The New Dallas Landscape: Marc Henderson On Driving Change Through Community Development

In this series on real estate development in Southern Dallas, we introduce you to 15 real estate pros in Innovan Neighborhood's Community Development Roundtable who aim to bring new life to long-neglected parts of Dallas.

Part 1: Meet Marc Henderson, the visionary behind a near-complete multifamily project in Bishop Arts and an upcoming groundbreaking development in South Oak Cliff.

On Highland Woods Drive, in Highland Hills—a section of South Oak Cliff—sits nearly five acres of untouched land. That terrain is about to undergo a transformation, thanks to the efforts of developer Marc Henderson.

“3.76 acres are buildable,” says Henderson, founder of Exodus Development Group (EDG), which has plans to construct 18 duplexes for a total of 36 units on the undeveloped land.

Initially, EDG planned to sell half the units at market rate—something the community expressed interest in—and make the other half available for rent. With current market conditions under evaluation, EDG is exploring the best mechanisms, including rental, rent-to-own, or sale, to bring these units to market, he says.

Motivated to make a difference

Henderson’s project goes beyond mere housing; it encompasses a deep-rooted commitment to the community. It’s a core value that’s exemplified through his strategic partnership with the Community Developers Roundtable/Innovan Neighborhoods, a collective of like-minded individuals dedicated to fostering sustainable community development.

Henderson’s South Oak Cliff development embraces the concept of community, with a pet-friendly environment and private parking for residents. For recreation, residents will have access to nearby College Park, as well as a soccer field that borders the complex—currently maintained by the City of Dallas, but unused.

The Judge Charles R. Rose Park is also being built a few miles away, across from the Highland Hills Library. The park site is a 40-acre vacant lot that’s being turned into green space for the estimated four-thousand residents of Highland Hills and Oak Cliff by the Trust for Public Land and the City of Dallas, the developer notes.

‘Tremendous opportunity in Southern Dallas’

“There’s tremendous opportunity in Southern Dallas,” Henderson said. “I also have a multifamily property on Seventh Street in Bishop Arts that’s almost complete.”

He discussed two of EDG’s Southern Dallas projects during a bus tour with the Community Developers Roundtable/Innovan Neighborhoods in early June.

Henderson’s multifamily project in Bishop Arts has six units: two are two-bedroom/one-bathroom units; one is a one-bedroom/one-bathroom unit; and the remaining three are studios.

Henderson gutted the inside of the structure, updated the electrical, repaired the foundation, and added new siding and windows. The project builds on the developer’s successful track record of updating residential units—more than 20 to date—in Dallas and Atlanta.

Paving the way to economic empowerment for people

Marc Henderson’s passion for equitable housing stems from his personal journey and understanding of the transformative power of homeownership. The developer learned early on that home ownership can be a step in the path to economic empowerment.

The developer grew up in East Austin back when it was considered a low-income area. There were few resources and opportunities for advancement, he says. At age 17, he joined the Navy and remembers being in boot camp during the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Returning home, he says, his native city was a very different East Austin, where many native Austinites were being forced out as the East section was being built up.

That experience stayed with Henderson in college, where he studied marketing and began laying the groundwork to pursue a career in real estate development. He also met his wife in school and a few years after graduating, the two purchased a few triplexes in the College Park area of Atlanta to refurbish. With a bachelor’s degree and some experience under his belt, he realized a legal education would be a logical next step; Texas A&M Law School brought him back to the Lone Star State.

“My focus was on real property, so I took classes in things like construction law, land use, environmental and water law, oil and gas rights.”

Meeting Innovan Neighborhood’s Maggie Parker

Marc Henderson

After law school, Henderson worked for the federal government as a Space and Leasing Representative with the 2020 Census and as a Multifamily Realty Specialist with HUD’s Office of Asset Management and Portfolio Oversight. 

But his ties to the Dallas region strengthened.

“In Austin, the only way you could take advantage of the growth was to sell the home that had been in your family for generations. You can only do that once,” Henderson observed.

He and his wife sold their Georgia properties, began investing here, and became familiar with local real estate professionals. That’s how he first heard the name Maggie Parker.

Maggie Parker

With experience as a developer, lender, and investor, Parker founded Innovan Neighborhoods in 2019, to match opportunities with financial resources and expertise. Just last year, she created the Community Developers Roundtable (CDR) as a program of Innovan, naming Henderson to the inaugural cohort of 15 developers in November.

The action-oriented group wants to address gaps in the community development ecosystem with a long-term, developer-led structure.

Henderson welcomed the opportunity to join with the group of community-minded developers. Plus, the roundtable offers a projected $1 million dedicated pre-development fund, staff capacity stipends, financial resources for technical assistance, professional coaching, and project feasibility studies.

Henderson, who believes in growth for everyone, says that means creating resources to help people start their own businesses, provide for themselves and their families, and learn about the importance of planning and saving.

“That starts with having a safe place to lay your head at night and a home you can be proud to live in,” Henderson said.

Groundbreaking in South Oak Cliff

Henderson is awaiting word from the City of Dallas to begin clearing the land in South Oak Cliff and expects to break ground in Q3 or Q4.

When the units are built, it will manifest the vision he shares with Parker and the other members of the CDR—and a full-circle moment for him.

Voices contributor Nicole Ward is a data journalist for the Dallas Regional Chamber.

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R E A D   N E X T

As a data journalist at the Dallas Regional Chamber, Ward writes about the innovation that is defining the Dallas region.