If you go to Deep Ellum today, you will find much of the same energy and spirit that made it notorious in the 1920s. Streets that rang with honky-tonk pianos and heard Leadbelly and Blind Lemon Jefferson on 12-string guitar now feature entertainment like video bars, comedy clubs, and show cases for the city's leading artists. Many of Dallas' finest galleries are located in the district. Police now have their headquarters where they were once reluctant to patrol. Deep Ellum, with a stimulating diversity of commercial activity, mixes the vitality of the Central Business District with the tranquility of the surrounding residential neighborhoods.
Deep Ellum Neighborhood Revitalization
National award-winning Realtor Douglas Newby looks back at the early days of the transformation of Deep Ellum from a tired industrial district to the vibrant neighborhood of shops, restaurants, hotels and corporate headquarters like Uber.
Deep Ellum Rezoning Followed Successful Single-Family Rezoning in Old East Dallas
After successfully initiating the single-family zoning in now what is the Junius Heights, Munger Place and Peak Suburban historic districts, Douglas Newby extended his efforts to Deep Ellum. In the early 1980s, a few properties in the rundown Deep Ellum Industrial District were purchased and renovated by artists, architects, photographers and graphic designers. Their energy would attract shop owners, restaurants and small offices. When the City of Dallas hired Planning Consultant Jack Diamond from Toronto to work with the Planning Department to rezone all of Deep Ellum, the long-time property owners protested. In some cases, properties had been in the family for generations and it had always been zoned Industrial with 10-1 floor area ratio (FAR) and unlimited height limits.
The City created a plan with the support of a few new property owners that would benefit disproportionately from this new plan. The Planning Department proposed dramatically reducing the development rights next to downtown and to pick and choose the economic winners and losers as development rights would be doled out. The property that had the most value was on the border of downtown. The City of Dallas wanted to rezone this property to a two-story height limit. The property furthest away from downtown and with the least amount of value they wanted to allow 12 stories of height. Further, the City wanted to make Main Street retail, Elm and Commerce offices, and residential uses on the edges. Rather than let the neighborhood organically thrive and develop as property owners found creative uses for their spaces, the City planners wanted to designate what use went where.
Douglas Newby Became Co-Chairman of the Deep Ellum Property Owners for Rezoning
Douglas Newby was a preservationist and a realtor that specialized in restoration real estate. He recognized that he could work with the longtime property owners and develop a rezoning plan that would preserve the economic value of the Deep Ellum properties and be equitable to all of the owners in contrast to the contrived and inequitable plan of the City planners. The rezoning plan of Douglas Newby and the longtime property owners treated every property equally and received the endorsement of Preservation Dallas over the City Planning Department’s proposal.
Link to 1985 Channel 5 News Clip on Deep Ellum
The University of North Texas Archives has this Channel 5 news clip on Deep Ellum from 1985. Douglas Newby as the Publicity Chairman of the Old East Dallas Home Tour that he initiated was interviewed in connection with the Deep Ellum Art Walk that was coordinated with the home tour of homes in the 12 neighborhoods surrounding Munger Place that included Deep Ellum Lofts. In this clip, you will see artist Sue Benners speak about Deep Ellum and Douglas Newby speak about the evolution of Deep Ellum and the compatibility of artists and new development. At the end of the clip, you will see the newspaper style Old East Dallas Tour Guide that Douglas Newby wrote about the neighborhoods and homes on the tour.
Restoration House of the Year Award
The Continental Gin Building that was the photography studio and home of Chet Morrison was selected as Restoration Home of the Year. In previous years the Restoration Home of the Year had been on Swiss Avenue, Munger Place, Winnetka Heights and Greenland Hills and the award presented by the current Mayors of Dallas. This Deep Ellum residence captured the spirit of this evolving neighborhood and the restoration and renovation of a residence in which to live.
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Deep Ellum Map
Deep Ellum inside East Dallas. Click on the map and discover each home as you explore this neighborhood.