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Forward Dallas? You Sure About That?

One final look at the proposed development on Henderson Ave., shot down by a select few
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On Monday, Marc Andres sent word that he and brother Roger had given up trying to turn the old Carnival on Henderson Avenue into a live-shop-dine development -- too many headaches, courtesy a few antsy neighborhood activists, and too many hassles, courtesy a city staff that kept altering the plan before it would offer its approval. On Tuesday, Marc Andres and I finally spoke about the brothers' decision to withdraw their rezoning request -- seems like as good a time as any to post, as this morning The Dallas Morning News has a story that says the Lowest Greenville West Neighborhood Association would actually prefer having a big-box store on the property than a mixed-use development -- I'll leave it to Schutze to address that madness.

Funny thing is, Marc Andres said on Tuesday that he and his brother had no intention of putting a national retailer in that spot -- fact is, he says, they've already rejected advances from Wal-Mart. "We still want to do something creative with that spot," Marc says of the property he and Roger own. "But as progressive as the city says it is with things like forwardDallas! and everything else you hear from the city, the system hasn't quite changed yet."

Turns out, from all accounts, the Andres brothers had a difficult time turning an abandoned grocery store into a mixed-use development because the City Plan Commission's staff kept tinkering with the plan, which the brothers put up on their Web site for all to see. Initially, the brothers wanted 250 apartment units; the city said they could only have 225. Brothers said fine. Then the city said 200, which wasn't as financially feasible, but still the brothers said fine. Then the city said 185, at which point the brothers balked. "It no longer made sense," Marc says.

Unfair Park's also learned that while several City Plan Commissioners supported the development, others -- among them, folks with substantial East Dallas ties -- were so vehemently opposed to it, the rezoning case would have never escaped the commission alive. And the brothers were so beaten down by the city staff already they had no interest, or energy, in taking the fight to the city council.

"We believe we presented the best case and did the research and fell in line with what the city was looking for," Marc says. "And for this non-controversial case to become so controversial was so overwhelming... It wasn't going to end. So we said we gotta move forward."

The clincher: Whole Foods' decision to remodel the old Minyards in Lakewood, rather than tear it down and do something far more, ya know, interesting. Some City Plan Commissioners were delighted: Neil Emmons told Unfair Park last week, "Great, that's the green solution -- adaptive re-use." Many neighborhood residents were not.

But the Andres brothers took one look at the headlines and said to each other, We're done here.

"When Roger and I read that deal Friday, we both called each other and said, 'It's not going to happen,'' Marc says. "If you could pick one company in the world to get something done in East Dallas with a cool $12-million building, it'd be Whole Foods. And when that loses, we both said, 'It's over.' Every time we went to talk about our deal with the city and a select few neighbors, the deal got worse."

So, who knows, maybe you'll put a grocery store on the property. Or a Wal-Mart. Or some other big box that'll satisfy neighbors who don't want any more neighbors. Says Marc, he and Roger will be announcing a few new projects along Henderson in coming days -- smaller deals not likely to ruffle any feathers. Or maybe some folks in East Dallas are against eating too. --Robert Wilonsky

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