A Closer Look at Proposal For 1401 Elm St. Makeover Shows Plan to Close Access to Tunnels

What you see above comes from teeny-tiny type on Page 13 of the proposal we posted below for Mukemmel "Mike" Sarimsacki's plans for 1401 Elm Street, where he says he intends to build residential, retail and office space where there's presently 1.3 million square feet of empty. Far as the city's concerned, this guy's The Real Deal with Big Money -- the front man of "a group with significant capital capacity and longer term vision," in the words of Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the Office of Economic Development, who compares the Polidev International bossman to Joule-r Tim Headington in terms of "vision and capital capacity."

But back to the rendering. Because, you'll see, it says: "Tunnel access to be closed off per city 2013." Now, it's no secret the city hates the downtown underground; City Manager Mary Suhm said not so long ago they breed "a community of moles," while the Downtown Dallas 360 plan more or less has them being filled in with concrete (OK, not quite), just the way Laura Miller once envisioned. But it does raise the question: Is the city officially shuttering the tunnels in two years? Because that's news.

"They're not going to be developing the tunnel underneath their building, and they're going to close it off," Zavitkovsky tells Unfair Park. OK, but ...

"I think it's no secret that the 360 plan and Downtown Dallas and basically the city would prefer to see the activity on the street," Zavitkovsky says. "But does that mean everything underground gets closed down? No. It would depend on what kind of alternatives are developed. Some of the underground space clearly services the buildings above very well. It's difficult to make some broad sweeping statement. But as general comment, we're going to be very supportive of anything that supports street activity and wouldn't be looking to sponsor new development in the tunnel."

Zavitkovsky says he never spoke with Sarimsakci about the tunnels; those plans were hatched, he says, between the developer and Jerry Merriman, just between the two of them.

"That's their plan," says Zavitkovsky, who says he sees Sarimsakci every two, three weeks during his now-regular visits to town. (Zavitkovsky says he's been coming to town regularly for the past six months to look at 1401 Elm and other properties, as Leslie mentioned this morning.)

But, sure. This is a big deal for those who love and loathe the tunnels. Because the old Elm Place provided, till its shuttering in January 2010, one of the main entrances to the tunnels. "It's how I used to make it from Bank of America to the Tower Club," says Zavitkovsky. And soon, should the deal go down and the building come back to life, that escalator to the tunnels will be gone for good.

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