Too Damn Scary

Deep Ellum blues: Thank you for writing this article! I live and work in Deep Ellum ("Cruising for a Bruising," by Zac Crain, August 14). I have an apartment on Walton, work at Sol's Taco Lounge and drive the three to four blocks to work every night. Why? Because of the changes in my neighborhood over the recent months.

I've been mugged at gunpoint once, had my car broken into twice and recently had my car's convertible top slit so they could steal about 50 cents in change and my drivers license. All this occurred in the six months I've lived here. And it's a common experience within my group of peers.

My friends used to live, work and play in Deep Ellum. Most of them have moved away, and as a group we've taken our business elsewhere. It's a rare occasion when we do go out here on the weekends, and invariably it ends badly.

We do, however, spend all of our time wondering what happened to our neighborhood or discussing why there's no concerted effort to stop it. For months we've been having the same conversations over and over, and it boils down to one thing: We're tired of the bullshit.

This is a neighborhood five days a week. On the weekend it becomes a club scene, a cruising zone, a criminal center. And that's not what Deep Ellum is about.

I moved here because it has a true neighborhood feel, with artists, musicians and business owners who have a stake in this neighborhood. These same people have suddenly found their own neighborhood a hostile place to live. And that needs to be stopped.

Thanks for bringing media attention to these problems. The mayor's office and the public needed to see it in print. We can bitch among ourselves all we want, but we need help from the city officials to stop it. Once again, thank you for an excellent article.

Lori Atkinson

Loitering thugs: The past year you've made some good points about Deep Ellum's declining state. You've addressed the flailing economy and the abundance of mediocre bands that do not draw well, but I think your latest story offers the most compelling argument: The place has gotten too damn scary.

Even in a sluggish economy, bar patrons will eventually find a way downtown. After all, social drinkers will always need a place to go. As far as the entertainment goes, you can usually find a decent band playing somewhere on any given night in Deep Ellum (sans a few clubs I won't mention). But the major item keeping the customers from returning to Deep Ellum is the hostility from the loitering thugs on the street.

Good article.

Aaron Thedford
Via e-mail

Race card: I wanted to thank you for writing this. Everyone I know has been talking about the problems in Deep Ellum. It's so hard to address something like this, because so often the race card is pulled. I'm glad you wrote about it. No one wants to go to Dallas anymore, and it isn't fair to take our music away from us. People are afraid to be down there. The respect that used to be there is long gone. People will run over you, grab your ass when you're walking to a club or your car, and if you don't say anything, you turn into a nasty white bitch or even worse. We all hope this problem is fixed soon. Thanks again.

Tricia Hardin
Fort Worth

No place like Ellum: There's really no place else like Deep Ellum. I bring people from out of town there and they're amazed that we have so many acts and clubs to choose from in one area. It is on the verge of being a real attraction--a permanent playground--except there is no easy, safe or affordable way to get in or out.

Fundamentally, if they can't drive by the front of a club, the cruising will stop. Car stereos and revving engines create a lot of noise and confusion on top of the roving gangs. Police on horseback or bikes could better spot someone who is creating a problem in a totally pedestrian environment.

Fort Worth, Austin, Las Vegas, etc. all get it in their entertainment districts: Safe parking and transportation are where it starts. When you're looking at dodging drunk thugs and paying $8 to cram in a lot and get your doors dinged before you're even in the door of the club, it's not so appealing to go in the first place.

Here are my suggestions:

1) Put up concrete barrier poles and light up and cobblestone the three streets from Malcolm X to Good-Latimer. Vendors can set up kiosks in the street.

2) Set up parking off-site and provide one checked entrance for bands, services and cabs to make dropoffs.

3) Create exclusive in/out contracts with cab companies that won't charge $20 for a five-minute ride, or commission a shuttle that uses DART lots in the off-hours.

4) Buy off the $8 parking shysters and put in some real garages with attendants on the outer rim for people who must drive. Don't tow cars left overnight.

Jason English

Virginia Speaks

Overly sensational: In response to your June 26 article "Suckahs" (Buzz) and to the previous articles on the related subject ("Sweetheart Deal," by Thomas Korosec and Rose Farley, April 25, 2002, and "The Taxman Cometh," by Thomas Korosec, May 29), I am commenting to correct the record and to address inaccurate and misleading statements made by the Dallas Observer regarding the transaction of Williams Run. Two statements are accurate: My father is Jim Wright, the former speaker of the House, and I did tell Thomas Korosec to "get out" of my office in June 2002. Most other comments are overly sensational or wrong.

In 1999 I created Greenbridge Development Corp. to provide affordable housing for working families. Greenbridge was a 501 (c)(3) corporation; it was not MY company. My husband, Scott McGuire, worked for Elsinore Group LLC; it was not HIS company. We did not pay OURSELVES anything from the Williams Run transaction. We earned fees to support the companies for which we worked. Developers fees of $400,000 (not $600,000, as alleged) are not excessive on a $13 million transaction; in fact, they are low. In Greenbridge's case, reimbursements were made to professionals and businesses that incurred the costs of closing the transaction and setting up the ownership entity.

Tenants have a right to express an opinion concerning ownership when it changes. They do not have a right to deny low wage-earning workers housing because they are poor. A number of residents at Williams Run were displeased with the sale of the property because 501 (c)(3) bond financing, used to purchase the apartments, carries a "low-income" stigma in the financing mission. In reality, the bonds require 75 percent of the residents to be low-income and allow 25 percent of the complex to remain at market-rate rents. These are IRS rules, not random income selections, and at the time I left Greenbridge in April 2002, the resident income restrictions were met.

At least in part, the IRS investigated the transaction because dissatisfied residents contacted them and complained, and because abusive practices have been alleged in other tax-exempt bond transactions. The IRS has a responsibility to investigate a situation when unrelated parties allege wrong behavior. Williams Run, however, was not an improper transaction. Two of the same residents that contacted the IRS (boasting of their IRS connections) asked Greenbridge to pay them $10,000 each to move to another complex.

This was an extremely complicated financing transaction, entered into for the purpose of maintaining housing as affordable for working households. TDHCA, lenders and all legal representatives have done a superb job of managing the process. One lawyer put the IRS investigation in perspective by saying, "Neither [their firm] nor [our firm] thought the IRS position was valid, but the $3,000 cash cost was so low that keeping lawyers fighting to win over that amount was not worth it." The IRS concluded that part of Elsinore's fee was for processing things such as applications to TDHCA (10 percent, or $40,000). The IRS then applied the $40,000 amount to the 2 percent limit on issuance costs from tax-exempt proceeds, thus the need to redeem bonds by Related Capital and the $3,000 expense to Greenbridge. No one has received special treatment, and no one has been bailed out in this case.

Virginia McGuire

Editor's note: Ms. McGuire says nothing to explain why she (as the sole officer of a nonprofit claiming to be working in the public interest) hired her husband (working in a small for-profit company for which he was later named an officer) to carry out a transaction in which her husband's company collected nearly $500,000 (according to the IRS) and her company collected $100,000 (according to closing documents). Ms. McGuire used the latter to pay her own salary. The McGuires organized this self-serving arrangement through a contract signed by nobody but the McGuires. We stand by our reports.

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