When it came time for Rebekah Wright and her husband Kevin to agree on a name for their first child, there was no disagreement.

They met at The Village apartments. They married under huge live oak trees that have stood guard for nearly 50 years over the Village Country Club pool. 

And Rebekah has worked at The Village for the past 20 years in a variety of roles, starting as a leasing agent at the Village’s Northbridge apartment buildings.

They named their daughter after a “lovely, one-bedroom den” apartment floorplan at Northbridge.

That’s right: Welcome to Dallas, Emerson Wright.

Maybe there are other children named after Village floorplans. (Northbridge’s were named after writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson.) Certainly, there are plenty of children throughout Dallas whose parents met at The Village or who live at The Village today.

That’s what the 7,300-apartment-unit facility — the most gigantic apartment complex in Dallas — has brought to the city for more than 50 years: a unique place for people new to the city to make friends, learn about what it has to offer and eventually (although not always) venture to settle in other parts of the city.

Just ask Wright, whose 20 years of dedication has been rewarded with the title of Senior Vice President of All Things Fun at The Village. These days, she offices next door to the trees under which she and her husband were married.

“I met all of my friends here at the Village Country Club pool, and I met my husband in The Village when I worked in the leasing office of Northbridge during the building’s lease-up in 2001. 

“He was looking for an apartment, and I was looking for a boyfriend!”

So what’s the deal with the village?

Whether the original plan for The Village was to become Dallas’ mecca for singles or not, that’s the reputation it earned in the early years as construction of the eventual 17 sets of apartment neighborhoods began in 1968.

The late 1960s through the early 1980s were a growth period for Dallas much like today — real estate developers can’t build apartments fast enough to satisfy the demand for young people moving into the city.

The Village came about when an arm of Lincoln Property Co. acquired 307 acres of land on the then-outskirts of Dallas near the original Caruth Homeplace. After adding a golf course and the original Country Club building, construction began on The Gate series of apartment buildings in 1968 bounded roughly by Skillman Avenue, Lovers Lane, Northwest Highway and just east of Greenville Avenue.

The original 14 apartment neighborhoods were constructed from 1968 through 1986, with age 21+ residents filling the series of apartment buildings clustered around pools and parking areas, giving residents a distinct, neighborhood feel atypical of many apartment complexes. The exception was The Glen, built in 1969 for families only.

Today, more than 500 separate buildings are part of The Village property.

Life at the village

Neighborhood resident Kathleen Thompson says she moved to an efficiency near a pool in The Corners in 1974.

“Everyone just hung out by the pool, and there weren’t any kids around,” she says of the “adults-only” days. 

“In May, we had a party, and we called it ‘The Village Idiots’ Memorial Day Shindig.’ We charged everyone $5 and got handstamps to show they’d paid. We bought kegs, and a bunch of guys barbecued chickens and did oysters on the half-shell.

“We gathered by the pool late at night and played charades. It went on for hours. Everyone talked to everyone — it was the best place to be. I know of three couples who met by the pool and got married.

“I had lived there several months before I realized there was more than one way into and out of the complex,” Thompson says. 

“It was only when a date picked me up and went out a different way that I saw another entrance.”

Jan Staats retired from teaching at Merriman Park Elementary a few years ago. As first-year teachers, she says she and her roommate couldn’t afford to live in The Village in 1970, but that didn’t stop them from frequenting many parties at the Country Club.

“Old Town (Shopping Center, which stretches along Greenville from Lovers to Southwestern on the western boundary of The Village) was new, with lots of small shops and restaurants,” Staats says. 

“We went to opening night of TGI Fridays (the first Fridays in the country), and it took at least 45 minutes to get around the bar area. It was so tightly packed with people you could hardly lift your drink to take a sip. 

“The most fun nights were Thursdays, when at midnight, it was like celebrating New Year’s. Mariano’s was the place for a great frozen margarita, and many happy hours happened around their Wednesday half-price margarita night. It was such a fun time to be single in Dallas.”

