Editor’s note: This post is sponsored by Novel Bishop Arts, as part of an annual sponsorship package.
If you’ve spent anytime in Oak Cliff and around the Bishop Arts District, you’ve likely heard the name, “Shane Spillers.” Shane is a champion of this area–a kind of neighborhood patriarch and protector, if you will. He’s helped create and preserve the culture that we love. When he first moved to Oak Cliff in 2007, his real estate agent thought he was insane. But as he drove the neighborhood, he noticed something different. People were outside of their houses talking with each other and interacting with friends. He admired the beautiful hills, trees, and landscape. Frankly, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. To him this was an oasis in the heart of a bustling, fast-paced city.
So he moved in. He then quickly doubled-down and opened Eno’s Pizza Tavern, which today is arguably the cornerstone of the Bishop Arts community. Known for its cracker-thin crust pizza and selection of local craft beers, Eno’s has been a local favorite for years that has also found ways to draw in a lot of visitors. Twelve years later, Shane admitted that he is only growing more and more in love with his home and the people around him. “I’m excited for Oak Cliff these days,” he remarked with a confident, knowing smile.
Oak Cliff has evolved and Shane, like many locals, has found ways to navigate the tides of change. “Over time, we’ve certainly seen our neighbors get younger and younger,” he said with a chuckle. “But specifically in the Bishop Arts area,” he said, “we’ve seen a lot of development–a disproportionate amount in the district, really.” And he’s right. At least three major commercial real estate projects are now in the leasing stage, with dozens of smaller projects currently in motion. This can be an overwhelming challenge, but it also produces a massive opportunity for business owners.
“If you can weather that storm as an entrepreneur,” he said, “and find ways to bring your guests back, and continue to execute at a high level, I think it gives you some staying power.”
Oak Cliff has a delicate ecosystem made up of property owner and residential support, city support, entrepreneurs, and of course, its guests. Shane knows this. “When those things get out of whack, you start to lose the integrity of Oak Cliff,” he said. So as new businesses entered Oak Cliff and constructed new leased housing in the area, it was natural for him and everyone else to wonder: Is the risk of upsetting this delicate balance worth it? How authentic are these businesses, really?
Shane recently invested in expanding his business one of these new residential and retail properties located in Davis Street - NOVEL Bishop Arts.
As he considered this new venture, he asked “What are we giving up to get this new thing?” The answer: Primarily we’re giving up an old empty bus depot and some underutilized buildings. It was an excellent trade up from his perspective, and a no-brainer for the community.
What about authenticity and preserving the culture of the community?
As Shane came to know the Novel Bishop Arts team, he was convinced that they were not an enemy, but rather a beacon of hope for the neighbors. “This is an example of a project done particularly well, and in a particularly responsible way,” he said. If you’re looking for an indicator on how a long-time Bishop Arts store owner and Oak Cliff neighbor feels about Novel Bishop Arts, look no further: Shane is full of excitement.
He was so confident in this assessment, in fact, that he decided to place a second Brewed coffee and bites shop inside of Novel Bishop Arts’ entryway. In case you didn’t know, Shane also owns and operates another business in Fort Worth called Brewed, which offers a morning brew (coffee) and an afternoon brew (craft beer) in a space affectionately known as, “the local’s living room.” This badge of honor was bestowed on the original restaurant off Magnolia Ave. by the people of Ft. Worth. It’s a third communal gathering space for many people, outside of their home and office spaces.
By connecting Brewed LTD to Novel, Shane is hoping to create a similar environment for his friends and neighbors in Bishop Arts. This is the shared mission between Brewed LTD and Novel Bishop Arts: To knit into the fabric of the community, and serve the people living there really well.
There’s no doubt that part of Shane’s confidence in Novel Bishop Arts rests in the people involved. Michael Blackwell, Managing Director at Crescent Communities, is one of those key people. When Oak Cliff first pushed back on the idea of constructing new leased housing in Bishop Arts, Michael understood the concern.
“There is a proliferation of new apartments going up in Dallas, as one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S. and it leads to a fatiguing amount of construction,” he said. “If you feel like you’re in a neighborhood that’s separated from that stuff, then there’s some freedom.”
Ironically though, this is precisely the type of neighborhood Michael and his team are most interested in–ones that are street-car accessible, walkable, and designed and built in the 1920s. It’s what they are most passionate about. So, they’ve taken time to understand Bishop Arts and worked with the people who live in the area to determine how they might best add to the local amenities and economy.
When they first began their work and witnessed the spirit of this area, Michael brought his team together and gave them a clear vision, saying, “This is not another apartment project. There is something extraordinary about this neighborhood.”
Michael and the Novel team are not only interested in integrating with the neighborhood but also growing with it too. “The social connective tissue, or fabric, is one of the things that matters most to us,” said Michael. You’ll see that reflected in the design details. Walk into the entrance of Novel Bishop Arts and you’ll find the fingerprints of local artists like Gary Buckner and STASH Design all over the place. Behind the scenes, people like Andrew Howard of Team Better Block also played a vital role in ensuring that Novel was built in the right fashion.
In a certain sense, the Novel team relinquished control to neighborhood leaders to ensure they were in step with Oak Cliff. This wasn’t a ‘hands off,’ or passive approach, by any means. Instead, it was a very intentional act–listening first, acting second–that earned respect from the advocates involved. This mindset is ingrained into Novel Bishop Arts and encapsulates Michael’s vision for it: “We are adding to the experience and business opportunities in Oak Cliff,” he said.
The growth in Bishop Arts doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. Shane Spillers echoed that sentiment when asked what he thinks North Oak Cliff will look like in five years. When discussing the current ‘boundaries’ of The Bishop Arts District, he assured us, “There’s no way in the world that the parameter will stay the same.”
Perhaps, we will see a significant change in the Lake Cliff Park area. H-E-B is now a landowner across the street from Novel, so we may even see a Central Market in the area sooner than later. Phase two of Alamo Manhattan’s development, as well as the completion of Michael Nazerian’s work, will surely change the current landscape. But both Michael and Shane are hopeful about these prospects.
“What helps us maintain longevity,” Shane said, “is staying true to our core and values, and honoring the space.” As this evolution takes place, partnerships between responsible leaders like Shane and Michael will certainly make the difference.
You can learn more about Brewed LTD in this recent D Magazine article.
You can also learn more about Novel Bishop Arts by clicking the button below.