Dallas’ Design District is emerging not only as a business & fashion hub but as livable urban alternative to Downtown
JEF TINGLEY | Contributing Writer
With humble beginnings as a warehouse district following World War II, the Dallas Design District has seen its share of change over the decades. But what has gone on there in just the last few years has been nothing short of a renaissance. In addition to developments like Trinity Groves and the growth of art and décor galleries, most notable is the addition of abundant living options, as well as retail and office spaces mixed in amongst the area once only traveled to by those only looking at showrooms.
John Anderson, a 29-year-old software developer, moved out of Oak Lawn and into his apartment in the 1400 Hi Line Drive mixed-use development in the Design District a year ago. While there were many amenities that influenced his decision, he’s quick to point out the main selling point that brought him to the neighborhood.
“The leasing agent knew exactly what to do to convinc
e me to stay,” Anderson grins. “She told me to come back after dark, and that she would leave the key on the front desk for me to see the view at night. The views from 1400 Hi Line are hands-down the best views in Dallas.”
The location had the added advantage of being set apart from Downtown … meaning that instead of being within the center of the architecture, Anderson has a panoramic skyline view from just the right distance away.
“The evening views are breathtaking,” he gushes. “I could see the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge all the way across the city to the famous Goat Hill waterfall and beyond. I texted my leasing agent and asked, “Where do I sign?’”
The development isn’t just a run-of-the-mill high-rise, either. There’s retail on the ground floor, as well as proximity to the galleries, showrooms and other amenities in the area, and ready access both to the highway and the gayborhood. (Anderson works in Frisco, but wanted to be close to the hustle-and-bustle of Cedar Springs.)
Andrew Gonzales, on the other hand, likes living close to work. The 44-year-old moved to the Avant apartments on Market Center Boulevard about nine months ago, just steps from his job as showroom manager for Gracie, a luxury wallpaper & antique showroom in the Dallas Design Center. He was drawn to the District by the proximity to his job, but also enjoys the finish-out of the apartments and the flexibility of the location to visit other parts of Dallas.
“It is so easy to hop on a freeway or down the street to get to other neighborhoods,” says Gonzales. “Plus I am so close to work!”
Both men agree that while the Design District doesn’t boast the LGBT population density of other neighborhoods such as Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff, it’s still very welcoming and diverse. (Full disclosure: Dallas Voice moved its offices to the Design District last year, upping the queer quotient. “[It] does attract some members of the LGBT community who don’t necessarily want to live on The Strip but don’t want to be too far, either,” says Anderson.
And while living in the Design District may have been an act of faith for urban pioneers just five years ago, now it isn’t just about striking skylines and short commutes to attract residents. The area has lots of trendy restaurants, coffee shops and other perks that make it a true neighborhood.
“My favorite local haunt in the Design District is Ascension Coffee located on Oak Lawn Avenue,” Anderson says. “It is very ‘Dallas’ — they serve [organic artisanal] coffee and have a great outdoor seating area, and what other coffee shop has valet parking?”
But Gonzales knows of an even more off-the-beaten-path place for true locals, especially those in need of clothing alteration: “Orlando Morales of The Tailor Shop, located within the Edo Popken men’s store on Dragon Street,” he crows. “He’s worked for years with Barneys New York, and now I don’t take my alterations to anyone else!”
Foodies might call it a paradise as well. When not dining on the local scene at places like Meddlesome Moth, FT33 and Off-Site Kitchen, you can find the residents of the Design District enjoying its open spaces, which connect to other trail systems for unexpected greenspaces.
“I have a Siberian husky,” says Anderson. “While building 1400 Hi Line, they agreed to do a beautification project underneath the I-35 bridge that joined Katy Trail with the edge of the Design District. In addition to many grassy areas around Hi Line and Edison street, a path to Katy Trail is just a few steps away from my apartment.”
With plans in the works for more apartments and even more restaurants on the way, the Design District is fast becoming the go-to ’hood for those looking for a “walkable” neighborhood, scenic city views, easy access to the freeway or just a new place to call home.
Now if they could just get a grocery store. …
To learn more, visit DallasDesignDistrict.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 6, 2015.