Urban Union: Reimagining East Division

Division Street, a portion of the famous coast to coast Bankhead Highway, was once the bustling commercial center of Arlington with new car dealerships, hotels, and other services along its length. As the city grew south toward Interstate 20, Division has been largely abandoned to used car lots and bars.

Ryan Dodson, managing partner at Dodson Companies, saw an opportunity in these properties, located close to Arlington’s downtown. Dodson appreciated the vacant Luke Honda Dealership as a campus of buildings; showroom, service and body shops, and administrative offices, all with good bones and plenty of parking. He’s been busy turning the campus into a creative commons which he’s branded Urban Union. The buildings are being showcased for their industrial character. Through careful planning, he’s knitting the campus together with pedestrian ways, landscaping, and a plaza. The buildings are being re-oriented toward Front Street on the south, facing Arlington’s City Hall, new public library, and new mixed use developments. 

At the core of the former dealership campus is Union Plaza. This multi-purpose plaza between two of the largest buildings has generous parking for retail and office tenants, but with an openness and brick paver surface which sets it apart. Complimented with landscaping, limestone quarry block seating, site and festoon lighting, it becomes a wonderful open event space for food trucks, farmer’s markets, and other events. The plaza will be opened even more with a cut through “paseo” leading to other properties. “Design by demolition,” as Ryan refers to it. 

These large dealership service and body shops are being divided into accessible small offices and suites, suitable for new and young businesses to get in quickly and build their concept. Flexible spaces, shared utilities, including grease traps, and Ryan’s “always interested” policy makes these spaces ideal for the one person operation, the next new thing, and everything in between. 

Several stand-alone buildings have been re-adapted for single tenants. Focusing on the site’s qualities and locations, these properties now host new businesses taking advantage of corner locations and mature trees. Exterior amenities; patios, trellises, festoon lighting, and engaging graphics are signature elements of these renovations. 

The Dodson Companies’ Urban Union is also working toward a comprehensive identity. While existing materials remain, the color palette, and new materials such as paint grip galvanized steel are starting to bind the projects together. Distinctive new signage and wayfinding graphics are coming soon. 

Dodson Companies is actively expanding Urban Union. Already on the campus are Legal Draft Brewing, Yum’s Apparel, and a variety of offices, including the Downtown Arlington office. There are exciting opportunities still remaining, including Joe’s Radiator, a paradigmatic garage with a large awning; and the original Luke Honda showroom, a classic 1960’s glass fronted showroom. 

Urban Union’s character continues to reflect its origins, a mixed residential/industrial edge area along the Southern Pacific main line. What had been a discarded place is now a destination and a bright spot for Arlington and the surrounding area.