The origin of Lakewood and why it’s become Highland Park East all of a sudden.

What’s happening to Lakewood, why has it become all upscale-y recently? HB

She means going from this

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To this

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If you’ve been living in Dallas for any amount of years, at least 5, you’ve probably noticed that Lakewood seems as if its becoming more like Highland Park East, then its more modest former self.  The reason why this is happening is because of the way certain populations in Dallas have settled; and limited supply of desirable housing stock for them.  Or, in short, natives of the Park Cities and Preston Hollow can’t find anywhere in those communities to live so they’re moving to where they perceive is the next best option…Lakewood.

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Not shown “The Balcony Club” and its Jazz music

Historically, over the last 100 years, moneyed people in Dallas have flowed north out of downtown, to the Park Cities, Preston Hollow, and into North Dallas.  The middle class or more moderate income people moved east through Old East Dallas, to Lakewood, then east of the Lake into Lake Highlands and Far East Dallas.  I should point out that for the first half of the past century this meant white moneyed people and white middle class.  Minorities (both wealthy and not so wealthy) generally moved south into Oak Cliff, Pleasant Grove, and onto the suburbs like Desoto and Duncanville.  Perhaps this is a slight oversimplification, but in broad terms it is true (except for the minorities part which has been changing for the past 30 or so years).

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White middle class “Lakewood Stallions” 30 years ago.

So it’s this middle income, mixed income population that began to settle in Lakewood starting in the 1920’s.  White Rock Lake had been built in the 1910’s, making the area between the Lake and Old East Dallas more desirable.  Slowly, between the 20’s and the 50’s, Lakewood developed.  It was a nice mix of housing, with Charles Dilbeck designed Spanish mansions on large estates that were just a block or two away from modest 2 bedroom duplexes or 3 bedroom 30’s Tudors.

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Picture circa 2012, Home circa 1936

Downtown Lakewood developed in the 1930’s as simple two and three story tall row-style commercial buildings in a traditional small town style downtown.  The theater was built in ’39, El Chico’s started there in 1942.

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Downtown Lakewood in the mid-sixties just as the Faulkner Tower was being built

For the next 50 or so years, Lakewood continued to succeed as a middle class neighborhood, with the mix of non-traditional moneyed people like Stanley Marcus (of Neiman Marcus) but also plenty of middle class or people of more modest means.  Then a funny thing started to happen around the turn of the century, something that’s accelerated in the past five years.  Lakewood went upscale, traded the middle class for the upper class, and as a consequence it uber-gentrified.

Meaning less of this

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And more of this

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For Example

  • The simple neighborhood grocery, Minyards, a staple for decades, turned into a high end Whole Foods.
  • The greasy spoon diner(pictured at the top of this post) was torn down and replaced by a commercial bank.
  • The respectable Centennial Liquor store turned into another bank.
  • All those duplexes along Sandra that were mentioned above were torn down and replaced with large McMansions
  • The old dry cleaners saw its square footage cut in half to make way for a high end Gelato shop.
  • The local dive bar with live music became a gourmet hotdog place

And as perhaps the best example of how Lakewood has become Highland Park East is that fact that Matt’s Rancho Martinez, East Dallas’s staple for Tex-Mex, was replaced by Highland Park’s staple for Tex-Mex Mi Cocina (Though Matt’s did find a new place just down the road.)

Why has this happened?  Well for the moneyed people of Dallas, where you live is a really big deal.  It’s not just your zip code, not just whether you live in the Park Cities or not, and it’s not even which street you live on.  It’s the street AND the address.  There are some in Highland Park who talk about living in “Old” Highland Park as opposed to the newer sections.  Where the new sections refer to the Henry Exall developed property from a hundred and twenty years ago and not the J.S. Armstrong property from a hundred years ago.  These people take where you live as a mark of how wealthy and how cultured you are.

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“You live where?”

And as wealthy families continue to pop out three and four kids each, there becomes more and more of them, many trying to buy houses in these areas.  Areas where not only are they not building anymore houses, but they’re actually reducing the number of them, as wealthy homeowners buy adjoining lots and build larger homes.

So starting in the late 90’s with the gen x-ers, you had more and more moneyed people in Dallas trying to buy fewer and fewer homes.  While it is socially acceptable to live in the Park Cities, certain parts of North Dallas and even perhaps parts of Richardson, it’s social suicide to move all the way to Plano or, gasp Frisco.  And in these moneyed circles a huge amount of business gets done at social events, like dinner parties or charity balls, so social suicide begets economic suicide.  In the minds of old money Dallas, moving to Plano dooms one to a life of economic and social mediocrity, regardless of whether or not this is true, it’s
their perception.

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What old moneyed families think of those who move to Plano (also what comes up on Google image search for “Collin Creek Mall”)

Looking for other options those “displaced” early gen X-ers and more recently the millennials began to look at the place that their nontraditional wealthy friends from Dallas had moved to, Lakewood.  Their non-traditional friends, or parents friends, living in Lakewood weren’t social outcasts, they weren’t unsuccessful, they were just …different.  Progressive and liberal leaning, they marched to the beat of their own drum.  Well, what traditional Park Cities and North Dallas thought was their own drum, turns out it was the same drum that many in Lakewood marched to.  As an example let me go back to Mi Cocina’s founder, businessmen and restaurateur Mico Rodriguez; and compare him to Matt’s founder, chef and restaurateur Matt Martinez.

Mico posing for a magazine cover

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Matt eating a Chicken Fried Steak and drinking with Julia Childs

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Both are successful and respected individuals, just in their own way.  The first way is the Park-y way the other is the Lakewood-y way

So when left with the prospect of moving to Plano or moving to Lakewood, many old money rich (but not that rich) people in Dallas chose Lakewood.  It was more acceptable than to move out to the suburbs.  In Lakewood, many of the mansions are from the same period as those in HP, even designed by the same architect.  The schools are good, but not great.  They even have a Whole Foods down the street, a Pacciguio’s, Mi Cocina just went in, and the trail around White Rock is so much better than the Katy Trail.

And if you don’t like the uber-gentrification of Lakewood, well don’t frequent the establishments that have pushed out the local middle class mom and pops places.  Instead frequent the local modest establishments that are stiill there.  Because if you do go to the new trendy upscale places that forced out the old local ones; and you’re a true Lakewoodian or East Dallasite; well, I’m fairly certain Lucille will straight up haunt your ass.

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She looks sweet but she will haunt you for ordering a Heineken at Mi Cocina

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Where are the urban, diverse, progressive DIY-ers, neighborhoods in Dallas, Or does all of Dallas feel like North Dallas

What neighborhoods are the urban, diverse, progressive DIY-ers, neighborhoods?  Or are all neighborhoods like North Dallas or Plano? – R.A.

No, R.A. not all neighborhoods in Dallas are like North Dallas or Plano.  And by North Dallas she (a friend from high school who lived in North Dallas from when she was 12 till she left for college and moved to California) meant a neighborhood that has a certain sameness feel to them, the same houses, same people, same cars, same yards, etc.  Those newly minted (relatively), conservative, suburban, cookie-cutter type powerful HOA neighborhoods that lack a certain cultural and historical depth that more urban neighborhoods have.

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Most unique thing about this neighborhood is the Water Tower, which I would totally live in

In fairness, those progressive urban neighborhoods have questions about crime, schools, congestion, maintenance issues with older houses, etc.  And in the end it’s a matter of personal preference, valuing different amenities differently.  Not here to judge just answer questions.  And her questions was where she could move to, if she were to move back from the west coast and looking for a neighborhood decidedly not North Dallas like.

