Council to Vote on Lifting Alcohol Spacing Rules in Deep Ellum, With Uplift's Blessings

On August 2, the old Baylor offices on Elm Street in Deep Ellum will become Laureate Preparatory. And property owners are one step closer to being cool with that.
On August 2, the old Baylor offices on Elm Street in Deep Ellum will become Laureate Preparatory. And property owners are one step closer to being cool with that.

At the risk of turning this into Uplift Park ...

At long last, peace has been made between Uplift Education and those business operators and property owners in Deep Ellum worried that a charter school in the neighborhood would spell the beginning of its end as an entertainment district. It's the "win-win" mentioned last week: Uplift has agreed to join the Deep Ellumites in asking the Dallas City Council to lift the 300-foot spacing rule outlined in Chapter 6-4 of the City Code.

On Wednesday the council will vote to do that very thing. The just-posted bare-bones addendum for next week's city council meeting contains an item that reads as follows:

An ordinance amending Chapter 6, Section 6-4 of the Dallas City Code to amend the area exempted from the spacing requirements for alcohol permits from certain protected uses to include the Deep Ellum / Near East Side Special Purpose District - Financing: No cost consideration to the City (via Mayor Rawlings)

That existing rule says "the business where alcoholic beverages will be sold is not within 300 feet of a public or private school, measured between the front door of the business where alcoholic beverages will be sold and the closest property line of the public or private school along property lines of the street fronts and in a direct line across intersections." But as the city council was reminded in 2009, when Kroger was petitioning for a variance to sell booze near Alex W. Spence Middle School, there are no spacing restrictions in

the Central Business District. The same will now apply in Deep Ellum, should council give its OK.

Yasmin Bhatia, Uplift's CEO, has been meeting with Deep Ellum property owners for the last couple of weeks; this morning was the final sit-down, with Westdale. After that, the neighborhood's landlords began spreading the word: The charter school would support the Chapter 6 rewrite. Absolutely, says Bhatia.

"Uplift is publicly supportive of the resolution the Deep Ellum community will bring forward," she tells Unfair Park this evening. "We're supportive of the Chapter 6 extension. We want to be a good community citizen and a good neighbor in Deep Ellum, and we plan on being that. We think the school is going to be a great asset to the Deep Ellum community."

Barry Annino, president of the Deep Ellum Public Improvement District, says property owners began warming to Laureate Preparatory's pending presence during the last, oh, two weeks or so, as Bhatia began making the rounds to soothe rattled nerves.

"Everything's fine now," he says. The existing 300-foot rule, he says, "was the big deal because it was taking away the rights of the property owners. But now they have agreed to help us, so now it's up to the council. And I can't imagine they'd want to oppose both of us. That'd be a political nightmare." He laughs. "Now we can all get along."

Bhatia says despite the pending issue concerning the school's requested parking-spot variance, and next week's council vote involving the formation of that nonprofit to help Uplift sell tax-exempt bonds to aid in its expansion into Deep Ellum and Fort Worth, all is still proceeding according to plan. She says Uplift will close on the Elm Street building on April 1, and open school August 2.

She says she's not sure when Uplift will go back to the Zoning Board of Adjustment about offloading 49 of the city-required 229 spots needed for the school. "We are still finalizing when we want to go back to the board," she says. "But we have plenty of parking available for the next three years," she adds, referring to the fact the school is not expected to be at capacity till 2016.

As for the resolution to the issue about opening a school in an entertainment district ...

"Deep Ellum is a large community that has lots of passionate stakeholders," she says. "We've tried to meet with as many as possible. We've been having ongoing discussions for the last couple of weeks, and today's meeting [with Westdale] was very productive and allowed us to define what that looks like. Candidly, [the proposed rule change] has been on the table for a while, but today we were able to, with the last of the large property owners, realize we can work together and have this be a positive thing for both sides."


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