TREC Young Guns members attended a panel discussion on June 22 with real estate leaders Matt Enzler, Phil Romano and Robert Shaw and community leader James Armstrong about how the West Dallas boom started, how it stands and what its future holds.
The panelists painted a picture of an area of Dallas comprised of bleak neighborhoods that most would not feel safe walking through at night and where some properties sold for just $5 per square foot. None of the Young Guns in attendance expected them to be describing Uptown. It is hard to imagine such a vibrant part of town not always being that way. Uptown is a success story, a blight turned beauty, and the population continues to double every three years.
So where do developers go from there? The answer is West Dallas. Back in 2005, the Margaret Hunt Bridge was only a rumor and later became known as the “bridge to nowhere.” West Dallas was mostly known as the largest housing project in the nation and being extremely polluted. Phil Romano, a pioneer of the development in West Dallas, said he saw the bridge as a “bridge of opportunity.” He was faced with the daunting prospect that whatever he did would “dictate what happens along the rest of the Trinity.” Fast forward to today and we have the extremely popular Trinity Groves development.
Why is West Dallas such an ideal “next hot spot” and why are so many developers racing to the area? Robert Shaw, of Columbus Realty Partners, LTD, explained how West Dallas is a “safe place” for people of all ages and cultures to mix and mingle. He said he sees it as the most diverse area of Dallas, not only with regard to the people, but with the type of businesses, housing and mixture of housing prices. People are afraid of developers trying to “Uptown” West Dallas, he said. What community members perhaps do not realize is that developers have a strong desire to embrace and maintain the diversity and unique culture that makes up West Dallas – no Chipotles or Subways will open in the near future.
Is there too much development happening? Matt Enzler, of Trammell Crow Residential, doesn’t think so. He said the current pace of development is appropriate. There are some submarkets where there is too much or too little supply, but his view is that overall we are headed in the right direction and will remain in a bullish market. What type of developments can we expect to see? Romano introduced his new bar concept, the “Network Bar,” and Enzler said he was happy to have the Young Guns tour the apartment complex, one of many his company has built and where Forum was held. But another question still remained: How does the community feel about all the changes?
James Armstrong, senior pastor of the Community Fellowship Church in West Dallas, said the community has mixed reviews. People within the community are scared of all the changes, but he was quick to explain that it is due mostly to the lack of information shared between developers and residents. While Romano shared the Trinity Grove vision, Armstrong said the “vision of Trinity Groves was never shared” with the community. Armstrong mentioned that developers need to better educate the community about the benefits that come with all this change and, on the flip side, how the community will suffer if such changes aren’t made. Another looming issue is displacement. The whole nation has eyes on West Dallas and whether there can be gentrification without displacement.
How can you or your firm share in the potential solutions and economic revitalization? Will you stand on the sidelines or are your team members giving thought as to how to solve all the thorny issues each prospective development presents? Will West Dallas become the new model other cities will follow?