Renaissance in Old East Dallas for vintage shops on Fitzhugh

Barrett Urban Development has worked to restore the buildings at 500 Fitzhugh.
Barrett Urban Development has worked to restore the buildings at 500 Fitzhugh.

There was once a time, from the 1920s to ‘60s, when neighborhoods had small commercial districts dotted between blocks. Well, district might be too strong a word. Really, it was just a small series of shops, like an mini strip mall, but usually way cuter than today’s commercial hubs.

Peak’s Addition neighbor Nathaniel Barrett is looking to return that style in Old East Dallas with his restoration of a strip of commercial buildings in the 500 block of Fitzhugh.

Sponsored Message

“I live really close to here,” Barrett says standing in front of the original 1926 brick. “I really wanted to invest in the area I live in.”

A CPA by trade, Barrett got interested in urban planning and development, specifically through the prism of restoration. He learned from experts like Oak Cliff developer Monte Anderson, and eventually launched Barrett Urban Development. The boutique firm will specialize in small-scale projects such as the Fitzhugh property, with a focus on restoring and revitalizing rather than replacing.

“As a small developer you’re constrained by means,” he says, adding that he is not interested in building new construction. “East Dallas has so many buildings that are restorable, why would you tear them down?”

Sponsored Message
The building as it looked when Nathaniel Barrett bought it last year.
The building as it looked when Nathaniel Barrett bought it last year.

Built in 1926, the commercial corner at Fitzhugh and Terry began with a pharmacy. Twenty years later, a hair salon was added next door. While it’s technically two 3,700-square-foot buildings, the space has been sectioned into a variety of configurations over the years. Barrett has it split into five commercial spaces, but can take down a wall or two if a tenant wants more room.

It’s been a long process, the property needed everything from a new roof to new plumbing to new electrical.

“These buildings have been for sale for a long time, and when I bought them, I found out why,” he laughs. “The only things I did not replace was the foundation, some of the floors and the original trusses.”

And, of course, the brick exterior or the old fashioned arrow sign post. He did have one “architectural tragedy,” as he calls it, when the original gable peaks on the 1926 building crumbled from years of water exposure when the roof was replaced.

“There just wasn’t enough to save,” Barrett says, dejected.

After launching in September, the project is now nearing completion. He doesn’t have any tenants signed on yet, but there is a donut shop interested in one of the buildings. He hopes to attract businesses that neighbors would walk to, like a nail salon or hair stylist, reminiscent of the original uses of the shop.

“I think these neighbors would love a donut shop or something nearby in their neighborhood,” he says. “I know I would.”

Once this project is fully occupied, he’ll move on to his next restoration. “We’re small, it’ll be one project at a time,” he says.

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.
Written By
More from Emily Charrier

7-story condominiums will have high-end amenities and views of White Rock Lake

Condos are all the rage around Lakewood, where home prices are too...
Read More
  • RompingWillyBilly

    The best way to preserve such history is to keep its business viable. Abandoned vacant properties become subject to political change the longer they sit. Over time, all properties become endangered as they will either be viewed as N word useless or as being constructed by racists with an agenda.
    For example, Dallas city crony spending today has split itself between supporting both the former Arts district of the Dallas Fair Park and the neo Dallas Arts District downtown. The first of the two was built back during the more racist black and white days by a white controlled Dallas city government.
    See, the focus isn’t being placed on the artists who designed and built the classic Dallas Fair Park, but on the imperfect times during which it was built. Think the emotional impulse to take down confederate statues in this case. Once they are demolished, they are gone forever.

  • Robert Taylor

    Bravo! Dallas needs to preserve what character it still has.

  • Doug MacKenzie

    Can’t wait to see this finished, would love a Doughnut shop in the neighborhood, or any type of non-taquiera food, lol.

  • missmaei

    Best of luck Mr. Barrett, I love your vision and Dallas needs you.

  • Andrew

    It’s great to see a trailblazer bringing exciting development to an area with such great charm! I look forward to seeing more great development in this part of town.