Building Better Neighborhoods

Building Better Neighborhoods

Building Better Neighborhoods

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Building Better Neighborhoods
Through Incremental Development

By Matthew Loos

I am extremely excited to share this next conversation with all of you. Monte Anderson is the President of Options Real Estate a multi-service real estate company specializing in creating sustainable neighborhoods in southern Dallas and northern Ellis counties in Texas. Monte began his real estate career in 1984 and since that time has concentrated solely on improving the living and working environments in these communities where he was born and raised. Monte is an outspoken and frequently recognized advocate for policies and practice to serve urban neighborhoods. He currently focuses his development practice in three areas in North Texas: the southern neighborhoods of the city of Dallas, the first ring suburb of Duncanville and exurban town of Midlothian.

Options Real Estate was founded in October of 1991 as a full service commercial real estate company specializing in Southern Dallas County with one mission in mind: To make their neighborhoods and business owners better through the built environment. Their team believes in enhancing the quality of life of Southern Dallas & Northern Ellis Counties and advancing its image, in order to provide an enduring inheritance to future generations. They hope to build a community where residents can enjoy educational and employment opportunities that utilize the technologies of the 21st century, find cultural and spiritual fulfillment, and have a diversity of OPTIONS for shopping, dining, entertainment, living, or homes.

In this episode, we are going to discuss the importance of finding and cultivating your own territory or “farm”, how to raise capital for your next real estate development deal, and what it truly means to be an incremental developer. There is loads of great information in this episode and I greatly appreciated Monte for taking the time out of his extremely busy schedule to discuss this topic of improving communities through the use of incremental development with me.

As always, if you have enjoyed the show, please subscribe to the show and share it with your friends in the industry. There will be more exciting conversations on the shows to come.

Main Take-Away’s From This Show

This was another fun episode to record. I hate to pick favorites because it is so hard to do, but this one is up there as one of my favorite episodes to record. I thoroughly enjoyed Monte candidly sharing his story as well as the story of the Options Real Estate. Monte really provided some great inspiration for those looking to get into development but may not know how to get in to development. He showed through his story that anybody really can get into development. Even someone whose job is to pick up trash in a parking lot. There were so many great talking points that Monte made throughout the discussion, so it is hard to just pick three for my main take-away’s this week. The following main topics of the show come from an understanding of incremental development that Monte possesses.

1. Finding and Cultivating your “Farm”
2. How to Develop Incrementally out of Necessity.
3. Don’t chase money. Let money chase you.

As always, I will dig into each of these “take-aways” every week on the blog. So, without further a due, here we go!

Finding and Cultivating your “Farm”

Monte provided so many great analogies during the course of our discussion to better paint a picture of what he is doing in south Dallas. One of the comparisons made was of the area he consistently “cultivated” for development to a farm. This is not hard to conceive visually. He is constantly tending to his farm by planting seeds of development throughout south Dallas. These seeds grow and produce future real estate investors and entrepreneurs that then plant more seeds in the surrounding communities.

He is constantly monitoring the “farm” as part of his day-to-day activities. This allows him to quickly notice a need or “weed” growing in the community. He can then plant a seed to fill the need in the community. Or he can remove a weed or poor-performing asset that is bringing down the values in the surrounding community. This analogy is all too perfect when you begin to dig deeper into the meaning behind it.

As Monte mentioned, the way he truly is able to provide value in the community in which he’s a part, he really needed to focus on one or two areas. This allowed him to be in tune with the opportunities available and built trust in the surrounding community. People in south Dallas and north Ellis county know that a project that Monte is working on will get done right and he will deliver on his promises. This type of trust takes time and requires effort tending to the farm, but when it is achieved, the fruit that is produced from this effort is all too sweet.

How to Develop Incrementally out of Necessity.

Incremental development is a concentrated, small-scale method of development that improves the surrounding community in a nutshell. Monte was doing this type of development before it was even cool. As mentioned in the show, he was doing this out of necessity, not necessarily because he wanted to. After a few successful incremental developments, Monte began to see the value that he could create with a little amount of starting capital and some sweat equity.

