By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Organic brick: The cry went up almost immediately after the story broke in The Dallas Morning News last week that investment firm Beck Ventures was looking into buying 10 acres in Deep Ellum, presumably for redevelopment. "We don't want West Village II!" the clamor went. "Save our beloved history!"
The defenders of old Deep Ellum are, of course, talking about the development near Lemmon and McKinney avenues, with its apartments and condos. With its movie theater, retail shops, restaurants and bookstore, all within walking distance of each other. Nope, they don't want no stinkin' West Village in Deep Ellum. What they want is a neighborhood with shops and bars and restaurants and apartments, all within walking distance of each other.
Get it? See the difference?
Yeah, Buzz doesn't either. How is it that the very name of West Village, a successful redevelopment offering the amenities that modern city-dwellers say they want, has become an epithet? What's wrong with new, shiny and desirable?
"That's like me saying I don't want to play golf like Tiger Woods," says Neal Sleeper, one of the founders of West Village.
Buzz often puts the "What's wrong with West Village?" question to the hippies at our office. "It's not organic," is the usual answer. "We're talking about stores and buildings, not zucchini," we reply. "Whaddya mean, 'organic'?"
To which the lovers of the old Deep Ellum reply with a sigh and a look of pity, then walk away and go listen to their Reverend Horton Heat records (the ones on Sub Pop, dummy).
If by organic they mean development that grows out of the culture and environment in which it exists, Buzz hates to be the one to say it, but it's 2008. West Village is organic, and it didn't come cheap. Get used to it.
Still, that doesn't mean that West Village is the only template for revitalizing worn-out inner city neighborhoods. It means that to keep Deep Ellum from being a mummified piece of history, the neighborhood's supporters are going to have to keep their minds open to change and developers like Beck Ventures.
Maybe we can't preserve every streetlight that Blind Lemon Jefferson stumbled into or every toilet that yesterday's alt-rock star shot up in. Still, Sleeper, for one, sees a grand opportunity to create not a West Village II, but a Deep Ellum ver. 2008, something that keeps the distinctive, musically tinged flavor of the old 'hood. "I would think the opportunity to do something really neat down there is really good," he says.
So be optimistic, lovers of Deep Ellum. Cash is headed your way. That's a good thing. Really.