Deep Ellum LIVES!

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"I will give you some of the bigger names: Deep Sushi, Club Clearview, the Art Bar, Trees, the Green Room, Club Dada, the Sambuca building," he says. "It's stuff you know." But during an afternoon's tour of those nine blocks, Beck more or less identifies every single building pointed out as, yes, fine, one he's acquiring. There are but a few exceptions, as in, "Not Daddy Jack's."

He also says he will not demolish any property deemed historic by local preservationists. At the very least, he says, he will keep the façades of the older buildings—the remnants of the largest group of storefronts from the 1920s, '30s and '40s still standing in the city.

"There's a huge process that you have to go through in order to maintain the fabric of what's cool," he says. "That kind of stuff could be replicated, sure, but you don't want to replicate it. You want to keep it, even the murals that were just painted a year ago. It's those kinds of things that I think are important. And signs like the Clearview sign."

As for what he will do with the properties once all the paperwork's signed, no earlier than late fall, Beck is decidedly vague. But with good reason, he insists: He's not exactly sure. Well, that's not entirely accurate. He does see the inevitable mix of retail and restaurants, apartment buildings and office space, one or probably even two boutique hotels and, of course, live-music venues. But he cannot be more specific because, first of all, he doesn't yet own the land.

But there are several other considerations as well, chiefly: the recommendations of a handful of architects sketching out their suggestions at this very moment; the city's promise of securing what Mayor Leppert calls "tens of millions of dollars" in city money that will go toward improving a decrepit infrastructure; and discussions with such groups as the Deep Ellum Association and Preservation Dallas, the latter of which has long included Deep Ellum on its list of Dallas' most endangered properties because of vanishing businesses and the lack of a historic overlay designation that makes it susceptible to the whims of the wrecking ball.

"The infrastructure will take dollars," Leppert says. "And, no, it won't be easy, and you have to work with a lot of different groups. Everyone's going in the same direction, but the reality of it is the Deep Ellum Association, the Deep Ellum Foundation and the other individual groups have different ideas about what's right for Deep Ellum, and everyone's going to have to be able to compromise to be able to reach the goal line. I'm optimistic, though, because I think people understand what Deep Ellum can be, and the other thing that helps us is they are seeing what happens if nothing gets done, the kind of deterioration that's taken place. I think that's the scenario people will grasp onto: That road doesn't work, so let's find a new one."

That's why Beck won't offer concrete answers: Because even after he has all his properties in hand, there is years' worth of work to be done before this Deep Ellum becomes his Deep Ellum.

As he looks at that beautiful old building on Elm Street, Beck is asked what he sees going in there one day. A bookstore, maybe? A record store? A coffeehouse? Restaurant? Nightclub? Grocery store? What? What?

"I think all of the above," he says, smiling. "I think what you'll see down here will be probably one or two hotels. You'll probably see a grocer down here. You'll probably see multiple new types of restaurants, a lot of retail, creative-class offices and multi-family residences. And how it gets laid into the fabric for all of this, it would be absolutely the wrong thing for me to say: 'That's what that is.' I mean, it's pretty obvious that building is architecturally and historically significant. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that. To some degree that has to be preserved. The question is: How do you do it?

"I can tell you what it's definitely not going to be. It's not going to be your standard, run-of-the-mill thing that you find in any strip center across the city. What we're looking for are the types of eclectic, boutique, interesting establishments that are probably and potentially not even in Dallas right now at all. We're not looking to go and take Shops at Legacy, Uptown and other areas throughout the metroplex and just plop those tenants back in over here. That doesn't work. Is it going to be Chico's? No way."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky