Now the Question Is: How the Hell Will Hillwood Save Victory Park? Maybe By the Slice? Or With a Bowling Ball?
This is the Victory Park Ross Perot Jr. dreams of when he goes to bed every night.
When Pulle wrote his obituary for Victory Park in January, Ross Perot Jr. and Hillwood execs refused to talk to him about the fate of the taxpayer-subsidized development crumbling around the American Airlines Center. Instead, all he got was a statement, which read, in part, "As we look to the future, we are refining our strategy -- placing a greater emphasis on providing more options that appeal to a broader base of consumers to ensure that Victory Park remains a vibrant part of the new downtown Dallas." Which means ... what? Where's the phone?
Three major closings later, Hillwood remains more mum than ever: Spokesman David "I Have Nothing to Say" Pelletier told Unfair Park to talk to Dustee Tucker, who handles PR for Victory Park. Tucker, former spokesperson for Alphonso Jackson during his ill-fated tenure as Housing and Urban Development secretary, took a while to call back, but eventually did -- and wanted to make it very, very clear that "we are working with all of our tenants to make concessions as far as adjustments in their rent."
"As we've stated publicly, we have said we misjudged market condtions, and the economy has changed, and we're working to correct that and will continue to work with current tenants to help them in the current economic market," she says. By which she means Hillwood is or will offer rent abatements to current tenants so they don't join the list of former tenants.
As far as new projects, she points to a recent announcement concerning three new drinkeries and eateries, including Stop-Play-Rewind and Naga Thai -- all of which have been mentioned elsewhere in recent months, among them last May's story in the paper version of Unfair Park concerning Olivella's expansion into Victory Park. Alas, none of those venues is expected to open in the American Airlines Center plaza.
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Word amongst developers and restaurateurs around town is that Hillwood's desperately trying to reinvent Victory Park as an "entertainment destination." Over the last week, sources have told Unfair Park that Perot's people are talking to fancy-shoes bowling-alley owners -- maybe Lucky Strike Lanes out of Hollywood or Splitsville Lanes, which has one spot in Arlington and another scheduled to open on Park Lane. Also rumored: a high-end pool hall, like the late, great West End Billiards. And a sports bar. Perhaps even a movie theater. All of which would make sense. God knows there's plenty of room.
So, what says Victory Park?
"As far as the plaza, I can look into that and get back to you," she says. "Of course we're interested in leasing all the available retail space and always looking at new opportunities, but we won't say anything till a lease is signed."
Oh -- and she says Friends of Unfair Park with "parking concerns" are "misinformed." She points to the two-hour free lot near the arena -- which, ahem, jumps to $7 the third hour. But, as Pulle has pointed out, there's plenty of space on the street these days.
"This has always been envisioned to be a long-term project, and we've stated that we will continue to grow and enhance Victory Park as we move along," Tucker says.
So, then, back to Charlie Green, proprietor of Olivella's across from SMU -- among the best pizza joints in town. So, Charlie, still planning on that Victory Park spot?
"We still are, and we're still very excited about it," he tells Unfair Park today. But, he says, his spot won't be in the plaza next to the arena. He's hoping to set up shop in The Terrace condos on Houston Street, from which he'll not only run a sitdown restaurant, but also sell slices to folks coming and going from the nearby House of Blues, not to mention neighboring law firm Haynes and Boone.
"All the places that closed are on the plaza," Green says. "It's a sequestered site, and it's boom or bust. ... And ours is a different model. Remember, with a pizza restaurant you're essentially running three different businesses: deliver and catering, dine-in and carry-out."
He says for a sneak peek at the kind of joint he's looking to operate there, look at Spitzer's Corner on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the late, great E.U. on 4th Street, also in New York City. "The interior will look like European Union," Green says. "We'll have hangar doors and counter seating, and it will feel like a real neighborhood place. The bricks are coming from part of a building being demolished off Washington Square Park. It'll be a neat little spot people will want to hang out in."
Green is hoping to open in "late spring, early summer," but he acknowledges that he's a long way off -- about six figures away, which is why he's currently trying to find more partners interested in sharing a piece of the pie.
During the wait, he says, "Hillwood's really been terrific. They've acted like a partner. They've being very flexibile with us, and they're excited about us being there."
As well they ought to be.
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