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Council to Consider Easing Antiquated Restrictions on Downtown Street Vendors

Downtown Dallas Inc. would like downtown to look and taste a bit more like, say, midtown Manhattan.
Downtown Dallas Inc. would like downtown to look and taste a bit more like, say, midtown Manhattan.

Tomorrow morning, I expect, we'll post the PowerPoint that goes along with a simply titled but nonetheless intriguing item that appears on the council's Quality of Life Committee agenda for Monday morning: "Downtown Vending." Rumor's been circulating for a long while now that efforts are underway to rewrite the section of the City Code dealing with street vendors, in large part due to the Downtown Dallas 360 plan, which calls for modifying "street vending ordinance consistent with DDI recommendations to support increased vending opportunities including kiosks, carts and temporary vendors." Is this agenda item related to that recommendation?

That's exactly right, says John Crawford, president of Downtown Dallas Inc., among the four groups pushing for the ordinance redo, the first in more than two decades. (Also involved, he says: the Arts District, Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the West End Association.) "This feeds into Downtown Dallas 360 and those quick wins we're trying to focus on," he tells Unfair Park this morning. "This will eventually fold into some of our retail kiosks, which isn't part of this ordinance."

What is part of the new ordinance? Well, says Jim Wood, DDI's director of Planning, Transportation and Development, "We've all been working on it for a good long time with the intent to make it easier for vendors to get the permits and make a living. The current ordinance restricts the number of permits you can have -- and you can't make a living off one hot dog cart. We're trying to make it easier for people to have multiple carts and locations and make it easier to sell things like T-shirts, umbrellas, which currently is prohibited."

One of the intentions of the new ordinance, which has yet to be drafted, is creating a "transit mall district," which DART would control and allow for the creation of, say, newsstands or pop-up coffee stands near light-rail stops. Says Crawford, DART has "concerns about trash and carrying food on the trains, but they're OK with what we've proposed, which is to make the transit line through downtown a separate vending corridor so that ultimately DART will have control over what's sold on the transit line."

Wood and Crawford say that if the Quality of Lifers don't have an issue with the ordinance redo, it should go before the council for a vote at its jam-packed December 14 meeting. And neither man foresees an issue come Monday.

"It may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people at first, but it'll be more pedestrian-friendly, more street-friendly and generate more activity at the street level, which everyone's always complained about," Crawford says. "And the mayor and council want to do things that can be done quickly by the stroke of a pen and shouldn't cost money and doesn't take money to study. ... Success breeds success. We won't have as big a critical mass as we want initially, but if we don't do this, we won't have the kind of vibrancy people want and expect out of their downtown. Our time has arrived to where we want to do more and different kinds of things, and we're optimistic things like this will help us achieve what everyone wants."


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