Former SMU football player breaks ground on new housing development in southern Dallas

A former SMU football player has turned developer and is beginning to make strides in creating new parts of Oak Cliff in southern Dallas County.

Mikail Onu sees opportunities where others have seen obstacles. When an injury ended his football career, he turned to another venture. Now, he hopes to level the field to create better neighborhoods in neglected communities in Dallas. 

Onu hopes to transform 12 tree-lined acres just north of Bonnie View Road and I-20 in Southeast Oak Cliff into a new housing development.

"We're starting phase one of ‘The Adaline,’ which is the name of this community. The Adaline Plaza is a 2.3-acre retail development. There's going to be a 4,000-square-foot market and café. So if you're in Dallas, think Berkley's, think Eatzi's," Onu explained. "Then we have a 12,000-square-foot outdoor entertainment center. We'll keep it programmed with farmers markets, mini-concerts, outdoor art exhibits, you name it."


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Phase one will be followed by ‘The Adaline Apartments.’

"It's going to be 238 apartment units. Of that, 198 are your traditional apartments," Onu said. "They are mostly two-story. And then we have 40 townhomes. They're for rent townhomes, not for sale townhomes."

But Onu, only 27, has bought into developing this part of Oak Cliff.

"Really, my grandfather was the originator of this," he explained. "He purchased it and brought it to me and said, ‘We want to sell this.’ I said, ‘I think we have a better opportunity here."

While low-income housing has been built in the area, Onu says it's been 50 years since market-rate housing like what he is planning has come to this area.

Onu graduated from SMU after playing football. An injury ended his hopes of building a pro football career. Now, he's building something that will not just lift his life, but lift the 75241 zip code. 

"If I do this in Plano, there's a bunch of this in Plano," he said. "But me doing it here means more, and it's also less competition."

The $75 million project isn’t his only one.

While acquiring more acreage in the area, Onu has partnered with UNT Dallas to build student housing across the street from the campus.