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She wanted to go to there

Though Dallas has always had people that value the North Dallases, Highland Parks, Preston Hollows, and Plano neighborhoods, Dallas has also had those that value more unique places.  Even from the beginning when a significant part of early Dallas settlers were Europeans artists (including a former director of the Paris Opera) from a failed utopian settlement on the banks of the Trinity.  That bohemian lifestyle can still be seen in things like the Hollywood Height Halloween parade.

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This type of parade does not happen in Plano, both Hollywood Heights and Plano are proud of this fact.

It takes that certain artistic or bohemian lifestyle to be the firsts to move into these urban neighborhoods before they’ve turned around.  And of course once that bohemian community is established in the neighborhood, it’s that community that helps to make the neighborhood attractive to so called urban pioneers, people in search of authentic unique neighborhoods.

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Note these people are often called, hippies, hipsters, the creative class, urbanites and more.

What are some of the characteristics of these neighborhoods? They’re older neighborhoods (in Dallas that means pre-WWII), that were built mainly for middle class families (read quality construction) in nice but not super nice locations and lots (if they were really nice they’d be torn down and replaced with McMansions in the past 20 years).  They experienced some decline and decay throughout the second and third generation of owners and became less desirable.  But because of their architectural significant design, quality construction and proximity to urban amenities, they have attracted certain urban pioneers.  The process is organic, not created by large scale developments or initiatives, and often coincides with a entertainment district.

There are really two great areas of Dallas that fit this mold, a few more that are kinda but not quite, a few that have gentrified to a point beyond being affordable, and a few that may one day become one.

Note:  The list below is not all inclusive, there may be neighborhoods that I left out which are in fact these progressive, DIY-er urban pioneering neighborhoods.

Two Best Areas

The Old East Dallas Neighborhoods – Loosely bordered by Columbia, Peak, Ross and La Vista (again loosely).  It includes neighborhoods like Junius Heights, Munger Place, and Hollywood Heights where the homes date from turn of the century through the 30’s.  The revival started 40 years ago so there’s an established community of urban pioneers there.  Questions about schools, safety and crime have kept it reasonably affordable, but high property values in some neighborhoods in the past 10-15 years have seen defections to other more affordable more bohemian neighborhoods.

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Old East Dallas home on Tremont

North Oak Cliff– which speaking of those other neighborhoods, you have North Oak Cliff.  The renaissance in North Oak Cliff started some 15 or 20 years ago and has coincided with Bishop Art’s success.  Originally developed by J.S. Armstrong (fresh off developing Hollywood California, and just before developing Highland Park in Dallas) the homes are turn of the century through the 1920’s.  Winnetka Heights is the flagship neighborhood for North Oak Cliff, though there are other promising neighborhoods on the other side of the Trinity and west of 35.  The revival of North Oak Cliff is still a work in progress and it’s not for the faint of heart (safety issues, schools, the normal stuff urban neighborhoods deal with).  But it’s the best neighborhood in Dallas for that diverse (very diverse), eclectic-affordable-bohemian feel.  And it’s years away from property values reaching a place where the neighborhood stops being affordable.

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North Oak Cliff home on Clinton

Best of the Rest

Little Forest Hills – LFH was originally developed as lake cottages and hunting cabins just off of White Rock Lake in the 1910’s.  Little Forest Hills (a namesake taken from the more affluent neighborhood to the west, Forest Hills) is a collection of mainly 30’s and 40’s homes south of White Rock Lake, east of Lakeland, north of the train tracks and west of Casa Linda.  Unlike the two previous neighborhoods which were a part of a large quasi-blighted area, Funky Little Forest Hills became bohemians because it was the most affordable neighborhood (mainly because of small house size) in a nice area (the greater White Rock Lake area ofLakewood, Lakewood Heights, Old Lake Highlands, and Forest Hills).  Because there were always larger, more expensive or more modern homes surrounding LFH the renters, artists, or those with a bohemian lifestyle who wanted the lake as an amenity found their way  to LFH.   As such a large population of artists moved into the neighborhood in the 80’s and 90’s.  The neighborhood still remains one of the more affordable neighborhoods around White Rock, but the neighborhood has seen recent property value increase as professionals expand the original lake cottages or pay for a previous generations unique artistic additions.