The first case study from my discussion with Monte was on a 16-acre site that he rezoned and subdivided. You may say that this doesn’t seem that incremental, but this was not a project that he completed all at once. He phased the development in such a way that he could adapt to market shifts as well as not in a way that would overextend his small business. The next project we discussed was the Belmont Hotel. This is where he first noticed the power of incremental development. By updating and upgrading the hotel one room at a time, Monte was able to make the Belmont Hotel truly a world-class destination. The upgrades were more organic in nature and did not require large sums of capital to do so one room at a time. He then rolled over the profits from the increased rental rates received from the upgraded rooms into the next one.

The theory and practice behind incremental development is truly empowering for those individuals that would like to get into development but believe that a lack of capital is the barrier to their success in development. By the process of incremental development, one can change this perceived barrier into an asset by creating truly special places through the use of creativity. This process of incremental development allows truly anyone to become a developer and improve their surrounding communities if they have the drive and are willing to be creative.

Don’t chase money. Let money chase you.

This last main point is one that is almost too simple, but often overlooked by those in the real estate industry. Monte provided an analogy that was all too perfect to explain this last point. He takes us to a time when we all had a crush. We wouldn’t chase after them, because that would turn them away as it makes you look desperate. We would “act cool” and act like we weren’t attracted to them and hope that this makes them desire you more. The same goes for money or capital in Monte’s opinion.

He mentions that the best way to approach banks is to do your due diligence and request to “interview” the loan officers in charge of the various branch. Do not come to the bank at the last minute hoping for pity. Build relationships with the bankers early and show them that you are highly competent and have options for which to borrow money. This will go a long way in your ability to obtain capital for projects that you have upcoming. I have to admit, Monte provided tons of practical knowledge and inspired me to look at even more projects in the community in a way that I hadn’t originally.

As you can see from the takeaways above, this podcast episode was absolutely full of great information on making it in real estate development and the benefits of incremental development in building better neighborhoods. If you have enjoyed the content and the show, please subscribe to the show below and share it with your friends in the industry! We’ll have many more great discussions on the shows to come.

Growing Economy Around Community

Growing Economy Around Community

Growing Economy Around Community

By Gregory Schwartz &
Trevor Decker Cohen

May 2021

While the development vacuum hovers above, another movement rises from the bottom up. This chapter is not just about improving walk-ability, but about moving past the top-down economic thinking that enabled car-dependent growth. Creating places around the pedestrian also provides an opportunity to evolve the economy around the community. Through two tales in very different cities, we’ll see a new type of real-estate mogul—one who tends to the garden of local wealth.

Monte Anderson (no relation to John Anderson) grew up in Dallas on the south side of the river, “the side of the river where the have-nots lived, or the wrong side of the railroad tracks,” as he put it. It was a lower- to lower-middle-income area that experienced a lot of “white flight” in the 1970s and ‘80s and became a racially mixed neighborhood. “I was one of the guys that stayed and continued to work there even when my friends moved away.”

Monte entered real estate through construction, cutting sheetrock for his Dad’s contracting company. Eventually, Monte would take on his own development project. He bought a rundown motel with big plans to fix it up all at once. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the financing to renovate the building. Rather than trying to redo the whole thing, he and the staff decided to fix up just one bedroom. Quickly, they saw the occupancy of that room rise to 90 percent, and from there, used the revenue and experience to remake the rest of the motel. Monte realized that success came from pouring love into one little thing at a time and watching it grow.

He found the same to be true in revitalizing a neighborhood. It wasn’t about crafting grand plans for redevelopment, but kickstarting the smallest project with the highest impact. Monte began with the smallest thing he could think of—a tent. He started street markets. He started them in neighborhoods where people made just $10,000 a year. He started them in empty strip-mall parking lots and neglected main streets all over town.

