Parking concerns grow with Oak Cliff's Bishop Arts District

By ROY APPLETON / Dallas Morning News

A proposed rezoning near Bishop Avenue and Neely Street would clear the way for a restaurant near Oak Cliff's Bishop Arts District. And such a change would be bad for its residential neighborhood.

That's what six residents of the Kidd Springs area in north Oak Cliff told the City Plan Commission last week. Among their concerns: more noise, traffic and public parking in front of private homes.

"We've got parking problems coming out our kazoo," Pam Conley, a longtime Kidd Springs watchdog, told commissioners before they unanimously opposed the rezoning request.

Her neighborhood isn't alone.

A growing mix of retail, restaurants, bars and special events has made Bishop Arts quite the entertainment draw.

And parking has become an increasing challenge for business owners and customers, as well as those who live nearby.

"To a degree, we are victims of our own success," said Bob Stimson, president of the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce.

For Kidd Springs residents, the Bishop Arts intrusion intensified last year after Gloria's restaurant opened at Davis Street and Bishop Avenue with a margarita special, spacious quarters and insufficient off-street parking. "We are still reeling from the impact of Gloria's," Conley told the plan commission.

Diners' cars were towed from a business lot across the street, where signs still say: "No Gloria's restaurant parking, please." Jose Fuentes, the restaurant chain's owner, purchased property nearby that includes 20 spaces for his valet service, giving him 60 parking slots in all.

The addition didn't keep those headed for Gloria's and other Bishop Arts destinations from parking on Kidd Springs streets. And residents turned to City Hall for help.

In February, residents in the 300 block of Neely Street โ€” a block from Gloria's โ€” successfully petitioned the city for a Resident Parking Only zone. A similar request for the 400 block of Neely was rejected last month because the area includes apartments, in apparent violation of city code. The approved zone also has apartments and is being reconsidered by the city. And a petition drive for resident-only parking on a neighboring block is under way.

Fuentes is among those opposing the restrictions. His attorney, Kendall Laughlin, puts it this way: "Those homeowners don't have any more right to that street than a business." So how do you blend competing interests? "Good question," Laughlin said.

Seeking a solution

Parking in and around Bishop Arts was part of a rezoning in 2010 that more than halved the number of off-street parking spaces businesses had to provide. And it may well be an issue as long as the area thrives and motor vehicles are the dominant means of transportation โ€” unless someone builds a public parking garage nearby.

Some Bishop Arts property and business owners have been meeting and talking about ways to address the situation.

"It's all in our best interest to work out a solution," said Amanda Moreno-Cross, whose has retail buildings at Davis and Bishop. The demand for parking "is not going away," she said, because the energy of Bishop Arts drives it.

"That's what makes the area what it is."

David Spence, who has been restoring and leasing property in Bishop Arts and along the Davis Street corridor for years, agrees. "There will be a parking problem if we continue to ignore it," he said.

"There is no one solution," Spence said. But fundamentally, he said, the tax base created in the Bishop Arts District needs to be protected. And parking cars on streets isn't a radical concept.

"It is an urban environment," he said. "Welcome to the city."

Bishop Arts property owners have talked about establishing a shuttle system linking the area and other north Oak Cliff destinations with remote parking lots and the trolley line expected to open between Oak Cliff and downtown in 2014.

If nothing else, Bishop Arts employees could use the shuttle, freeing parking spaces for the public, Stimson said.

Valet companies have been brought in to provide an immediate option for shoppers and diners. Texans Can! plans to build a valet parking lot on land it purchased near Bishop Arts and use the proceeds for its charter school operations. A valet lot nearby also raises money for the school.

And a pedicab service targeting Bishop Arts, Davis Street and the Texas Theatre on Jefferson Boulevard will debut later this month.

"In a way it's a good problem to have," Stimson said of the parking crunch. And resolving it won't be easy, he said, because "we've got so many different interests and so many different property owners."

The parking situation needs to be addressed beyond Bishop Arts and include portions of the Davis and Jefferson corridors, Stimson said.

Bottom line, he said, "It's going to take some leadership and courage."

More growth ahead

Meanwhile, the public carrying-on continues in Bishop Arts. Next up: the fourth annual Brew Riot beer-crafting competition May 20 and the Margarita Meltdown street party on May 27.

Recent additions to the bar scene include 303 Bar and Grill and Whitehall Exchange, both of which serve drinks until 2 a.m. on weekends. The 303 parking lot was the site of a Kidd Springs home.

Coming soon are the Oak Cliff Social Club and Ten Bells Tavern, both with off-street parking and plans for live music and 2 a.m. closings.

Peter Saucedo, Social Club owner, said his place will be a spot where "the CNN crowd can come in and loosen their tie," where his "floor guys" will help keep the place neighborly.

"We want to be a good influence on this area," he said. "We can bring something to Oak Cliff that they haven't seen."

Time will tell how Bishop Arts evolves. Some fear the area, with its growing number of bars and late hours, could become another Lower Greenville Avenue, another neighborhood nemesis.

"We are not there yet," said Stimson. "But it's a valid concern and something that needs to be dealt with."

By Avi S. Adelman under Neighborhoods , Safe streets