State Thomas Neighborhood: An Urban Bartram Park

May 15, 2013 8 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Now that we've had a chance to take a close look at Bartram Park, Metro Jacksonville takes advantage of Google Earth Streetview to illustrate the impact of modifying land use and zoning policies to encourage human scale development patterns. Today, we take a look at the revitalization of Dallas' State Thomas neighborhood, an urban version of Bartram Park-style housing stock.

Overview of the State-Thomas T.I.F. (Tax Increment Financing) District (1989)

Before we start of visual comparison between Jacksonville's Bartram Park and Dallas' State Thomas neighborhood, here is a brief look into the history of State Thomas' revitalization process over the last two decades.

From its genteel beginnings as the first Dallas streetcar suburb and its subsequent history as a thriving African-American neighborhood, this area gradually suffered severe decline from suburban flight, disinvestment, and decaying infrastructure. In the 1980s developers begin acquiring and clearing properties in the expectation of building more office space but those plans were halted by the market downturn. Much of the area was vacant, blighted and crime-ridden through the end of the 1980s.

In 1987, a coalition of property owners commissioned RTKL to guide the rezoning of the are as a planned development district of 130 acres. The State-Thomas Special District was the first district in Dallas with design standards that promoted urban neighborhood-making. The development greatly extended the range of housing types available in downtown Dallas, while enriching the neighborhood environment of the historic State-Thomas district.

In 1989, to promote reinvestment in the area, the City of Dallas created the State-Thomas Tax Increment Financing District, the first TIF district in Dallas. TIF funds were used to improve the area infrastructure including water and sewersystems, burying utilities, and paving streets. The first residential project, the Meridian, was built in 1990 and was quickly followed by others

Also in 1989, the historic streetcar was returned to Dallas streets, at least in a modest way. The first electric streetcar system was begun in Dallas in 1889; streetcar service was ended in the 1950s. When the original rails were rediscovered under the asphalt, local private business owners and rail enthusiasts bought and restored antique trolley cars and returned them to service under a private non-profit organization called the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority (MATA). This timely addition in a time-honored form of ‘light transit’ helped with the restoration of urban form and pedestrian scale to this historic streetcar suburb.

The success of State-Thomas, as evidenced by high urban density and low vacancy rates, proved that there was a pent-up demand for quality urban living in Dallas, and spurred further development. In 1993, the City created the Uptown Public Improvement District (PID) and the Cityplace TIF District. PIDs are created at the request of property owners, who pay an assessment forservices beyond existing City services. Activities eligible for public improvement fundsinclude marketing the area, providing additionalsecurity, landscaping and lighting, cleaning the streets within the district, and providing cultural and recreational improvements

Development continues in Uptown around the Cityplace DART station. The trolley line was expanded to connect the Cityplace station to Downtown, creating a true transit circulator and a model that every Dallas neighborhood developing around transit looks toward. MATA is franchised by the City and receives some operational funding from DART and from the Uptown and Downtown Public Improvement Districts.

State Thomas Neighborhood - 1995

State Thomas Neighborhood - 2013


By 1998, there were 56 restaurantsin the 128-block Uptown area.By 2000, population in the entire downtown (or‘intown’) area had increased by 54 percent over 1990 figures.Current land prices are over $70 persquare foot.

• + 2700 Units over 14 years

• 32 projects, 19 utilizing TIF funds

• 90% complete,seed for “Uptown”

• + $300,000,000 invested (tax value)

• + $25,000,000 TIF funds authorized

• Highest market rates in North Texas

State-Thomas property values:

• 1989: $47,506,802

• 2004: $307,693,707

• 547.68% increase

Cityplace property values:

• 1992: $45,065,342

• 2004: $291,065,959

• 545.88% increase3

Lessons Learned

• T.I.F. – pays public improvements up-front;repaid over a period of years from tax revenues

o Rezone – Planned Development District, 130 acres

o Develop Design Standards

o New standard for urban density in Dallas, first time used

• Urban Design features:

o Revitalizing a run-down area

o True urban scale and density

o Diverse mix of uses

o Streetsfor walking as well as driving

o Public/private partnership


Aerial of developments within Bartram Park

NEXT PAGE: Bartram Park/State Thomas Visual Comparison

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