“We used it as recycling. Get that junk out of your garage, get that stuff out of your life, get it out here on the street and sell it and make a bit of extra money.” He found that even something small like that, with little stands, can have a big impact. “People making $200, $300, or $400 a month extra was a big deal.” He went on to use those street markets as a springboard to revive the main streets nearby. At the site of one such market, on the farside of Duncanville’s neglected main street, he formed a bottom-up planning committee. Together, local residents redesigned their downtown by replacing one lane of road with curbside parking and sidewalk. These simple changes made it easier to access businesses on foot, and kick-started a wave of new storefronts owned by local entrepreneurs.

If most development is like strip-mining, Monte likens his model to farming. Rather than injecting and then extracting wealth, he seeks to grow prosperity from the bottom up. It works like this:

  1. “find your farm” (the neighborhood)
  2. live in your farm
  3. start a local market
  4. find local entrepreneurs
  5. rent and sell to locals

Monte’s projects put a lot of emphasis on live/work spaces. Most are small one-to-three-story buildings with retail or offices on the bottom with residences above or behind. They’re incubators for small-business owners, many of whom have never owned their own place. If their business is successful, they can move out of the unit upstairs into a house down the street within walking distance. Now, they can rent out the residence on top to someone else. As he put it, “What built this country is small entrepreneurs owning their buildings with a couple living places on top.”

Nurturing these smaller businesses fosters resilience to economic change. When one in 50 local businesses employing ten people goes bankrupt, the impact on the community is much less than if one business employing 500 people goes under or moves out of town. In addition, the smaller main-street buildings are more flexible, easily changing from retail to restaurant to office, and downsizing with a dividing wall or upsizing into one unit. By contrast, big-box stores and office parks do not adapt so easily when their larger tenants leave. Cities can create a stronger economy in the long-term by fostering homegrown entrepreneurs, rather than luring big-name companies with generous tax incentives.

Monte advocates for an incremental process of development where the neighborhood evolves bit by bit, rather than all at once. After renovating the motel room by room, he fixed up a dilapidated restaurant next door. In a vacant lot around the corner, he built new homes, one by one, often including extra units for people to run their own businesses. Each new project was designed to strengthen the foundation of what had already been built. The BBQ restaurant was quick to succeed in the space shaped by the refurbished hotel. In the first year, it did $3 million in sales, nearly double what the bank had projected.

After a string of successful projects throughout Dallas that have revived entire main streets, Monte has taken his model across the country. Teaming up with John Anderson and other developers, they formed the Incremental Development Alliance. Their goal is to train 1,000 small developers like them, committed to growing bottom-up wealth in every major city and town in America. Through workshops in lower- to middle-income neighborhoods, they’re showing locals how to grow income and create prosperity in their hometowns. Aspiring community developers can learn how to find their farm, clever ways to finance projects, and strategies for hacking local zoning codes to get mixed-use developments approved. The alliance wants to provide essential tools for everyone who walks by an abandoned lot in their community and dreams of something better.

Monte’s movement creates a staircase for the dreamers in each neighborhood to make a slow and steady ascent from humble tent to main- street revival.

2 Neighbors at DeSoto Market Spins Off Burger Joint Next Door

2 Neighbors at DeSoto Market Spins Off Burger Joint Next Door

2 Neighbors at DeSoto Market Spins Off Burger Joint Next Door


Thursday, April 7, 2021

A DeSoto restaurant that has perfected the fried chicken sandwich has launched a new sibling which promises to do the same for burgers.

Called 2 Neighbors Burgers and Shakes, it’s a spinoff of 2 Neighbors Chicken, which has been doing the hot chicken thing since 2017.

2 Neighbors is a mother-and-daughter venture from Carlonda Marshall, a former DeSoto High School teacher, and her daughter, who originally opened 2 Neighbors Chicken in Cedar Hill, the relocated to the Grow DeSoto Market Place at 324 E. Belt Line Rd. in 2020.

