Cliff hanging

Posted on 03 Mar 2009 at 2:01pm
By David Taffet

North Oak Cliff is teeming with popular (and affordable) new gayborhoods


KIDD STUFF: Realtor (and Kidd Springs resident) Phillip Archer thinks North Oak Cliff is a wonderful, undervalued neighborhood certain to blossom once the Trinity River Project really gets underway. PHOTO BY ARNOLD WAYNE JONES

When redevelopment began moving across the Trinity River to Oak Cliff, bargain hunters skipped over two blighted neighborhoods closest to Downtown in favor of promise a little farther out. Renovators in search of architectural gems and bargains ignored Lake Cliff and Kidd Springs in favor of Kessler Park and Stevens Park and continued south to Winnetka Heights, Elmwood and Hollywood Hills.

Now, some of the city’s best deals can be found in these neighborhoods closest to the Trinity.

Phillip Archer is one of the area’s biggest boosters. Several years ago, he and his partner bought a new townhouse in Kidd Springs, along Bishop Street.

Within the Kidd Springs neighborhood is the Miller and Stemmons Historic District, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Included are 243 Craftsman, bungalow and other styles built during the first half of the 20th century.

Just over the Jefferson Street Viaduct is Lake Cliff, among Oak Cliff’s oldest and most neglected areas. Queen Anne, Colonial revival, Tudor, Prairie and Craftsman style homes that surround the man-made lake have recently been rescued from decades of neglect.

Archer says most people are surprised to find any building activity in Oak Cliff. New construction in his Kidd Springs neighborhood is different than in Oak Lawn, he says.

"In Oak Lawn they traded in an old Corvette for a new Jaguar. We’re restoring the Corvette," Archer says. And where the Corvette is rusted beyond repair, "we’re adding a few new sports cars."

Because of strict zoning guidelines, Archer says his new home reflects the community, "designed to blend in with the neighborhood: Prairie style with crown molding and six inch trims around the flooring, traditional banisters with square spindles."

In addition to style that he says will still be appreciated 100 years from now, Archer enjoys lower utility bills in his 2,200 square foot home than he did in his 1,600 square foot 1960s-era Irving ranch house. Triple pane windows, high efficiency heat and air, extra insulation and Energy Star appliances were not what he first expected when he decided to return to Oak Cliff.

What drew him here were the Bishop Arts District and Kidd Springs Park as well as the planned trolley and Trinity River development.

The trolley will be built in three phases, running from the Tyler/Vernon DART station, through the Bishop Arts District and crossing the river to connect with the McKinney Avenue line.

Bishop Arts is North Oak Cliff’s most vibrant new entertainment and shopping district where Cedar Springs favorites Hunky’s and Café Brazil have both opened. For those who miss the Oak Lawn Italian restaurant Marco’s, its parent, Vitto, is one of the area’s oldest. Hattie’s, Tillman’s Roadhouse and Vera Cruz are among the area’s favorites and just blocks from here on Davis Avenue stands the original Gloria’s, better known for its Oak Lawn spin-off.

For shopping, gay-owned stores include Bishop Street Market, reminiscent of some of the recently closed Oak Lawn stores.

Two of Dallas’ oldest parks provide plenty of recreation space. Built in the early 1900s to stimulate Oak Cliff’s economy after the 1902 recession, Lake Cliff Park had an amusement park with a mile-long roller coaster, a casino and three theaters including a 2,500-seat opera house. Today, Lake Cliff Tower, once a resort hotel, has reopened as luxury condos. Trails for hiking circle the 120-year old lake.

The 31-acre Kidd Springs Park includes a small spring-fed lake, a Japanese garden built in 1969 and its newest feature, a butterfly garden started in 2006. Archer says James Kidd first purchased and settled the property in the 1870s.

"The park dates back to 1895 when it was a private park for the Kidd Springs Fishing and Boating Club, becoming part of Dallas Parks and Recreation in 1947," Archer says.

But Archer is most excited about is the proposed Trinity River development.

"I’d love to see something along the lines of Austin. In the morning, grab a cup of coffee, walk down to the levee. See horse trails, bike trails, hiking, sculling. It’s the perfect companion to what’s opening in the Arts District later in 2009," he says.

As promise of the recreation area in the Trinity River bottoms continues, work has begun on the first of the new Calatrava bridges. Archer hopes it draws attention to the south side of the Trinity, but calls it "our own bridge to nowhere." Rather than connecting downtown to Oak Cliff, it replaces the Continental Street Bridge, dumping onto a rundown West Dallas street next to a cement plant.

Archer would have preferred the first span to be a replacement on I-30. If built, that Calatrava bridge will serve as a new landmark entrance to Oak Cliff. While he’s optimistic the first bridge will spur development and bring new fortune to West Dallas, he hopes for the same in the near future for his neighborhood.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice Defining Homes magazine March 6, 2009.

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