After decades of neglect, Oak Cliff is finally getting the attention it deserves at City Hall, thanks in large part to two major public works projects: the proposed Trinity River Parkway and the Oak Cliff gateway project. Coupled with a surge in business development and home renovations, Oak Cliff residents are seeing their neighborhoods take a turn for the better, but local activists stress the importance of staying engaged with developments at City Hall.
Perhaps the biggest example of how the will of the people can change attitudes downtown comes with the Trinity River Parkway. For years, city officials have backed a proposed toll road in the Trinity River bottoms, which would direct traffic past Oak Cliff and north to the suburbs. Residents have long opposed the costly plan, saying it did little to improve local neighborhoods and seemed to benefit only those who lived outside of Dallas. In response, Mayor Mike Rawlings appointed local civic and business leaders to a “Trinity Design Charrette” in 2014 to look at possible alternatives. Their report, released last month, is a radical departure from the toll road concept, proposing a grand parkway that sweeps around and through a series of parks, rather than a straight, highway-type toll road.
The proposed parkway would truly connect downtown to Oak Cliff by utilizing the green space between the levees as a park, rather than having a toll road act as a barrier. It would also encourage foot traffic, similar to what the city has done with the repurposed Continental Avenue bridge. The main concern with the new plan is how the city will deal with possible flooding between the levees, which could put the entire parkway underwater during periods of heavy rainfall.
The Oak Cliff Gateway project would benefit greatly from a Trinity River Parkway. The Gateway project is a master plan that guides redevelopment of a 900 acre area in north Oak Cliff surrounding the Zang and Jefferson corridors into downtown. It includes changing zoning along parts of Colorado, Beckley, and Marsalis, and would encourage responsible urban development. It would also build on the successful development projects along Singleton by the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge, and the Sylvan Thirty development along Ft. Worth Avenue.
With all this comes the concern that this new development could change the makeup of southern Dallas. Fears that the charm of character of Oak Cliff’s homes and buildings would be lost appear to be unfounded. Most of the development has involved renovation of the existing architecture, rather than tearing down and building new structures.
In cases where new structures have been proposed, civic involvement has saved some neighborhoods from potential nightmares. In early April, the Dallas City Council denied a rezoning request that would have allowed a developer to turn a small tract of land in north Oak Cliff into a “pocket neighborhood” called Kessler Commons, featuring high-end homes and townhomes in a densely populated area. Local filmmaker Kirby Warnock led the successful effort to block the rezoning, which would have created a new access road near Hampton Road and Davis Street, which neighbors argued would cause a traffic nightmare.
While residents stood firmly against intrusive projects like Kessler Commons, other developments, like Trinity Groves on Singleton west of the Margaret Hunt Hill bridge, were welcomed by residents. However, many worry if homes surrounding developments like Trinity Groves and the Bishop Arts District, which are predominantly Hispanic, will be pushed out as they grow.
For more information on the Trinity Parkway, click here to visit the Oak Cliff Gateway Steering Committee blog.
Victor Medina is the editor of WhenLiberalsAttack.com. His other writing credits include The Dallas Morning News, Yahoo News, and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at email@example.com. Click here to receive a weekly email update from WhenLiberalsAttack.com. To be notified of future stories by Victor Medina, click the SUBSCRIBE TO AUTHOR button below or simply click here.