Restored 1920s building shows there is another way to develop East Dallas

Last year, the Advocate wrote about Nathaniel Barrett, whose urban design company is in the business of rehabilitating and restoring buildings for development rather than scraping lots and losing history. Today, the building the company restored on the 500 block of Fitzhugh is full of diverse and interesting clients.

A small shopping center at the corner of Fitzhugh and Terry sat vacant and deteriorating before Barrett took on the rehabilitation job. The structure needed a lot of work, and Barrett could have made more money by clearing the land, but it’s not part of his mission.

“East Dallas has so many buildings that are restorable, why would you tear them down?” he said last year.

In 1926, a pharmacy occupied the space, and a hair salon was added in the 1940s in a neighborhood that was once full of working families employed by the nearby Ford assembly plant on Grand Avenue just south of what is now I-30.

Today, the strip includes Josie’s Ice Cream and Grill, which serves sweet treats and pupusas, a tortilleria, Shaman Modifications, a body modification and jewelry establishment and HAK Electronics, whose website says the company “focuses on inspiring the next generation of engineers by breaking down complex engineering concepts and showing that anyone can learn how to create with circuit boards.”

The center has one vacancy, but for a building that sat empty for years, it provides an example to developers about the possibility of doing business while preserving the character of our history-filled neighborhoods.


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