By Robbie Owens

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OAK CLIFF (CBSDFW.COM) – Call it the Bishop Arts Bounce! Experts say North Oak Cliff is the hot real estate market. But, many homeowners–while welcoming the growth—don’t want to see their charming neighborhoods turned into targets for investors and absent landlords.

Take for example, Stevens Park Village. Tucked quietly away amid the area’s wooded hills, the neighborhood has been called a ‘hidden gem.’

“We moved here for the charm and the quaint,” says Donovan Westover, “and we don’t want to see that disappear.” Westover is an unapologetic preservationist. Where most would approach an aging cottage and see only overgrown shrubs and peeling paint: “I don’t see that… I see what’s under it. I see all the lines and all the charm that this neighborhood was built on.”

To be fair, preservation is how Westover earns a living. But, it’s also how he shapes his life. He’s passionate about saving Dallas’ unique neighborhoods: starting with his own.
“I’m putting my money where my mouth is,” he adds with a laugh, “my partner and I both.” Yes, they’ve bought the one-time eyesore that’s been part of their view for the past 15 years—determined to turn it into another neighborhood asset.

“Every house is a thread in the fabric of this neighborhood,” insists Westover. “By messing with the houses… eventually, it turns into teardowns and at that point, it’s hard to stop it all.”

And while Westover insists that the goal in renovating the house is preservation, not profit, property values in the neighborhood are on the rise. Homeowners say several years ago, two bedroom one bath cottages often sold for $80-$90,000. But, post renovation, the values skyrocket.

“There’s a house at the head of the neighborhood that’s listed for almost half a million dollars,” says Westover, still apparently astonished. “We definitely in Stevens Park Village would never thought that would happen.”

And while Westover says he is not anti-progress. He insists that bringing in the new doesn’t always require tossing out the old.

“There’s a way to do it, though, and walk the line so that you are keeping the integrity in the house, [and ] subsequently, the sense of place in the neighborhood.”

And while the look and feel of residential neighborhoods hits closest to home, preservationists are encouraging developers to do what many homeowners have done: repurpose and preserve. Preservation Dallas today announced a Top 10 list of the city’s most endangered structures.

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