on-site parking for apartment tenants and new retail businesses in those buildings. He said 200 new public parking spaces are also included in the Bishop Arts plan. And he said an improved valet parking arrangement by existing merchants now helps people arriving on Bishop Avenue south of Davis Street.

"Before, valet was just for restaurants," Ellison said. "Now anyone can valet."

Former Dallas City Councilman Bob Stimson was also the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce president for many years when the Bishop Arts area was not the thriving destination it is today. He was involved in planning for these developments.

"I'm excited about what's going on in Bishop Arts these days," Stimson said. "All of the construction, all of the building that's going on there was by design."

Stimson said neighbors had input in the planning that was intended to boost property values and make the neighborhood healthier for the people who were already there.

"We wanted to make sure that Bishop Arts stayed around and was always popular. So, we put in the street car, and we put in the zoning that would allow the development to happen along the major commercial corridors," he said.

Stimson admits some tenants who lived in a few rundown properties that were torn down to make way for redevelopment may no longer be able to afford living in Bishop Arts. But he said the area needed a boost, and the city is better off for what is happening in the area.

"It is a great story of how to redevelop an aging neighborhood without doing a whole lot of displacement," Stimson said.

Lynn McCall sees other motives for the city.

"They want the tax money," she said.

All interested parties will see how the new arrangement works as hundreds of new apartments open to tenants this summer.

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