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"Bringing Balance" Back to Lowest Greenville: Hunt on Zoning, Rebuilding

Angela Hunt's Web site is having similar issues to the city's -- the Internet, clearly, is having a case of the Mondays, as we're also having our own server issues. Nonetheless, I asked her to send her account from last night's fund-raiser at the Double-Wide, held to help those workers who lost their jobs Tuesday morning when an electrical fire at Terilli's torched four businesses all at once. It's after the jump, in its entirety. She also took some photos, available here -- that's one at right as well.

The District 14 representative to the Dallas City Council also addresses issues raised in Jim's column this week concerning zoning issues on Lower (and, mostly, Lowest) Greenville. Writes the District 14 rep, "This outpouring of support got me thinking: Would we have seen the same response if a block of Lowest Greenville -- say, south of Bell Avenue -- had suffered a similar fate?"

Last night, I went to the Double-Wide's benefit concert  for the businesses and employees who lost their jobs as a result of last week's fire on Lower Greenville. The Double-Wide was great to host this, and Chelsea Callahan did an outstanding job organizing the five bands in such short order, helping raise funds for these newly unemployed workers.

The neighborhood support for these restaurants and pubs -- Terrilli's, Mick's, Greenville Ave., Hurricane -- has been amazing. Neighborhood associations are selling T-shirts to benefit the employees, a local bank and other business owners have set up a fund to provide financial support, and a facebook page has been created to highlight other job opportunities.

I've gotten so many emails from people -- lawyers, planners, historic preservationists, architects -- offering their services to the building owners free of charge, so the building can be rebuilt and the businesses (and their employees) can get back on their feet as soon as possible.  (I'm passing along this info to the owner, who pledged to keep the historic facade and rebuild quickly.)  A testament to the community support for these businesses can be seen in the many flowers now adorning the chain link fence surrounding the burned-out property -- letting the owners and employees know that we are deeply saddened by their loss, that their departure has left a hole in our community, and that we wish them well.

This outpouring of support got me thinking:  Would we have seen the same response if a block of Lowest Greenville -- say, south of Bell Avenue -- had suffered a similar fate? 

I don't think so.

It's not that the loss to the business owners or employees would have been any less traumatic or worthy of the neighborhood's generosity. But the businesses we lost last week were just the kind that we want on Greenville Avenue -- restaurants and pubs that attract mostly neighborhood folks, that are family-friendly, and that have patrons visiting throughout the day not just late at night.

We see too few such businesses on Lowest Greenville -- too few restaurants, neighborhood pubs, and retailers and too many bars. Way too many bars. All crammed into the middle of a residential area. They're open only late at night and cater to a mostly non-local clientele of frat boys and gangbangers, all itching to get their booze on. We waste a lot of police time and resources and taxpayer dollars baby-sitting these bars and their drunks, dealing with the aftermath of bar shootings and murders and assaults that take place within half a block of people's homes. The police do their best to manage the traffic and parking problems, the noise problems, the litter and alcohol problems. But this area was never, ever intended to house so many bars in a six block area surrounded by homes.

These bars are supposed to be getting special permits and go through a public process, but they don't. They skirt the rules and exist on the edge of legality. The legal process the city has at its disposal just isn't enough to fix the problem. When we are lucky enough to audit a bar, win in court and close it down, another bar just takes its place. This piecemeal approach to enforcement isn't ever going to fix Lowest Greenville.

So Councilmember Pauline Medrano and I have proposed a special zoning district for Lowest Greenville that would require businesses that want to stay open past a certain time -- say 11:30 p.m. or midnight - to get a special permit. That's it. The permit can be granted for several years for known businesses that haven't caused problems, or it can be granted on an annual basis for those businesses that are new, unknown quantities. Or it can be denied for bars that cause problems weekend after weekend. And even those bad operators won't have to shut down; they'll just have to close their doors at 11:30 p.m. or midnight.  We believe this will bring some balance back to Lowest Greenville and encourage a better quality and mix of businesses.

There are a couple of news articles highlighting this proposal. One by Jim Schutze in the Dallas Observer ("Not Easy Being Greenville: The Neighborhood Isn't As Bad As Some Think, But Can New Zoning Rules Make It Better?") and the other by Nancy Visser in the Dallas Morning News ("Dallas seeks to control St. Patrick's Day party scene on Greenville Avenue").  I was so pleased to see that Chris McGuinness, owner of Dodie's Seafood Cafe, is supportive of this proposal. Again, his is just the type of business we want to encourage on Lowest Greenville - a great, family-friendly, community-oriented restaurant that appeals to locals.

I can't wait to see Terilli's, Mick's, Greenville Ave., and Hurricane come back to Greenville Avenue in the near future. I also can't wait to see their brand of community-oriented, family-friendly businesses take root in Lowest Greenville and bring some balance back to this area.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky