Downtowner Troy Stacha stands outside his apartment building at the Mosaic inside a sculpture located at Thanks-Giving Square. The city center boasts more than 100 pieces of public art, making it attractive to residents. (Photography by Arnold Wayne Jones)
Downtown Dallas isn’t just office space — thousands of North Texas residents call it home. Here’s why
ARNOLD WAYNE JONES | Executive Editor
It’s a cool, brisk Saturday in Downtown Dallas as the wind whips through the canyons of skyscrapers, but Steve Shepherd, Oliver Roberts and Bill McKnight are undaunted. In fact, they have prepared for the cold with some carefully crafted bloody marys (courtesy of Roberts) before braving the chill for a walk, hearty but purposeful, with lightness in their steps. They may not enjoy the cold more than anyone else, but they enjoy their neighborhood.
“We love to spread the word about Downtown,” says Shepherd.
For 13 years now, the trio — Shepherd and Roberts, who have been partners for nearly 40 years, and McKnight their best friend, who lives in the apartment below theirs at 1505 Elm — have called Downtown home. After all these years as evangelists for urban dwelling, they’ve even been given a loving nickname: The Downtown SOBs (for “Steve, Oliver & Bill”). The SOBs seem to know everyone.
They know all the businesses — more importantly, all the business owners. On the way to a lunch res at Mirador (the high-end restaurant at the top of the Forty Five Ten boutique), they pause to hail down Josh Florence, who owns City Tavern, the beloved dive bar that is moving locations after ages at the same spot. It doesn’t take much cajoling to get Florence to give us a personalized tour of the new space, which delays lunch even further. When they finally arrive at Mirador, they are greeted by the staff as crosses between dignitaries and favorite uncles.
Not everyone gets such treatment of course, but you sense that Downtowners are all in this together. It’s remarkable how the small-town vibe infests the symbol of the big city at the same time.
Downtown Dallas has been the Little Engine That Wants To for nearly two decades, real estate-wise. Residents linger on the 10,000 range, occupying a number of high-rises, lofts and even hotels. There’s all-new construction, of course (including the much-debated Museum Tower), but tons of the expanse for urban dwellers is renovated older buildings given new life as hotels, lofts and mixed-use apartment complexes, many of which offer great advantages over “modern” buildings.
“There are several examples of Brutalist architecture and lots of old Art Deco buildings,” notes Elaine Liner, who used to conduct driving tours through the corridor. “The old post office now has apartments, and the walls are so thick, they’re pretty soundproof.”
The architecture and public spaces continue to inspire locals; in addition to the ink devoted to the Arts District, Klyde Warren Park and Farmers Market, there are more than 125 pieces of public art, sculptures, mosaics and murals in the Central Business District, including works by Henry Moore, Seward Johnson and even buildings by I.M. Pei and Renzo Piano (and of course the Santiago Calatrava-designed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge). The original Neiman Marcus is here, and the Works Progress Administration built Dealey Plaza during the Great Depression. That’s where you’ll also find the Texas School Book Depository of JFK infamy; and the Belo Mansion was once a funeral parlor where, in the 1930s, Clyde Barrow’s body lay in repose, visited by 20,000 mourners/curious onlookers. There’s real history here.
But it’s the people who drive the enthusiasm for Downtown life.
“So many people here are very active and passionate about improving Downtown for everyone, regardless of if they live here or not. Because of that, there’s a real sense of community,” says Troy Stacha, who has lived in the Mosaic apartment high-rise in Downtown for three years. “People here are accepting. I’ve never felt uncomfortable, whether I’m by myself, on a date or with LGBT friends to be myself and enjoy whatever I’m doing.”
And there’s plenty to do here, from shopping to clubs and bars for celebrating, restaurants for dining, and even grooming option, like Vertigo 12 hair salon and Pink Toes nail bar. And that’s just getting started.
In addition to the aforementioned Mirador, the brand-new Bullion, the high-end restaurant from Michelin-starred chef Bruno Davillon, anchors the southwest end of the city (it’s open for lunch and dinner; look for a review soon in Dallas Voice). The recently renovated Adolphus Hotel has just reopened its storied French Room restaurant, but already the City Hall Bistro is one of the newer dining gems in Dallas. All told, countless dozens of restaurants and bars — from Dallas Chop House to Zenna to Midnight Rambler to Scout, one of several just-opened eateries inside the Statler Hilton — populate the neighborhood.
“I think the biggest misconception about Downtown is that there isn’t anything to do here, or that all the bars and restaurants cater to the business crowd and close at 5 p.m. There’s tons of great bars and restaurants that stay open past 5 p.m. during the week and later on weekends,” says Stacha.
Even the hotels strive to be good neighbors, courting locals with special treatment and friendly offers. The Statler is the newest gem of the CBD — a restoration of the old Dallas Grand Hotel and remergence of one of the premiere properties of the Hilton brand. It has 219 luxury residence units on its upper 11 floors for living in the newest old building in Dallas. And it’s just one of the hotels welcoming locals.
The AC Hotel is a boutique concept under the Marriott umbrella. The first one in Dallas, just a block from the Statler, is attached to the Residence Inn on Commerce, and features a bar that offers daily happy hour specials on drinks and small bites. And if you wanted to try some time actually living Downtown, the Residence Inn offers long-term stays (it costs less the longer you stay!) with full kitchens as well as a free breakfast.
Adjacent districts include Uptown, Deep Ellum, The Cedar and Oak Cliff — all popular entertainment spots for LGBT Texans and each of which have their own personalities and living options. Of course, there are some downsides. Parking can be an issue (although every DART Rail line passes through the city center), and there is one especially irksome absence.
“My biggest complaint about living Downtown is we don’t have a grocery store, but thankfully that will be changing soon,” Stacha says.
Downtowners endure a few inconveniences; it’s the price of loving where you live.
The Statler Hilton hosts its “finale” to its grand opening week with music, a laser show and more on March 2. You can also see more photos of Downtown living at our online gallery at DallasVoice.com.
To View more homes visit the online gallery: https://www.dallasvoice.com/up-with-downtown-gallery-10249831.html