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Deep In It Now, A Neighborhood Tries to Save Itself

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Can't believe we went a whole day without a Deep Ellum posting. But, alas, it's a brand-new day, and we've got some brand-new news, more or less: The Deep Ellum Association had separated itself from the Deep Ellum Foundation. For background on the spat between the two entities, read Andrea Grimes' item on it last week, but the result is a brand-new Web site called Save Deep Ellum!, which the DEA launched when it lost control of the "official" Deep Ellum Association Web site. (The DEA also lost its longtime home, thanks to DEF members' getting the locks changed without warning.)

"We have a whole new board, which is a good thing," says DEA president Gianna Madrini. "It's something we haven't had in a while -- some energy to marshal some resources."

The Web site is, in large part, a reaction to much of the discussion taking place on Unfair Park and elsewhere in recent weeks concerning the fate of the neighborhood, which will likely be altered considerably in coming months to make room for outside developers looking to capitalize on the new DART Green Line rail station being built on the site of the old Good-Latimer Expressway tunnel. Folks who live and work in the neighborhood -- as opposed to those who own buildings in Deep Ellum -- want to keep the landlords from selling to developers who would come in and raze the old historic storefronts that have served as clubs, restaurants and retail shops since Deep Ellum's resurrection in the early 1980s.

"The initiative is to rally the citizens of Dallas and let them know Deep Ellum is worth saving," says Madrini, who has been in contact with Preservation Dallas, the Dallas Historical Society and other local historical preservation societies about keeping those storefronts intact. "We need to engage the community. We've got to let them know what's down here. People are here struggling to make a living, and bad news doesn't thelp them, so we're trying to move forward in a positive way. Preserving the history is important, and marketing the neighborhood is important."

On the new Web site, Madrini and the "new" Deep Ellum Association list seven ways to reclaim the neighborhood, beginning with historic preservation. They also want to "encourage restoration of existing buildings," "encourage entrepreneurs," get "infrastructure repair," have "community oversite" of the Public Improvement District funds, get some "parity in property tax assessment" so that smaller property owners aren't footing as much as their larger counterparts and "encourage land owners to maintain and improve their properties and Care for historic property."

The DEA's new site and initiatives are informally in conjunction with those of the Deep Ellum Enrichment Project, or D.E.E.P. as it's known. D.E.E.P. -- which describes itself as a "blend of Deep Ellum Residents, Business Owners, Employees, Musicians, Artists, the Dallas Police Department, and Friends of Deep Ellum -- holds regular meetings (such as one last night at the Elbow Room) in order to discuss new ways of luring folks back to the neighborhood. Among their plans is a gallery walk on March 10, beginning at 6 p.m. and culminating with a show at Club Dada.

"Those folks are really are an incredible group of young people," says Kettle Art's Frank Campagna. "They're trying to bring people to the neighborhood by hosting a variety of different events. "

D.E.E.P.'s efforts are also known among the Deep Ellum regulars as "Save the Scene," which has become less a moniker than a call to arms among folks who want to keep Deep Ellum from looking like this.

"We have to start small and work the idea that Deep Ellum is worth saving and that there are a lot of good businesses worth supporting," Madrini says. "More than anything, with the info we've seen on the blogs, the idea that got everyone going was these [landlords] want to sell it all off and demolish the neighborhood, and that got people pissed and got them to rally. So we're reaching out to Preservation Dallas and the historical society and even the National Register of Historic Places. I realize that you're not going to be able to save everything from the wrecking ball, but there's history worth preserving."

Without a past, Madrini and others figure, Deep Ellum won't have much of a future. At least, not the Deep Ellum they used to know. --Robert Wilonsky

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