Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Why Deep Ellum Folks are Opposed to a School

A little over a year ago, I mentioned what I thought to be a good plan for converting the one-way streets in Deep Ellum to two-way. However, many property and business owners disagreed with me.

Now a new development has presented itself and once again, I find myself against the flow of Deep Ellumites.

To recap the story, Uplift Education wants to buy the building located at 2625 Elm Street in Deep Ellum. They have the right to do that by zoning code. The sticky issue is that, by city code, places that sell alcohol can not be within 300 feet of a school. City staff assures the current establishments they would be grandfathered and allowed to operate after the school opened. However, any new place would not and would have to work around the code.

Understand first that I understand their point-of-view. However, I take myself beyond the boundaries of Deep Ellum and look at the situation from a holistic point-of-view. This also raises more concerns about how Dallas zoning code is suburban flavored. If you go to other major urban centers, both in the U.S. and abroad, you'll see this exact type of thing. This is an urban element pure and simple.

I favor Uplift moving into this building simply because this is exactly what Deep Ellum need to transition from an entertainment district to an urban area. Right now there are some residences, a few business's and a lot of restaurants, bars and stages. During the morning and afternoon, the place is quiet. During the evening Sunday through Wednesday, it is quiet. This is exactly the type of thing that would add activity during times where Deep Ellum has little.

The protesters are afraid this will make Deep Ellum sterile. And yet, other urban areas in Dallas haven't suffered. Downtown has numerous charter schools. Many bars and restaurants operate within 300 feet. Same thing with Uptown. Yet, I don't think some of the Deep Ellum crowd really care, as some of the comments at yesterday's meeting make me wonder.

"Kids are important. And the point is to put them in an area away from drugs and alcohol. You put these kids down here, they're not going home when school's over. They're gonna get into bars, the bar's gonna get busted, and they're gonna lose their liquor license."

So let me get this straight, you as a lawful bar owner think these students are going to go out in throngs to the area's bars. The barkeeps are going to be fooled by these kids and serve them alcohol. Then the TABC is going to be there and see this and shut the place down. And where do the drugs come in? Those aren't legal whether a school is there or not.

First, most kids won't go to the bars, though some may try. Second, most bartenders are quite able to spot a 15-year old and decipher the difference between them and the legal drinking age of 21.

Bottomline, Deep Ellum needs something different than what it has now. It' streets are vacant more than 80 percent of the time. This would drastically change that. Plus, let's not forget, that some of the teachers may well be their best customers.


Travis Rex said...

Your vision and "holistic" point of view is short sighted. Does Deep Ellum need more foot traffic? Absolutely. Will this school generate the needed foot traffic? Absolutely not. It will impede new businesses opening because of the 300 foot rule about bars and their distance from schools. If the city does the right thing and exempts new and potential businesses from this rule, then there won't be a problem, besides parking.

Jeff said...

When you say that Dallas has suburban style zoning, what do you mean by that? New York City, the most "urban" of all US cities, still has zoning laws regulating places that serve alcoholic beverages. The rule is 200 feet, though they measure property lines differently. The way bar owners get around it there is by reaching out to the community and asking for a variance. If the community is on board my understanding is that the variance is generally granted. How does that sound different from Dallas? People in these threads make comments that I guess they think are just common knowledge but ate factually incorrect.

Branden said...

Travis, the school most certainly will generate foot traffic. It may not be foot traffic to your bar, but come to Main and Akard for one hour during the week and you will see lots of school age kids and their teachers walking. You say it will impede new business, I don't completely agree. I can open up an antiques shop right next door no problem. Deep Ellum does NOT need more of the same. An "entertainment" district will always have cycles. If you want Deep Ellum to be more permanent, you have to increase the varying uses within the area.

Jeff, zoning in and of itself is not suburban, though it leans that way. You cite New York's 200 foot rule. That is one/third shorter than Dallas. Also, those codes are different across the city, as they should be. Outer Queens is far different than Times Square. Yet in Dallas, LBJ Freeway and Deep Ellum are treated the same. How does that make sense? The parking should be different, but isn't. The uses should be different, but as is the case with the school, isn't. In the suburbs, they use the X foot rule to essentially zone out undesireable uses. It is a fact that the larger the rule is, the more onerous it is, especially in the urban center, where things are supposed to be more dense.