They’ve prospered at the marketplace, even despite the pandemic — with business brisk enough to warrant branching off into something new.

“We were originally doing wings and soul food, but we slimmed down the menu once we moved,” Carlonda says. “I’m from Nashville, which is known for hot chicken, but we do it in more of a natural style. We’re known for our chicken sandwich with chicken breast, we fry it and then dip it in the seasoning — like Popeye’s, but it’s bigger than Popeye’s.”

For their new burger venture, they took over the space next door that was previously home to Shelley’s, a Chicago-style hot dog spot.

“We knew we wanted to do burgers and shakes, but we only had so much working space use at 2 Neighbors Chicken,” she says. “We use all the fryers for our chicken and we had no place to put a grill for cooking the burgers.”

They’re still working up their online presence, but their menu includes burgers, which can be ordered regular or plant-based. “I’m doing a vegan version with Impossible burgers,” she says.

They do a thin patty which you can stack with multiples, and top it with melty cheese. It’s served on a brioche bun with pickles and special sauce.

They also do sliders, milkshakes, and vegan cupcakes — and as a backup, you can always order hot chicken from 2 Neighbors Chicken, right next door.


Get Food Just Like Mom Used to Make at Tyler Station

Get Food Just Like Mom Used to Make at Tyler Station

Get Food Just Like Mom Used to Make at Tyler Station


Thursday, March 4th 2021

From the streets of Mexico City, through a home kitchen in Dallas and then a food truck, Tacos La Gloria has landed a permanent home in Oak Cliff’s Tyler Station after getting off to a chilly start.

The owners of the former food truck opened the location Feb. 6 only to be shut down a week later when Winter Storm Uri coated North Texas in ice, snow and darkness. Now it’s going full-steam serving taco lovers dishes crafted by Maria Gloria Serrato, the business’ namesake and head of the family behind it.

Serrato started selling food in the streets of Mexico City in the 1980s to provide for her family. When she came to the U.S. in 1986, she worked various jobs in restaurants and the food industry, preparing items for food trucks and catering events on weekends. Tacos La Gloria started when the family began selling dishes made by Serrata in her kitchen. The business soon outgrew her home, and the family moved operations to a truck.

“When she wasn’t working in the kitchen at her job, she was in our kitchen at home preparing our dinner,” said daughter Daisy Wall, the restaurant’s operations manager. 

“Her dream has always been to own her own business, and as her children, there are five of us, we’ve always recognized how hard she’s worked to be able to provide for us. We all have one goal in common — make her dreams come true. My brother Mingo called me one day about three years ago and came up with the idea of buying a food truck for our mom.”

They purchased the food truck in 2019, and things were clicking along until the pandemic hit last March, forcing it to close for several months. The family reopened in October doing pop-ups and event catering before settling in Oak Cliff Brewing’s beer garden, which offers plenty of outdoor seating with tables set up for social distancing.

Serrato prepares all the food, though the entire family decides what goes on the menu. Most items are what Serrato cooked for her kids when they were growing up. They offer street-style tacos ($1.85), quesadillas $4.75/$7.75), sopes ($4.50), gorditas ($3.50), huaraches ($7.25), flautas ($8) and menudo ($12/$20). The proteins available are fajitas (beef and chicken), birria, pastor and chicharron (pork skin). They also offer breakfast tacos ($2.50), burritos ($3) and breakfast plates like chilaquiles verde or rojo ($9.50).

On my visit, we ordered the quesabirria, a beef taco with cheese added, which Wall says was put on the menu when they started seeing it trending on social media. The quesabirria tacos had great flavor and just the right char or crunch. We also tried the gordita, available soft or fried; we choose soft, and the masa was cooked just right so it didn’t break apart when bitten. The well-seasoned tacos de pastor came on a handmade corn tortilla. The star of the show was the carne asada fries, served hot and crispy topped with your choice of protein, a mound of cheese and pico de gallo.

Tacos La Gloria does not have any veggie/vegan options now, but it‘s set up next to OG Vegan, another truck that operates at Oak Cliff Brewing. Also on the menu are homemade aguas: horchata, limon, pina, sandia and Jamaica.

You can find Taco La Gloria on Instagram (@tacoslagloria), Facebook (Tacos La Gloria), and Snapchat (@Tacoslagloria)

Tacos La Gloria, 1330 S Polk St (Oak Cliff). Open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.



Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges

Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges

Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges

By June Williamson &
Ellen Dunham-Jones

February 2021

However, business incubators shouldn’t only focus on high tech. Too often the “innovation economy” privileges large corporations that can afford robots, and patent attorneys. Lower-tech food and farming businesses tend to be highly local and compete well against e-commerce. For example, cannabis production and sales have dramatically reduced vacancies in strip malls and warehouses in states where marijuana has been legalized. As such businesses grow more corporate, communities should consider subdividing large retail spaces into “mercados” that provide launching pads for smaller entrepreneurs.

That’s been the case at Grow Desoto Marketplace, a business incubator in a Texas strip mall. When the only retailer interested in occupying the vacant space was 99 Cents Only Stores, the mayor asked the owner, Monte Anderson, “Is there anything better we can do?” Together, they came up with ways to lower the barriers to entry and kick-start locally owned start-ups, many of which are eateries and most of which are Black-owned businesses. At “Pitch Mondays” entrepreneurs pitch their proposals to earn one of the 60 spots with reasonable rents, build-out construction costs included, and access to a marketing consultant. In 2019 it was 80% leased. Anderson said, “What I find in the African American community is an extreme amount of creativity and a lack of experience when it comes to access to practice business. I think it’s so important that we figure out how to build wealth for local people, bottom line.”‘


New Life for a 102-Year-Old Bakery in South Bend

New Life for a 102-Year-Old Bakery in South Bend

New Life for a 102-Year-Old Bakery in South Bend

By Jacob Titus

February 24, 2021
West S.B.

In 1919, Busse Baking company built a new, modern bakery on Portage Avenue in the heart of the Near Northwest neighborhood. The South Bend Tribune avidly documented its opening and early days:

Among the institutions in which South Bend takes special pride is the Busse Baking Company, located at 906 Portage Avenue. The new plant shown in the above illustration was erected a year ago at a cost of $90,000. The plant is the most modern that expert bakery designers could devise and has been pronounced one of the finest bread plants in the central west. Housewives in and around South Bend keep this big plant taxed to capacity supplying bread for their tables and the growth of the business has been little short of marvelous.

It represented a leap forward in bakery design. But even so, the company would be taken over just three years later by Ward Baking Company, marking an end to the “South Bend Bread War”—a story we’ll surely tell another day.

Suffice it to say, the building has lived a curious 102 years of life (81 years for the addition on the North end), but that might only be the beginning of its story.

After sitting vacant for a decade in which the Near Northwest Neighborhood was six times denied tax credit funding to turn it into affordable housing, a new plan is emerging from a team of incremental developers, including local Mike Keen and Texas-based Monte Anderson. Monte discussed their plans with WVPE in October:

Instead of housing, the current plan being considered would turn the building into a neighborhood hub for business, arts and retail.  

“I like to call it a collaborator village,” said Texas developer Monte Anderson. “You know, somebody does graphic design, somebody’s got a restaurant, somebody might make cupcakes for the restaurant, all of these things. You begin to work together and it becomes this cultural hub.”

Anderson has teamed up with local developers Mike Keen, Greg Kil and Dwayne Borkholder to refurbish the building and fill it with tenants whose business the neighborhood would likely value.

“What matters is what the neighborhood and the market say to put in here,” Anderson said. “We’re going to create the environment where the neighborhood can express itself.”

So in the late afternoon of Thursday, December 31st, I, along with Camille Zyniewicz and Mike, spent a couple of hours making photographs of the building and filming what we saw on a makeshift chest-mounted GoPro.