Neighborhood resident Joe Clifford says he and his wife, Rhonda, lived in The Village from 1987-1992 and made lifelong friends during their years there.

“We loved living in The Village. It was great. On the weekends, we would just go play volleyball and drink beer. It was the Mike Tyson era, and we’d set up these giant boxing parties, but they’d usually be over in one round. 

“Everything was so close to Greenville Avenue, so we’d walk over for things like the St. Patrick’s Day parade.”

Clifford recalls huge water volleyball tournaments, with teams from each Village neighborhood fighting it out for the ultimate title. The contest became so popular, teams from other apartment communities jumped into the competition.

“We actually had a really good team,” Clifford says. “It was fun.”

THE VILLAGE BY THE NUMBERS

The Village includes more than 500 individual apartment buildings.

Each year, 75,000 tulip bulbs are planted.

When possible, during construction projects, The Village relocates existing trees (most of which it planted originally years ago).

During a recent construction project, a 70,000-pound live oak tree — planted in the early 1980s at The Village — was relocated. The tree has a 200-inch root ball and is about 35 feet tall.  It has been dubbed “Ulysses” after a superhero squirrel and was relocated to the front of the new Drey Hotel onsite at The Village.

At any given time, about 11,000 residents live in The Village’s 17 “neighborhoods,” which are clusters of apartment buildings.

About 600 people work at The Village.

A country club & the pool

The original centerpiece of The Village was the Country Club, a building that served as the clubhouse for a nine-hole golf course built on a portion of then-vacant farmland.

For several years, The Village operated the golf course as an amenity for residents, but the Country Club building became something more: The nexus of singles life in 1970s and 1980s Dallas. 

Shaded by live oak trees and featuring a diving board and huge pool deck, the Village Country Club and pool became the most famous place in Dallas for singles who didn’t want to stay single forever, or even for the day.

Neighborhood resident Matthew Daniel lived in The Village several different times over the years while he was attending college and then graduate school. 

“My father was an internist at Presbyterian Hospital,” Daniel says of the Village’s early days. “All the docs called The Village ‘Herpes Hollow.’”

To entertain resident and non-resident throngs flooding into The Village on weekends, the Country Club hosted live music poolside — everything from local bands to national acts such as Three Dog Night, The Allman Brothers and Foghat.

And the bar was open all night, every night, for residents who couldn’t get enough of each other’s company.

“At the Country Club, there would be the same five to seven older guys — I think they were divorced guys living at The Village — sitting at the bar,” Clifford says. 

“It was like the cast of Cheers. They were always there. We went back (after moving out of The Village) a year later with friends, and they were still on the same stools.”

In November 1981, Scott Chrissey joined The Village staff as a bartender at the Country Club. Later he became bar manager, then assistant Country Club manager. Later still, he joined the leasing team. 

Thirty-nine years later, Chrissey still works and lives in The Village, working as senior carpenter in charge of special projects.

But as he talked about his life at The Village, the years working at the Country Club bar stood out most.

“When I started working here, the drinking age was 18 or 19, all of the SMU people lived here, and there were wild pool parties. It was all singles then, and it was pretty crazy,” Chrissey says.

“We had a lot of celebrities come to the club to visit: I remember one time, Priscilla Davis came in, way after the Cullen Davis thing. Tommie Chong, Tattoo from the TV show Fantasy Island, Elke Sommer the actress, they came, too.

“Mark Cuban used to live here. So did Mark Reeves, who turned out to be the Dapper Bandit. Reeves always used to come into the Country Club and shoot pool during the day. We always wondered what he did for a living.

“When Foghat played here, there’s a drink we called an upside-down margarita. You would literally lay down on the bar, and we would pour tequila, Grand Marnier and a squeeze of lime into your mouth, and that was the drink,” Chrissey says.

