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  1. The Elevation of Tex-Mex
    Mico Rodriguez
  2. The Bounty of the Barnett Shale
    Kelcy Warren
  3. The Entrepreneurial Woman
    Tomima Edmark
  4. The Growth of the Vietnamese Community
    Jennifer Nguyen
  5. The Founding of Uptown
    Phil Cobb
  6. The Changing Face of Politics
    Craig Watkins
  7. The Brain Gain
    Dr. Hao Zhu
  8. The Four Sport Town
    Mike Modano
  9. The Underground Culture
    Katherine Owens
  10. The Catholic Migration
    Father Ivan Asencio
  11. The Organized South Asian Community
    John Hammond
  12. The Next Way to Develop
    Jeff Blackard
  13. The Allure of the Silicon Prairie
    Anousheh Ansari
  14. The lighting of Reunion Tower
    George Schrader
  15. The New Old Tradition
    Jennifer Moreno
  16. The Test Kitchen
    Mariel Street
  17. The Art Magnet
    Kevin Moriarty
  18. The Glamorous Return of Dallas Shopping
    Brian Bolke
  19. The Strengthening of the Gay Community
    Jack Evans and George Harris
  20. The Resurgence of Downtown Dallas
    Art Ortiz
  21. The Megachurch Boom
    Ed Young
  22. The Fundraisers
    Lynn McBee
  23. The Refuge
    Pedro Amaya
  24. The Reason Dallas Took Off
    Ron Barzyk
  25. The Girl Who Stayed Home
    Erykah Badu
  26. The Preservation of Our Historic Buildings
    Virginia McAlester
  27. The Thriving Ethiopian Community
    Birhan Mekonnen
  28. The New Dallas ISD
    Jessica Leija
  29. The Rebirth of the Trinity River
    Peter Payton
  30. The Trains Start Running
    Ladrika Davis Gross
  31. The Architect of an Art Scene
    Stephen Lapthisophon
  32. The Calculator That Changed the World
    Vonnie Howard
  33. The Rise and Fall and Rise of Deep Ellum
    Frank Campagna
  34. The Big Move
    Kendra Norwood
  35. The Expanding Empire in Fort worth
    Scott Hernandez
  36. The Family Recipe
    Chuy Cruz
  37. The Transformation of Oak Cliff
    David Spence
  38. The Now-Legal Immigrant
    Jesus Castillo Carrizales
  39. The City of Philanthropists
    Lyda Hill
  40. The Transplants
    Tara Vornkahl
00 The Transformation of Oak Cliff Thursday, April 24, at 10:37am on top of the church he's renovating in Oak Cliff

David Spence

Right now, it’s nothing. The gutted remains of a yellow church built in 1937. The detritus of other lives. Bags of trash piled by the door. Rows of dusty, empty wooden pews. There’s a pulpit, but no altar, and only the colorful remnants of a baptism pool. 

In this rubble, though, David Spence sees something. A restaurant. Not just a restaurant. Another five-star restaurant. The wood from the pews could be used to make elegant booths. The baptismal area might make a nice bar. As he’s talking, police sirens wail in the distance.

“Ah,” he says, “the bells of Oak Cliff.”

Then, without missing a beat, he rests his hand on the carved wooden pulpit and nods.

“This would make the perfect maître d’ stand.”

Spence has always liked changing things. When he was a kid, he wanted to change the world. He joined the Peace Corps, then worked as a program manager for a nonprofit. He was what he calls now a “war-on-poverty liberal.” 

Sometime in the mid-’90s, he left the nonprofit world and settled on fixing a neighborhood: the Bishop Arts District. Broken windows and spray paint. Moribund factories and shuttered garages. But he saw upscale destination dining. Trendy boutiques. Modish, urban living.

All the work was done by his company, Good Space. Building by building, room by room. He pulls all his own permits and fixes his own toilets. He likes to see the obsolete made useful. He likes to see old things made new. And he likes to think of the stories these places have, the lives they’ve seen. 

One day Spence will write his own story. About a man who wanted to make the world better. About a special neighborhood full of good, hard-working people. About a series of transformations we can all learn from.

He won’t write that story today, though. He still has a lot left to change. 

  • WalkableDFW

    Id like to see some pics of Bishop Ave before the work began if anybody has any

  • David Spence

    I do. Email me at [email protected]. DS