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Bishop Arts District: “It Neighborhood”

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OAK CLIFF (CBSDFW.COM) - The Bishop Arts area is now one of Dallas’ hottest destinations. It’s home to an eclectic mix of restaurants, music venues and shops that visitors won’t find in cookie cutter suburban malls. But, supporters know that in Dallas, “fun” is often a passing fad.

“Used to be Lemmon Avenue was the place to go for restaurants, then Lower Greenville, then Upper Greenville, then Deep Ellum and West End,” says Bob Stimson, President of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce. “This area with these transportation components is going to be here for a long, long, time.”

From the Chamber offices in the Oak Cliff tower, Stimson points to maps depicting Bishop Arts and much of the surrounding Oak Cliff area—and is downright giddy as he traces the path of the upcoming DART shuttle service set to begin in November. The free shuttle will ferry visitors from downtown hotels and the convention center to Bishop Arts and surrounding North Oak Cliff venues. A streetcar system is set to debut in 2015.

“Transportation is the key, especially in a community that historically doesn’t have the disposable income to support the businesses that are there.”

In spite of the high end restaurants and unique shops sprouting up in Bishop Arts, Stimson says the average per capita income of residents living within a mile of the area is less than $14,000 a year. In spite of affluent areas nearby like Kessler and Stevens Park, according to Stimson, “you have a lot of ‘have nots’ and the ‘haves’ don’t offset that. And that permeates all of Oak Cliff.”

So Stimson says it is critical to lay the infrastructure that will keep visitors from all parts of the city coming to the area—and easy access is key. He points to the opening of the Hunt Hill bridge—saying it “opened the floodgates.”

“It is changing traffic patterns dramatically… making it easier to get through downtown.”

Supporters are also rezoning entire blocks of properties to remove hurdles for developers and make investing in Oak Cliff more attractive. According to Stimson, the Bishop Arts buzz is fueling a renaissance of the entire area.

“On the Davis corridor, we rezoned that to allow the Bishop Arts phenomena to expand up and down the street. So no longer do you go just to Bishop Arts for your restaurants, you go down the street to Bolsa, you go down the street to Driftwood, you go down the street to Nova. And you find all these other cool places that you haven’t been able to experience before.”

Christy Martinez says she moved to the area because she was drawn to its laid back, Austin feel.

“It’s exciting to see how the area grows and develops. But, yet it still maintains a lot of its integrity with the businesses that have been here for years.”

And while restaurants led the renewal, the Bishop Arts business community has expanded to include bike shops, beauty salons, upscale candle shops, furniture, fashion, and more.

“There’s lot of new businesses coming in,” says Donnie Chase from Desoto. He says his family visits frequently—to grab lunch, some ice cream, or to browse the unique shops. “In the last 5 years, it’s really just blossomed,” adds his wife, Anna.

And supporters insist that Bishop Arts is just the beginning.

“It is the magnet that draws people in,” says Stimson. “But, once they get here, they find there’s a lot more going on than just Bishop Arts.”

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