You can call it Portage Place now. Here is what I saw.


New plans in the works for abandoned South Bend building

New plans in the works for abandoned South Bend building

New plans in the works for abandoned South Bend building

By Erica Finke

Friday, February 5th 2021

The Ward Baking Company building has been abandoned in South Bend’s Near Northwest neighborhood for 12 years.

The building has new ownership and new plans for the future. The developers are turning it into a “collaborative village” for the neighborhood

The building is now going to be called Portage Place. The goal is to create an open space where professional and creative services can work alongside one another.

Built more than100 years ago the Ward Baking Company Building is standing on the outside, but crumbling on the inside.

Bakery Group President Mike Keen has lived blocks away from this building for 20 years. After clearing out clutter and asbestos for the past month, Keen says the building wouldn’t have made it another year.

“For many years this has been sitting here, beautiful old building but totally falling apart and really scaring everyone out of the neighborhood. People see this and if you’re not used to it, it just frightens them.”

The Near Northwest Neighborhood Organization wanted to turn the building into affordable senior apartments, but wasn’t successful.

Keen says they needed to renovate or demolish the space.

Project Partner Monte Anderson is based out of Dallas. He encouraged the group to keep the building and turn it into Portage Place.

“When I first saw this building, I said look at this.. this is a jewel. right now, you have a diamond in the neighborhood, and it will be.”

The framework for Portage Place was based off Anderson’s Tyler Station in Dallas.

Tyler Station was an old wax paper manufacturer before Anderson turned it into a collaborative community for the Dallas area.

Keen and Anderson say this new space will help revitalize the Near Northwest Neighborhood.

“You give people a place where they can be inspired and they can be creative,” said Anderson.

“We think it’s going be the place to be, the place for you to come and create your dreamscreate your future and help us build our neighborhood and build our community,” said Keen.

Keen says they’re working on the brochure and rent prices for the different spaces. They’re hoping for a wide range of services from a beauty shop to a café and even insurance workers to make it a well-rounded hub for the neighborhood.


Ward Baking Building Becoming Space for Shops and Artists

Ward Baking Building Becoming Space for Shops and Artists

Ward Baking Building Becoming Space for Shops and Artists

By joseph dits

Thursday, February 4th 2021

SOUTH BEND — Mike Keen’s vision for what he calls Portage Midtown continues to move closer to reality.

An attempt to reclaim tired and vacant spaces on a 3-acre spread of Portage Avenue, the project now includes two renovated houses, the groundbreaking Wednesday for two 600-square-foot tiny houses in the 900 block and, as of two weeks ago, the long-vacant, brick Ward Baking Co. building, which is across the street from the renovated houses and the lot for the tiny houses.

“We’re trying to build it up for everybody,” said Keen, a long-time resident, living on Riverside Drive, as he talks about a collective process that involves and supports the neighbors.

He and three other individuals bought the Ward building with plans to renovate and open the two-story, 30,000-square-foot space this summer, said one partner, Dwayne Borkholder, owner of Borkholder Buildings in Nappanee.


The group gained ownership two weeks ago and since then have gutted it, he said. Work began this week to repair the roof on the building, built in 1919.

They will be seeking shops, businesses, artists and other tenants to share space inside.

Other partners in the Ward building include local architect Greg Kil and Texas developer Monte Anderson, who Keen said has worked on other local projects.

The Near Northwest Neighborhood Inc. had aimed to convert the Ward structure into housing, but, after six attempts, it couldn’t secure the highly competitive low-income tax credits that it needed for financing, NNN Executive Directory Kathy Schuth said.

But, she said, as she listens to what neighbors want, “There’s a stronger interest in retail and gathering places.”

Neighbors have called for an eatery, bakery and artist spaces, she said, noting hope for perhaps some shared spaces: “It’s difficult for artists to rent small offices.”

“We will let the local market dictate what goes in there,” Borkholder said. “We have no preconceived ideas.”