Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Oak Cliff Renewal

Oak Cliff today is in the initial stages of a massive property build-out planned for the area. It's driven in part by a 1998 bond measure calling for the city to spend $246 million to transform the Trinity River into a massive urban retreat 2 1/2 times larger than New York's Central Park. Complementary development funds from the state, public utilities and other private sources bring the total investment package to $1.3 billion.
Scheduled for completion in 2014, the development will transform the weed-choked Trinity River floodplain, which now divides Dallas, into a town lake bordered by hiking trails, bike paths, an equestrian center, arboretum and wetland refuge for migrating birds. Three bridges designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava will surmount all.
Partially incentivized by a series of Tax Increment Financing districts, or TIFs, new townhomes already are starting to appear on the Oak Cliff side of the Trinity.
River Run Rises In Dallas
From here, residents get an unobstructed view of the downtown Dallas skyline. Developer Scott Hager plans to spend $120 million building 90 to 100 condos and townhomes standing above the river levee.
"We're creating a sophisticated urban lifestyle at a prime location on the Trinity River corridor," Hager said.
A major factor driving new home sales is the soaring cost of energy. According to a study by the nonprofit research firm Surface Transportation Policy Partnership, the average commuter in Dallas spends 19.7% of his income on transportation and loses more time in traffic each year than a motorist in Los Angeles.
"At $1.50 a gallon, people could afford to make 25-mile-long commutes from (the northern Dallas suburbs of) Plano or Frisco, but at today's prices, Oak Cliff starts to look very attractive," said Alan McDonald, senior managing director of the Incap Fund, a Dallas-based private equity firm. Incap is investing more than $200 million to develop 5,000 residential units on 300 acres inside Oak Cliff's Davis Garden District TIF.
McDonald believes that Oak Cliff's value results from it being ignored for so long. "Instead of 'McMansions' and starter castles so prevalent in North Dallas suburbs, Oak Cliff's housing base consists of elegant older homes that would cost $600,000 were they on the other side of the river," McDonald said. "In Oak Cliff you can buy the same house for $300,000, spend $100,000 remodeling and have a $600,000 house just five minutes away from the city's best restaurants, nightlife and culture."
Bucking The Trend?
According to Dallas real estate agent Jim Fite, president of the Century 21 Judge Fite realty firm, Oak Cliff homes in the leafy Kessler Park neighborhood 10 minutes from downtown Dallas may have increased 50% in value over the past decade, but Fite says there is plenty of room for further appreciation.
"Look what happened to San Antonio after the city developed its river," he said.
After decades in decline, Oak Cliff is defying the national housing slump, says Dallas planning and development consultant Jeff West, president of Jeff West Consulting. "Speculators already are moving through Oak Cliff one block at a time," he says. "Even I'm investing my own money there." BY DAVID DEVOSS