Oak Cliff's Silent Partner

Note from Go Oak Cliff Team: Square Foot, Inc. is a 2019 sponsor of Go Oak Cliff, and has been a longtime supporter. This is part two of a story that began with our feature of Bastille on Bishop event chair Jimmy Contreras, which you can read here.

You may not know Joe McElroy. That’s the way he likes it.

What you also may not know is that McElroy has had a hand in the renovation of a great number of commercial buildings in North Oak Cliff.

Joe McElroy of Square Foot, Inc.

Joe McElroy of Square Foot, Inc.

The Grand Prairie-raised, native Texan married Linda Holt in 1981 and moved to Oak Cliff immediately afterwards. McElroy was a recent law school grad then but he’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit. That spirit led him to co-found Square Foot, Inc., the real estate company whose blue and white SQFT signs you’ve undoubtedly seen around the neighborhood.

Joe is shrewd, with a straight-shooter dryness that keeps you on your toes—it had me both intrigued and nervous, and as we sat in Tiny Victories, part of me wondered if our first drink together might set off a life-changing bender. Alas, we kept it at one drink and I made it home safely. I learned a lot during our visit about Joe’s fondness for the theatre, his appreciation for architecture, and his passion for real estate. He takes a pragmatic approach to his tenants, at least upon first glance, but dig deeper and you start to realize there’s more to it than that. “I want them to be successful, because if they’re not, then I won’t be successful,” he explained.

And, indeed, the expectations for success are high. Nothing is too short a notice or too far to go to make a deal work. McElroy is a guy who once heard about an auction in San Antonio with mere hours to spare. He called up SQFT’s bank to get cashier’s checks, drove to San Antonio, arrived just as the auction was starting, and wound up with half the properties up for bid!

McElroy’s been involved in the North Oak Cliff buildings that now house Eno’s, Mesa, Nova, Taco y Vino, Wild Detectives, and many more. The whole stretch from Spiral Diner to Kessler Baking Studio were empty, dilapidated structures that had been neglected for years: “We brought them back to life,” McElroy said with pride.

Joe’s wife, Linda Holt, as a part of the SQFT team, was instrumental in bringing Spiral Diner to the neighborhood, among a number of other small businesses. She has played a key role in shaping the public art landscape in the area by commissioning the two murals at 7th St. & Tyler St., the two murals at W. Eighth St. & Zang Blvd., and the mural on the SQFT building on Eldorado Ave. Working with young local artists—a summer team from Booker T. Washington School for the Visual and Performing Arts, Jake Ledbetter, and Christopher Bingham—has been her joy.

All that to say, the neighborhood matters to Joe and Linda. Joe’s work is not just a bunch of buildings flipped for profit. Throughout our conversation, Joe stopped to detail the architectural nuances of his favorite properties.

Joe describes himself as a fan of New Urbanism, the human-scaled planning and development approach. Walkable cities and streets, houses and shopping in close proximity, and accessible public spaces are meaningful to him. Future development won’t come without some hard decisions, but that’s where Joe’s business savvy and his heart create a winning combination for success.