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Little Forest Hills Motto

Quasi-Neighborhoods, Ones that aren’t quite but almost.  The professionals outnumber the bohemians and artists, or the white people outnumber the nonwhite people.

Lakewood Heights/C-streets – Across the street from Lakewood, just northeast of Old East Dallas and south of the Lakewood Country Club, this neighborhood has homes that date from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s.  Quality schools and nice location have meant that the neighborhood never bottomed out like Old East Dallas or North Oak Cliff.  So the artists never really moved in, but those who wanted to be close to the artists in Old East Dallas, and wanted to feel a little safer did.   With the closing of Far West nightclub and the opening of a high end grocery store across the street, the neighborhood is perhaps destined to price itself out of affordability.  The McMansions are already moving in.

Old Lake Highlands – perhaps the best example of mid-century modern homes in Dallas that are still somewhat affordable, the neighborhood is a triangle formed by Buckner, Northwest HWY and Lake Highlands Dr.  Mainly homes built in the 50’s with a few late 40’s and early 60’s sprinkled in, you can still find a few original owners there.  Like Lakewood Heights, OLH never bottomed out, but unlike Lakewood Heights it’s never been as expensive.  As such a certain creative class of urban pioneers, ones that favor the mid-century look, have moved into OLH in the past few years.  If home values remain relatively affordable here, the next ten years may see an influx of more and more quasi-bohemians and perhaps some actual artists forming an electric community there.

Used to be

The M-Streets – The neighborhood  most associated Lower Greenville was once  (in the early to mid 90’s) one of the best places in Dallas to live. Bounded by Richmond/Belmont, Abrams, Mockingbird and Central, it’s a loosely defined area made up of a few neighborhoods that run along Greenville Ave.  In the early to mid 90’s, Dallas’s live music scene was migrating from Deep Elbum to places on Lower Greenville like the Granada or Poor David’s.  EDM clubs like the Zubar or the Red Jacket were just hitting their stride.  Restaurants like the original Snuffer’s, Aww Shucks, Blue Goose and Terilli’s were blossoming.  The homes, most dating from the 20’s, 30’s and into the 40’s were affordable.  Old Tudor duplexes and apartments in the south end of the neighborhood kept the prices down.  But soon the duplexes on oversized lots were torn down and replaced with 4,000 SF McMansions.  New homeowners, mainly wealth professionals with families drawn to the neighborhood by the lifestyle and one of the few blue ribbon schools in DISD, began clamoring for a cleaner version of Greenville Ave.  As more and more homes got torn down, as $500,000 homes became the norm on the street instead of the outlier, the M-streets lost its affordability and diversity.

Oak Lawn – The original neighborhood for Urban pioneers of the 50’s and 60’s during white flight.  Known for decades as having an artistic-bohemian scene, since the days of the Alice Street Fair for wondering artists in the late 19th century off Cedar Springs.  Rising land values beginning in the 80’s forced many of the homes to be torn down and replaced with office buildings, apartments and high rises.

Might be One Day

Claremont – It’s an affordable 1960’s neighborhood of not quite mid-century not quite ranch style homes south of Ferguson, along St. Francis north of 30.  If style preferences continue to evolve like they have been, then neighborhoods like Claremont are the next step for the quasi-bohemian individuals.

Park Row – 50 years ago Old East Dallas was in shambles, 30 years ago North Oak Cliff was.  But they had good bones.  This is where Park Row currently is.  South of Fair Park and the South Dallas neighborhood and north of the Great Trinity Forest, it used to be one of the best neighborhood in Dallas, but highways, segregation, and a number of other factors have led to the neighborhood becoming rundown.  Nevertheless these 4,000 SF, 1920s mansion like the one below are available for less then 175,000.   Other smaller properties are far cheaper.

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