“I remember giving a girl one of those drinks, and the band members of Foghat saw what I was doing and asked: ‘What’s that, mate?’

“After I told them, they said ‘four all around’, and they laid down on the bar and we poured them an upside-down margarita.

“Those were some crazy times.”

Photo courtesy of Randy Austin.

Singles. Families. Lifers.

Each year, more than 3,000 new residents move into The Village. Each month, more than 1,000 potential residents reach out to the leasing office for property information, says sales manager Jamie Prestage, a neighborhood resident.

If history holds, a select few of these new residents may still be living in their same apartment unit at The Village for the next 20-30 years.

There’s still a handful of Village residents who never left, some still there after more than 40 years.

Mike McWilliams says he was new to Dallas in 1977, and he was looking for an apartment to rent in his new city, somewhere close to work and fun on weekends.

“Someone told me that I ought to look at The Village, that there were a lot of singles who lived in The Village. I remember looking at other apartments around Park and Shady Brook. I was really impressed driving west along Southwestern with that long, four-lane drive with the huge median — that was an impressive site. So I moved in.”

That was 44 years ago, making McWilliams one of The Village’s most tenured residents.

“I would never have dreamed it,” he says. “I assumed I’d get married and move to a house at some point, and I never did. My work was always Downtown, and I didn’t want the maintenance responsibilities of a house. So I stayed.”

For 35 years, McWilliams lived in the same one-bedroom apartment in The Corners East. In 2012, he moved to a larger 2-bedroom, 1-bathroom apartment in The Gate, which has a floorplan with a larger living area.

His first rent check back in 1977: $220 a month, which included water, sewer and electricity, plus $24 monthly for rented furniture.

McWilliams isn’t the only “lifer” at The Village.

In honor of six of its most-tenured residents, The Village named six leasing Mokes (jacked-up golf carts) after Ed, Linda, Randy, Shirley, Sandy and Earl.

The “Randy” on side of one Moke is Randy Austin, 69, who has lived in The Village since 1981 — first in The Corners, then The Corners East, then The Meadows and now in The Lakes.

“The only reason I moved is they kept tearing down my buildings,” Austin says, only half-joking.

“I love The Lakes because I look right over the lake and have a great view. We’re pretty lucky to have these green parks out here with ducks and squirrels and wildlife.”

Austin’s story is similar to that of McWilliams and others: He was new to Dallas and kept hearing about “this great apartment complex called The Village. They had tennis courts, a gym, the old Country Club — everything I could want. You never really had to leave The Village except to buy groceries.”

Over the years, he changed jobs along with apartment buildings, but moving out was never an option.

For the past 25 years (skipping a year due to Covid-19), Austin has gathered a group of kids living near him to teach swimming lessons in one of the Village’s smaller outdoor pools, generating a crowd of about 30 kids each week, along with about 20 parents, he says.

“It’s mostly just to let the kids get together and have fun,” Austin says. “I just started doing it on my own; a bunch of kids live here who wanted to learn to swim, and word of mouth got more people coming out all the time.

“The Village gets people from all over the world. A lot of these kids have been with me for 10, 12, 15 years, and now they’re bringing their kids. It’s also social for the parents, who sit around and talk, practicing their English. It’s just fun for the parents and kids.”

Austin says he has no plans to move. Everything he needs is nearby, and he’s happy with his life and his home.

“I never got married, have no kids and no pets, so I didn’t need a back yard. I have everything here I need to work out, swim laps, lift weights. Of course, when I first moved in, I didn’t think I would be here 40 years. I thought I’d be here a year or two and move on.

“They take good care of you here,” he says. “The landscaping is gorgeous: They’re always upgrading, putting in new plants and flowers. And if you call maintenance, they come and fix it within 24 hours. I guess that’s why I’ve stayed so long — it’s easy living.”

Family affair

In 1988, the landscape for apartment complexes changed when Congress passed the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination against families with children under 18, people who are pregnant or in the process of obtaining legal custody, and people with written permission of the parent or legal guardian.

