Right now, the City Council is debating whether to lower fees and loosen the rules governing what businesses can put on sidewalks and public rights of way, the idea being that more sidewalk cafes and awnings and creative signage and landscaping can help create a more enjoyable urban experience. Planners point to Lower Greenville and Bishop Arts as an example of what they have in mind.
Of course, such a sweeping policy change requires a lot of due diligence and debate, so, while both council members and city staff have expressed support, it's moving very, very slowly.
Dwaine Caraway for one is ready to start opening sidewalk cafes. At this morning's Quality of Life Committee meeting, he directed assistant city manager Joey Zapata's attention to the stretch of Cedar Crest Boulevard between Bonnie View Road and Stella Avenue. With a bit more sidewalk activity, Caraway thinks it's poised to become the next Bishop Arts. He's already imaging people sitting on patios eating pizza and sipping glasses of wine.
Thinking of that brought Caraway to another point. It's really not fair that your hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop goes through the same permitting "as the ones that sell the lobster tails and the T-bone steak with the $100 bottles of wine."
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"You gotta always protect the smaller people," he said. "You don't want to let the big fish swim in the same lake. When the big fish are swimming in the ocean, they gotta pay the ocean price."
Now, back to the topic at hand, which is awnings and sidewalk cafes. Caraway thinks they're great. He already said that. The only thing that could make them better is if they were positioned not by the street but next to a body of water. Sort of like San Antonio's River Walk. Matter of fact, Caraway proposed digging up Main Street and turning it into a River Walk.
"It may sound crazy, but it's going to go down at some point," he promised.
It does sound a little crazy now that he mentions it, particularly given the city's recent track record on high-profile water features. But that doesn't mean he's not serious. Don't be surprised to find him down there later today with a pickax and garden hose making this thing happen. You also shouldn't be surprised if the Dallas-River Walk idea never comes up again. You really never can tell with Dwaine.