Oak Cliff Neighborhood Features Vibrant Hispanic Community, But Gentrification Could Change That

October 2, 2014 by No Comments

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A predominantly Hispanic Dallas neighborhood has expanded rapidly over the past few decades, but with its own vibrant community, residents worry about gentrification.

Oak Cliff, just south of downtown Dallas and west of the Trinity River, has had one of the largest Latino populations in Dallas for the past 50 years. Its central hub, Jefferson Blvd, is home to the Texas Theater, where Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested.

At least 76% of Oak Cliff’s population is Hispanic; throughout all of Dallas, that demographic totals 42%.

The area also encompasses part of the Little Mexico neighborhood, which boasts landmarks like the El Fenix restaurant, established in 1918, and the Dallas Tortilla andamp; Tamale Factory, which opened in 1950 and moved to Oak Cliff in the 1980s.

Today, the area’s heritage is displayed through its many restaurants and shops and is seen and heard in the clothing, art and music in the neighborhood.

Rising property costs, highway development and business expansions, however, have begun pushing the Hispanic population out.

A recent editorial in the Dallas News even called for more new housing options in the area to attract and retain middle-income families. Although the piece called North Oak Cliff one of the city’s “hot real estate markets,” it did not address the current populations living there.

New housing could bring bring with it home improvement businesses for existing residents; the garage door installation industry alone employs approximately 65,000 people throughout the United States. But many residents see these potential expansions as another way to push the community further south, which is how Little Mexico’s remnants became absorbed into Oak Cliff.

Even the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League will feature a tour this year of high-end homes to potentially draw high-income buyers to the area. There are no stops on Jefferson Blvd., however, and only one is in the vicinity.

Ruben Leal, the son of the founders of Dallas Tortilla andamp; Tamale Factory, told reporters that since 1984, he’s seen the area go from “a good mixture of people” to “almost all Hispanic” over time. “But in the past seven to eight years,” he said, “I have noticed that the Hispanic population is starting to move out.”

Because of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge over the Trinity River, which runs between Oak Cliff and Downtown Dallas, more private investors have begun buying property in the area.

And Leal said that this is impacting the neighborhood. “Businesses can’t expand north anymore, it’s just too packed. So it’s all coming this way.”

What could happen to Oak Cliff’s vibrant Hispanic community in the future? “I think this community will just move even further south again.”

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