Almost overnight, Dallas apartments that had targeted singles — including much of The Village and many other apartment buildings near the Five Point intersection of Park Lane, Fair Oaks Avenue and Ridgecrest Road east of Greenville Avenue — faced a sea change of leasing regulations. 

Pools that had once been the province of singles became crowded with kids and families.

Over the years, many once-flashy complexes devolved into disreputable and sometimes dangerous collections of buildings, as occasionally remote property owners elected not to invest in building repairs and renovations and instead let their properties deteriorate.

The Village headed in a different direction.

Lincoln Properties continued maintaining, reinvesting in and rebuilding its community, Wright says.

The process of evolving and maintaining the apartment complex, updating or replacing buildings, continued over the years, with a sea change of development thought crystallizing around the construction of Upper East Side complex in 2013.

“You can see in the land planning the difference there,” Wright says. “The focus is on outdoor spaces, designing walkable amenities, the hard and soft programming of event spaces and using design to create spaces and ways where people were ‘forced’ to be social again.

“When we saw that worked, we decided to start planning the core of The Village (the area including the former Country Club building and surrounding acreage). 

“Actually re-envisioning the entire Village started in 2009 after the redevelopment of The Dakota neighborhood,” Wright says. “Reflection, pause and thoughtful land planning went into our 2013 redevelopment, which took the 400-plus units of the 1974 neighborhood known as The Bluffs, and redeveloped it into a 330-unit neighborhood named Upper East Side.  

“This neighborhood focuses on common-area amenity offerings such as an infinity pool and lap pool, event lawn, a private on-site coffee house, fitness center and community garden. The layout and design allows us to unite the ‘Upper East Siders’ by giving us space to host weekly happy hours, neighborhood meet-ups, a resident-run garden club and offer an onsite barista to those that choose this particular neighborhood to call home. 

“This neighborhood served as a petri dish to see what works, what actually brings people outside of their apartment walls and gets them connected. It allowed us to see what would work on a larger scale so we could bring all Villagers to gather together.”

“Plans for the core of The Village redevelopment started in 2014, after rezoning, focus groups, Villager surveys and employee feedback, we started construction July 5, 2017, right after one last epic pool party at the Village Country Club.”

Photos courtesy of Lincoln Property Co.

The future for The Village?

“There used to be a master plan for development in the 1970s,” Wright says, “but as we were redeveloping, we shifted gears when we did the Upper East Side.

“What if we put more investment into soft programming? So we kind of ran an experiment at the Upper East Side with a café and weekly happy hours and lots of social groups that formed there. And we saw that people were staying longer, not moving out as quickly and telling their friends about us. We were seeing growth in tenure and rent. 

“We specifically made one mail room (for the Upper East Side) so you had to see your neighbors when you checked your mail. A lot of the parking has been moved to the outside of the residential ring, so 75% of the property has a good view — you’re not looking at parking lots, you have a view,” Wright says.

Photo courtesy of Rebekah Wright.

“If it worked there, how do we make it work everywhere?”

When Wright married in 2007, hers was one of about 20 weddings hosted annually at the Country Club, which had what Chrissey says was a small kitchen and meeting facility.

After four years of planning and construction, a new 38-room hotel and the Meridian restaurant offer one-stop wedding and event organization, with a 600-car underground garage available for guests, too.

“We married under the live oak trees that were on the back patio of the Village Country Club. Those trees were part of our preservation area, where we protected them during the past four years of construction, and these live oaks now provide shade for the Meridian patio.” The Meridian is the dining venue overlooking the new Village pool.

Wright and her husband, Kevin, lived together in The Village for 10 years while she moved up the ranks in the company that owns the facility.

We know their first daughter was named after one of the Northbridge floorplans.

So what happened when their second child, a daughter, was born? What Village amenity inspired the name “Taylor”?

“No connection,” Wright says. “We just liked the name.”


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