By Steve Brown, Dallas Morning News
The intersection of Zang Boulevard and Davis Street is already a construction nexus.
Extension of the North Oak Cliff streetcar line has turned the crossroads into an obstacle course of orange cones.
But the real changes are still to come. In less than six months, work will start on two blocks of shops and apartments that will be the biggest redevelopment yet in Dallas’ popular Bishops Arts District.
“With the streetcar going there, this was the neighborhood where we wanted to be,” said Matt Segrest, president of builder Alamo Manhattan Corp. “Number one on our development list is the Bishop Arts district.
“There is a neighborhood and a culture there we really like.”
Alamo Manhattan will break ground in September on 220 apartments and 25,000 square feet of shops in two buildings on both sides of Davis.
The $57 million project — which is funded in part with more than $11 million in economic development funds — has been a long time coming.
More than a year ago when the developer first disclosed plans for the Bishop Arts Gateway project, Oak Cliff residents and some city officials were quick to slam the plan.
The chock-a-block industrial style brick buildings crowded the street and were out of scale with the rest of the area, critics said.
“We got some pretty strong feedback that it was too monolithic and didn’t fit the community,” Segrest said. “So we went back to the drawing board.”
Cheaper than Uptown
Alamo Manhattan and architect Good Fulton & Farrell redesigned the 5-story project, setting the apartment portion of the buildings back farther from the street. The blocks were broken up with different architectural styles and materials.
“There are a lot of architectural details we picked up,” Segrest said. “We made the plaza on the corner bigger and pulled the building back.
“We wanted a nice gathering space where the streetcar stop is.”
Segrest said the streetcar connection to downtown was one of the reasons his firm zeroed in on the Davis Street property.
Alamo Manhattan got its start about five years ago when Segrest and partners formerly from the West Coast started their Dallas apartment building company. The developer’s first three Dallas deals were in Uptown.
“Uptown is obviously a strong neighborhood but other Dallas areas are evolving,” Segrest said.
He said the Oak Cliff apartments his company is building will go for $300 to $400 less than new Uptown units.
“You can’t get Uptown rents over here,” Segrest said. “We are also doing some small unit types. The average size is 736 square feet.”
About 20 percent of Alamo Manhattan’s Bishop Arts Gateway aparments will be subsidized with rents starting at about $800.
The developer plans for the street-front retail space in the buildings to provide neighborhood services and additional eateries. “We want the independent mom and pops and eclectic stores — not a chain,” Segrest said.
Critics won over
Construction of the two apartment buildings will displace some businesses and will increase density in the area.
But the design changes have won over some critics to the plans.
“The redesign of the Alamo Manhattan project was appreciated by the Oak Cliff Conservation League,” said Judy Pollock with the group. “The developers were sensitive to neighborhood requests and have made the project look less like a giant box and more like a walkable retail area with set backs on the upper floors.
“They have designed a pass through that dissects the building on the first floor that will have additional retail,” she said. “We are looking forward to having varied facades facing the streets to help provide some character to the building.”
Alamo Manhattan vice president Wade Johns said the developer is spending more money on the Oak Cliff project than is typical.
“We are putting the parking underground,” Johns said. “That’s something you don’t do in Plano.”
The Alamo Manhattan project is one of three major redevelopments in the works in the Bishop Arts neighborhood.
Dallas-based Exxir Capital is working on two blocks along Bishop and Madison avenues where it plans to build a new mixed-use development.
And Crescent Communities of North Carolina has acquired about seven acres on Zang for another mixed-use development.
Segrest said Alamo Manhattan has another site on Seventh Street for a second phase of its project.
The developer is finishing up a rental project in Dallas’ State Thomas neighborhood. And Alamo Manhattan has more apartments on the way in San Antonio and in Seattle.
“We are in two of the most dynamic markets in the country,” Segrest said.