Transportation feeds development

Posted by    |    August 16th, 2010 at 12:41 pm

After the Dallas retail boom brought on by the railroad, yet another mode of transportation pushed retail to the suburbs.   Streetcars, which began to spring up in Dallas in the late 1800s, boosted the decentralization of downtown and mobilized consumers around the city.

Before automobiles became commonplace at the homestead, streetcars were the main mode of transportation in urban areas.  In fact, according to Robert A.Rieder in the Handbook of Texas Online, “The electric streetcar represented the most significant development in city transportation.”

Early Dallas Streetcar

During the early development of downtown areas, the extent of the urban border was often determined by how far out the streetcar lines ran.  And as the streetcar routes expanded, so did commercial development outside of downtown areas.

According to the National Historic Landmark Nomination form for Highland Park Village (NHL-HPV), “Streetcar or trolley stops became prime locations for commercial developments as they guaranteed a regular supply of customers for ordinary goods and functional services.”

One of the first commercial areas served by streetcars in Dallas is the intersection of Peak Street and Bryan Street in East Dallas:

“These 1- and 2-story commercial buildings speak of the highly concentrated, economically diverse type of development typical of early decentralized commerce.  The buildings, connected in a dense setting on all four corners of the intersection, originally offered common neighborhood businesses such as a grocery, drug store, shoe repair and laundry, but by the mid-1920s added small clothing and department stores…” (NHL-HPV).

Another commercial area that sprouted early due to the streetcar was the North Bishop Commercial District (today’s Bishop Arts District).  This district was situated at the intersection for the turning streetcar line at North Bishops Avenue and Davis Street.

“Small businessmen constructed several 1-story commercial blocks flanking the intersection streets.  A few 2-story commercial buildings met additional business demands at the location.”  (NHL-HPV).

Many of these early retail areas that began to pop-up outside of the downtown area remain retail/entertainment hot spots today.

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