Good Space was founded in 1995 by David W. Spence, an attorney who had fallen in love with the Oak Cliff section of Dallas. After ten years in public service, Spence’s first impulse was to create a community-development nonprofit, but on the advice of urban redeveloper Bennett Miller, Spence organized Good Space as a for-profit venture to rejuvenate charming but distressed buildings. In his first project, a condemned 16-unit apartment house built in 1928, Spence was mentored by business partner and architect Trey Bartosh. Their success with Bishop Terrace convinced Spence to focus exclusively on his adopted neighborhood, the Bishop Arts District.
After three restorations of 1920s apartments, Good Space opened its first commercial space in 2000 with the Bishop Arts Building, the largest renovation yet in the historic district. Good Space then turned its energies to automotive and industrial buildings along West Davis St., once a brick-paved segment of an early transcontinental highway. Route 80 Studios and the Bishop Arts Co-op opened in 2003 to provide flexible office space for newcomer design firms, as well as affordable studio space for artists. In 2004, Good Space rehabilitated a 1926 residential hotel to function as Bishop Gate Apartments. In 2006 and 2007, Good Space returned to Davis St. to purchase Settles Garage and Kemp Garage from their longtime owners. Recast as mixed-use venues, the garages are most notably home to Bolsa’s restaurant, grocery, and catering operations. Collectively, these projects established Davis St. as the cultural spine of North Oak Cliff’s renaissance.
After progressive zoning was approved in 2010, Good Space launched a multi-year experiment to save century-old worker cottages by converting the structures to light commercial use. Its success now proven, and copied by others, the project is known as the Cottages of Eighth Street. During the same years, Good Space selected a partner worthy to build on vacant land held for a decade in the Miller-Stemmons Historic District. The result, developed and managed by Randy Primrose and Chad Little, is Magnolia Apartments, which nestle a total of 38 units unobtrusively into 801 and 908 N. Bishop Ave.
Fittingly, the next phase in Good Space’s growth is occurring at the next stop on the old streetcar line. TyPo, a campus of four historic properties spanned by an elevated boardwalk, will bring back into circulation a dozen commercial spaces at the confluence of Tyler, Polk, and Davis streets. With lessons learned from Bishop Arts, Good Space hopes TyPo will set a new standard for walkability, cuisine, and retail culture.
For most commercial landlords, real estate is a passive investment. Not so with Good Space. By the projects we select, by the tenants we recruit, by our service on boards and commissions, by charities we fund, by what we applaud and what we decry, Good Space seeks to make our corner of Dallas more vibrant and livable. Good Space has been a leader in nearly every civic initiative in the Bishop Arts District, from organizing street fairs to designing bike lanes, from preserving history to organizing the merchants association, from promoting the area in the national press to ensuring an elderly neighbor can get out of her driveway.
Good Space’s owner David Spence regularly breaks one of the cardinal rules of real estate investing: Never fall in love with a building. Good Space actively promotes that kind of love affair. We love our old buildings, our renovation crews love our buildings, and as a result our tenants and their patrons love our buildings. How different our city would look if all developers felt that way. Good Space agrees with the late urban historian Jane Jacobs when she wrote, “New ideas must use old buildings.” A city should preserve its stock of aged buildings not just for nostalgic reasons, but because rugged older buildings serve as affordable incubators for new, creative ventures.