After council member Angela Hunt led the charge in August 2008 to deny a special-use permit for longtime Ross Avenue staple Woodard Paint & Body Shop, she admitted that it was "one of the hardest decisions I've had to make on the council." As other repair shops shuttered as a result of an April 2005 council vote to modify the Bryan Place Special Purpose District created in 1988, Woodard stayed put.
The Planned Development District for Ross Avenue championed by Veletta Forsythe Lill, Hunt's predecessor and executive director of the Arts District, aimed to push out the ugly auto repair businesses and bring in fancy new development with streetscapes and landscaping to create a gateway to the Arts District. But, having been in business since 1920, Woodard felt it deserved to stick around. And now, thanks to a last-minute compromise orchestrated by Hunt, it appears as though Woodard doesn't have to flee after all.
Hunt's plan commissioner, Bill Peterson, submitted a request for the City Plan Commission to approve a public hearing on April 15 regarding a sub-district of the PD that would encompass Woodard's property. Hunt says architect Jack Irwin developed a plan to erect three new buildings that meet the streetscape and landscaping requirements of the PD, and the outside of the structures resemble a café or bookstore with the back left open to accommodate vehicles.
"From the beginning, most folks recognized that Woodard was a very special case because they had been on Ross Avenue for more than 80 years," she says. "It was important to me to see if there was some way that we could keep that business operating within the regulations and requirements of the Planned Development District."
One issue yet to be resolved is the upcoming April 26 date at which Woodward must be in compliance with the PD or it could face a fine from the city.
Messages were left earlier today with Allen Woodard and Teresa O'Donnell, the city's director of development services, but we haven't heard back from either one. When we do, we'll update accordingly.
The middle of the three buildings is the largest, according to Hunt, and it will be required to be constructed within one year with the two side buildings to be completed six months later. She says Irwin's plans have the look and feel as though the buildings are from the 1920s while providing "street appeal" and allowing the current use to continue.
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Hunt stresses that she worked hard to keep Woodard on Ross because of its contribution to the city and community.
"Something has to be said for a family-owned business that has stuck it out through thick and thin, decade after decade, added tax base to our city, provided jobs to our residents year in, year out," she says. "If we can't support those types of businesses, then I don't know what the city of Dallas is doing."
The Bryan Place Neighborhood Association board has represented the majority of the opposition to Woodard and other similar businesses, with board member and Hunt's Park Board appointee Wayne Smith speaking in favor of the April 2005 vote. Hunt says she met with several board members Monday night, and while she declined to discuss specifics, she indicated that a fair compromise has been reached and most of the concerns have been resolved.
"We're at a point now where there are folks who are supportive of this type of compromise, and the Woodards have worked hard since I approached them with this idea to develop something that works for everybody, and I think this is a good middle ground."