For the last couple of weeks, we've been trying to chat with Jeannie Terilli, namesake of Terilli's Restaurant & Bar, and Jon DuPerier, owner of the burned-out block on Greenville Ave., about what the future holds for the building's remains. So far, no luck -- for the most part because of that ongoing litigation. But when when we discovered that Terilli had called a lunch meeting for yesterday to discuss "Lower Greenville improvements," and that "all interested parties" were welcome to attend, well, we attended.
Terilli organized and officiated the meeting, which was attended by DuPerier; an assortment of area restaurant, property and business owners; various Lower Greenville neighborhood associations; and architect-designer John Hamilton. Hamilton was there on behalf of Hamilton Wolf Andrews, who DuPerier has hired to work up "structural plans" for the future of the burned-out property. And, Avi Adelman was there on behalf of the Belmont Neighborhood Association, as was Patricia Carr of the Lower Greenville Neighborhood Association.
When Terilli called the meeting to order, she said that "doing business on Lower Greenville has been difficult for 20 years." And in years past, she said, there hasn't been a group of folks who could put their differences aside and "agree to disagree" to work together for what is best for all involved.
She cited inadequate parking, crime, zoning issues and a number of other concerns that seem to plague Lower Greenville. "For me to want to rebuild," she said, "I felt like I wanted to have the best environment possible."
That's why Terilli organized yesterday's meeting with the agenda of bringing landlords, merchants, neighbors, neighborhood associations and, eventually, the city of Dallas together with a unified goal of creating "a safe environment for work, shopping, eating out and living together in harmony in an urban community."
But, of course, before any of that actually happens, there will have to be lots more meetings like the one held yesterday, because it was clear that the "improvements" are still in the early phases of planning.
The meeting convened a little after 12:30 yesterday, with the group of nearly 20 sitting around a long table that left everyone at both ends straining to hear each other over the music and steady hum of conversations from the other diners.
Terilli introduced several ideas for the group to discuss, including improved security and parking, installing landscaping and "historic lighting," as well as working toward more "pedestrian-friendly walkways."
Terilli brought up city council members Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano's proposal for a planned development district for Lowest Greenville affecting a less-than-a-mile-long stretch of Greenville Avenue south of Belmont Avenue. And, it was mentioned that, clearly, this group -- and any plans it hatches in the future -- would also need the support of Hunt and Medrano.
Terilli also brought up the decade-old Lower Greenville Land Use Study, saying that it was "a beautiful plan" and perhaps it was time to "dust it off."
And, then, about the time the staff took the table's sushi orders, the group started tossing in lots more questions, comments and ideas.
There was some discussion of working with the city to ease parking requirements for some of the businesses. Adelman explained to the group how the process could go when it came to working with the city to implement any plans, parking or otherwise. LGNA crime watch coordinator Darren Dattalo brought up the idea of having the utilities buried along Greenville Avenue. Terilli said she'd be contacting a landscape architect to draw up some plans. And Hamilton suggested that the group "combine letterheads to create a synergistic momentum" for improvements to Lower Greenville.
Then came time for the elephant in the sushi bar: the money.
"The city has no money," Terilli said. "They cannot help, but there are other ways we could do this.".Clearly, if this group of folks worked together costs would be less. Hamilton suggested that the group should even consider working with the city to create tax increment financing districts along Greenville Avenue.
But, all in all, not much was decided at the meeting other than that they needed to get with the city folks, and that there would need to be many more meetings to involve more of the businesses and neighbors in the area. And it gave Terilli a chance to gauge these folks' interest in creating a "model zone" that middle chunk of Lower Greenville near the burned-out block. A pair of folks from Blue Goose voiced their support for the plans.
Following the meeting, Terilli said, "I think it's clear that everyone is excited about this and is looking forward to having the restaurants, businesses and neighbors all working together."
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Naturally, we did ask Jeannie Terilli about the status of her restaurant, and she said things were "looking good for the rebuild" but that "legal issues" were tying things up. And, when talk of a timetable or any design details came up, Terilli directed us to DuPerier.
DuPerier has been tight-lipped in the past, and yesterday, he mentioned something about a gag and an order. He said he couldn't say much. So we asked very carefully crafted questions.
"We have a permit to clean it up," DuPerier said. But for the time being, he said, "The lawyers for the plaintiff [Gregg Merkow] won't let us touch the site." He said he couldn't comment on which businesses would, or would not, be back.
DuPerier did say that "we hope to start building in three to four weeks," though when we asked Hamilton what the exact process would be he said "debris removal" would obviously be the first step. Hamilton too mentioned the three- to four-week timeframe.