Late Tuesday I got an email from Jonathon Hetzel of Madison Partners, which is trying to roll out that bowling alley on Lowest Greenville that once more goes in front of the City Plan Commission tomorrow. He noted the myriad comments accompanying yesterday's item and said perhaps he could lend some ... perspective.
So we spoke at day's end at great length -- not only about that project, but the planned food-truck court scheduled to open early next year on the site where once stood the Arcadia. Said Hetzel, with the bowling alley at one end, next to Good Records, and the food court at the other, and with the under-construction street improvements in between, "Lowest Greenville will be nicer than it's ever been."
But first, he has to get the bowling alley pushed through the CPC, and he expects that'll happen tomorrow -- despite opposition from neighborhood groups unhappy, they say, with the parking limitations and plans for a rooftop patio. Hetzel said was "surprised there was the level of opposition" at the CPC meeting earlier this month, mostly, he said, "because we've had neighborhood association meetings about the project," and those issues "never came up."
Said Hetzel, "A lot of their arguments are specious, to be honest. They constantly claim there's a parking deficit. We have parking that's 100 percent to code, and they sit 100 percent empty on a Saturday night. They're where I park, in the lots on Lewis. We have 165 parking spaces that will be used exclusively -- 80 percent on Lewis, within a block of the building. Anybody that doesn't believe me, drive down Lewis at midnight on a Saturday and look at the lot."
As far as the bar component: "Bowling alleys have bars," he said, adding that Madison Partners -- and Barcadia's Brooke Humphries, who came up with the concept for the bowling alley -- "are happy to deal with the neighbors on the rooftop patio issue."
He said that the joint will "be similar to what Lucky Strike is in Fort Worth. It'll have a significant bar element, but it's a well-capitalized, known and respected operator, and it'll be dramatically better than what it was in the past. Splitting up the building doesn't magically make the building smaller. This space is 12,500 square feet, and with this bowling alley, the six lanes, that will suck up a major portion of the space. It may not be as much as the neighbors like, but it's better than three, four bars or restaurants going in there. And it's a fun concept. During the day it'll be very family-friendly with kids' parties available at cheaper rates, similar to how Lucky Strike is."
He said hours of operation haven't currently been set, but it'll more than likely open as early as 10 a.m., especially on weekends, to allow for family visits. But late at night, sure, it'll get all grown-up.
Hetzel says Humphries approached Madison Partners about the concept a year ago -- and that she, like Madison Partners, was in favor of the Planned Development District that Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano pushed for and got in order to clean out the so-called "bad bars" they said were responsible for high crime in the area, especially during weekend nights. The PD requires businesses that want to stay open after midnight get specific use permits, which is what the bowling alley's looking for.
"The goal was to get rid of the bad operators," Hetzel says, "not to keep viable operators from opening up. And it's frustrating, because between us and the operator [Humphries] we're spending $1 million to $1.5 million. This isn't going to be some bubblegum and Band-Aid operation where someone spends $50,000 just to open a bar."
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Far as he can tell, those opposed to the concept would be opposed to any new bar on that stretch of Greenville Avenue. Which echoes a sentiment oft-heard since the PD went into effect -- that there just has to be a way to get more daylight-hours retail on Greenville to accompany the likes of Good Records.
"But that's not economically realistic," Hetzel said. Because, sure, "there's more room for daytime retail than currently exists, but we have to make it nicer before they come in. And part of that involves taking buildings like the one where we're putting in the bowling alley and putting a nice new vibrant business instead of having a crummy vacant building."
At which point he mentioned a "major national grocer" that looked at the building and passed -- because, for one, the parking's "too remote, and nobody likes to walk a block to go shopping. Parking makes retail a non-starter. Good Records can operate as a retail store because they have that one little parking lot, which isn't enough to service another 1,500 square feet of retail no matter how much we cut up the building. Just look across the street. There's plenty of retail space there, and it's been vacant for five years -- and it's brand new!"
He said he's "cautiously optimistic" about the plan commission giving the bowling alley its SUP tomorrow. And he said that food court's a few months from opening too: "We have a lease out with our lead three tenants, all using the same attorney, and we'll negotiate that and then give it to everyone else. There are some complicated legal issues, since nobody's done it before, but we hope to start construction in the next two months." He said that'll open early next year. By which point there may be a bowling alley down the street. We'll see tomorrow.