Yesterday's Deep Ellum posting (the 426th in a series, I believe) stirred quite the conversation concerning the fate of the neighborhood. Buried beneath the torrent of comments (56 and counting), a Friend of Unfair Park directed a comment toward our old pal and mayoral candidate Zac Crain: "What would YOU do as mayor?" Well, Zac has some answers -- eight of them, for starters, and they are after the jump. All mayoral wanna-bes are free to address the subject; we don't want anyone to think we're playing favorites. Sam Coats, let's hear from ya. Don Hill, how much do you miss Trees? And Darrell Jordan and Gary Griffith, where are you gonna get your tattoos now? --R.W.
OK, here's what I'd do:
The main landowners in Deep Ellum have made sure the area is a very attractive property for someone in the market. Tons of empty buildings. Not many long-term lease holders. The DART rail is coming in soon. So let's exploit that. Look, Dallas has more millionaires and billionaires per capita than just about anywhere else. The landowners clearly want out, and don't seem to care who they sell to. Form a public-private partnership with a consortium of a few of those aforementioned millionaires/billionaires. Think that's pie-in-the-sky talk? I happen to know there's one very well-known billionaire who has spoken fondly and often about the time he spent in Deep Ellum. (Hint: His name rhymes with "Shark Ruben.") This isn't bleeding heart B.S. It's a good business deal.
(No one would be happy with the alternative: tying any prospective deal up in court until we're all too old to remember what we're fighting about.)
Lure the proposed Texas! Music Center to Deep Ellum (where it belongs) away from Fair Park (where it won't really work -- we'll talk about Fair Park another day). You have another anchor there -- and one that works in daylight hours as well, which is important.
Parking meters: gone. If you want to keep this area viable as an entertainment destination, this has to be done. The pilot program they have in place now, which does away with the meters during the daytime, runs out in August, and it was only a start anyway. I mean, really, when are more people in Deep Ellum: day or night? (At the moment, the answer is probably during the day. It shouldn't be.)
Fix the sewage system already! This will have to be done no matter who or what owns the joint. Move it to the top of the "needs" list. This has been a problem for far too long. This should have been part of billion-dollar bond package.
Appoint someone in the office of business development and the code department to hold the hands of prospective business owners. As it stands now, you'd have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting through that process with your sanity intact.
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Stop relying on the Deep Ellum Association or whomever to get the word out about Deep Ellum. The neighborhood has always gotten the shaft from the city in terms of publicity. That ends now. Even T.O. Owens has a better handler. The perception of a crime problem gets out there, and no one bats the story down. Ridiculous.
We've made (too many) deals with other developers that won't pay off for the city for another decade and change. So how about applying some of those tax abatements and incentives on a smaller level? How about helping out the smaller business owners? We're not talking millions here. Give people a chance to stay in business.
Shake up the way the public improvement district (PID) dollars are handled. Currently, the Deep Ellum Foundation handles that. Nothing has been done with that money, or, at least, nothing that you can actually see. So, they had their chance. We need a group of people that actually respects the interests of the neighborhood. Not just landowners. We need businesspeople, residents, and so on. Spend that money! It's what it's there for. Fix the sidewalks. Put in better lighting. Take pride in what you have.
Now ... it's everyone else's job to give the people with deep pockets a reason to care. Get out there! --Zac Crain