Deep Ellum LIVES!

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Certainly, the residents of Trophy Club will not argue with that. Scott's dad, Jeff, bought the 35-year-old planned community in Denton County in the 1990s, and Scott took over further planning of the city of 7,400. Plans are for Trophy Club to grow to some 10,000 residents in the next five years—which will likely happen, and then some, with the scheduled fall 2009 opening of the $96 million Byron Nelson High School. Only three months ago, D magazine ranked Trophy Club as the area's fourth-best suburb behind University Park, Southlake and Colleyville.

And that's been the fear down in Deep Ellum since the bomb dropped on them back in July: that Scott and Jeff will purge their neighborhood of its funk, strip it of its soul and render it little more than a suburban tourist's version of "urban." That's probably why Scott tries hard during every meeting, whether it's with a preservationist or a property owner or a Deep Ellum resident or a journalist, to prove his street cred. He talks about how he used to hang out in Deep Ellum in the early 1990s and how when he lived in Manhattan, where he was an associate vice president at JP Morgan Chase in 2000 and '01, he used to knock back a few in Soho and Greenwich Village.

"He stresses he came down here in the '90s, which is some comfort," says Sean Fitzgerald, vice president of the Deep Ellum Association and a resident of Canton Street since 2001. "But at the end of the day, the developer has to make his money. Still, it is comforting to have someone who fell in love with Deep Ellum in the '90s regenerate it to the extent he can with those properties."

Beck says his initial interest in Deep Ellum began when he returned from New York. As far as he was concerned, Dallas had become a city for adults with money to burn in the prefab live-work-plays that were still in the works at the beginning of 2001 and '02. In its rush to turn every empty block into a West Village or a Mockingbird Station—or, even, a Victory Park—the city had abandoned its best natural resource, Deep Ellum.

"The thing that was upsetting for me to see was what had happened to Deep Ellum," Beck says. "I think that unless you are a stakeholder down here and have been down here a long time or you're from Dallas, you don't understand. You come down here, and it doesn't seem like much of anything, but the fact of the matter is, that's not true. It really is something, and it has been something for a hundred years. It's gone through that evolutionary period and transitional periods, but it's always been that kind of burgeoning area. It's a place where people can kind of experiment. Developers always talk about new urbanism. Well, this is true urbanism."

Only one problem back then: Deep Ellum was dying. And nobody could do a damned thing to stop the bleeding.


We have chronicled the demise of Deep Ellum in these pages with such frequency in recent years it has been like writing an obituary in serial form. And it's hard to pinpoint precisely when it began. When East Wind, an Elm Street mainstay long before Trees opened its doors in 1990, moved to the Quadrangle in 2003? When Sambuca followed to McKinney Avenue a year later? When Deep Ellum Café stopped serving? With the bankruptcy and dissolution of Entertainment Collaborative in the mid-2000s and the subsequent shuttering of the Green Room, Trees and, finally, the Gypsy Tea Room? Or with the closing of Club Clearview, whose neon sign illuminated the neighborhood since 1984?

Ultimately, there are countless reasons, including the proliferation of all-ages dance clubs and the crime they brought with them. And the city responded as best it could—usually, with an increased police presence that made it feel like a police-state Saturday night. Over the last couple of years, Annino and the Deep Ellum Foundation even got the city to close down a few tattoo parlors and some of the more "troublesome" clubs by refusing to grant them specific use permits. But by then the tourists from Plano moved on; the Deep Ellum regulars went back to Lower Greenville, their former home away from home; and only the die-hards and true believers remained.

Deep Ellum is not without its pockets of cool. There are still a handful of essential art galleries, among them the Public Trust, the Barry Whistler Gallery, Road Agent and Frank Campagna's Kettle Art. A hungry traveler can still fill up at the likes of Local, Angry Dog, the AllGood Café, Vern's or the newly opened Cowboy Chow. Club Dada, the Curtain Club and, closer to Exposition Park, the Double Wide still offer local musicians stages on which to perform, just like the good old days.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky