By the 1960s, a large area of Old East Dallas between Lakewood Shopping Center and Downtown had deteriorated. With their property zoned for apartments, homeowners couldn’t obtain home improvement loans, and prospective home buyers couldn’t obtain financing.
Even Swiss Avenue’s deed restrictions were about to expire, and the advent of apartments on the stately boulevard seemed inevitable.
Residents hired Marvin Springer, a respected city planner, to oversee the transition. Following his suggestion, the City rezoned Swiss Avenue, from Fitzhugh to La Vista, strictly for luxury apartments in an attempt to thwart panic-selling. The strategy paid off: During the next 10 years, only one property – a double lot at the northeast corner of Swiss and Collett – was sold for potential apartment development.
During the early 1970s, Weiming Lu joined the City planning department and galvanized Swiss Avenue and Bryan Parkway residents with news that the entire area qualified for National Register of Historic Places designation.
Lu told residents Swiss Avenue remained perhaps the country’s largest and most distinctive intact residential neighborhood built between 1905 and 1930. Such a designation would create Dallas’ first Historic District.
But a majority of residents would have to endorse the plan, Lu said, and the City Council and Plan Commission would have to accept it. Also, the Council would have to approve an ordinance creating a Historic District zoning category, followed by a specific ordinance for Swiss Avenue.
Nine residents and a representative of Lakewood State Bank organized the Historic Preservation League as a non-profit corporation whose first project would be creation of the Swiss Avenue Historic District.
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