When The Ambrose and DART's Baylor University Medical Center Station on the Green Line finally, formally married three short years ago, Dallas Area Rapid Transit hailed it as the "consummate example of the new transit-oriented lifestyle." After all, the complex at Indiana and Malcolm X consisted of 325 apartments and a city block's worth of retail right on the rail. Said DART's Green Line Report from the spring of '09:
In a tough market for retail, the ground floor is nonetheless gradually filling in. A Jimmy John's sandwich chain will open in the near future. And things are already hopping at It's A Grind, the first Dallas location of a national coffeehouse franchise. On a recent weekday afternoon, there was no shortage of customers bantering with one another, ordering pastries, drinking coffee, and settling in with their laptops. Initial popularity notwithstanding, the store's staff is anticipating a serious boost in business when the station opens. "September can't come fast enough for us," says Cindy Chaffin, the store's marketing director. "That's why we chose our location -- train service will be huge for us."
But the Jimmy John's lasted about as long as it took to finish a sandwich. And It's a Grind shuttered suddenly last October, with owner Serena Connelly acknowledging "the overall project has not proven to be feasible financially." And now that 13,913 square feet of ground-level retail space sits vacant. The reasons are myriad: Rent's high (said to be double normal Deep Ellum asking prices), the location's hard to find unless you're riding the rail, and, in the words of Deep Ellum Public Improvement District president Barry Annino, "There still are not that many people riding the train yet. It's not yet an urban world."
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Which is why Broadstone Ambrose will go to the City Plan Commission this afternoon and request a zoning do-over: The complex owner will ask the city for the OK to rewrite its small piece of the Deep Ellum Special Purpose District that will allow it to convert the ground-floor retail into "multifamily units." Says the CPC doc prepped by an approving city staff: "The applicant has indicated that the retail space has been difficult to lease or to maintain tenants due the location of the development."