Plan Commissioners: This Isn't Just About a Bowling Alley, But Future of Lower Greenville

I've tried several times this morning to reach Michael Northrup, the attorney repping a coalition of neighborhood associations at yesterday's City Plan Commission meeting where Madison Partners' bowling alley concept was voted down 6-5. I'll keep trying and post his thoughts separately. But I did manage to talk to Bill Peterson, the professor of biochemistry at UT Southwestern Medical Center appointed to the CPC by Angela Hunt in the fall of '09, and Michael Anglin, Dave Neumann's appointee. Peterson voted for the bowling alley; Anglin, against.

Both men say they "often" vote with each other, but not this time. Why not? The answer to that question suggests that the fight over the fate of Lowest Greenville is only just beginning. Because, as Anglin says, a vote for the bowling alley-bar-restaurant in the former Beagle space next to Good Records would have shown that the CPC believes Lowest Greenville avenue is "a regional entertainment venue," despite the fact it's zoned for community retail.

To have voted for the project, Anglin says, "would have had very unfortunate, negative impacts on the surrounding neighborhood and established a precedent for this kind of use. It was a difficult vote for everyone. But I decided to go on the side of protecting the neighborhood from what looked like a very large, impactful entertainment use that would draw people from the region rather than just the community."

But as far as Peterson's concerned, the bowling alley would have served as a transition from the "old" Greenville to the one envisioned by Angela Hunt, Pauline Medrano and those who spent much of last year crafting the Lower Greenville Planned Development District ordinance.

"I think it's a good idea," Peterson says of the proposal. "You can't go from A to Z without doing C, D, E, F and G. This is a step. If we have a bowling alley, a food court, a Walmart Marketplace or whatever at the other end, you have three outstanding venues that will be open during the day and bring people during the day. Libertine will start opening more during the day. Mextopia will open more during the day, but you can't get there without having a draw. ... If Angela sounds frustrated, so am I."

Both men agree: The neighbors would prefer to see most of the existing bars gone -- or, if nothing else, closed by midnight. They've spoken to neighbors who want only retail, most during daylight hours. That, says Peterson, "is not going to happen in my lifetime, and I'm hoping to be around 15, 20 more years."

But Anglin insists something like it is viable, if not necessarily likely.

"Daylight retail is part of the mix of uses people have always wanted to see be there," he says. "But it all could be evening and nighttime uses, and it doesn't have to be retail products. It could be offices, restaurants, music halls, things like that. The idea would be to have a more generalized mix of uses during the day that would include daytime and evening uses. But philosophically, if the city wants an area to become a regional entertainment draw, it needs to provide the infrastructure to support that. They'd build structured parking so they could consume hundreds of cars. The West Village has done that. When you go to the Magnolia you park in the garage. I am not saying people want West Village on Lowest Greenville, but that's an example locally of the city putting in infrastructure -- parking garages, DART rail, whatever -- that supports regional entertainment. Deep Ellum is one. Victory Park is another."

Peterson's worried, though, that the PD will be used to chase all the bars from Greenville, even ones like Libertine and Zubar, which had to fight for their SUPs earlier this month. Which, he says, was not at all the point of the SUP process.

"The neighbors would like to not see anything open past midnight," he says. "They don't care what it is, and when they fight against giving Libertine, Zubar or Harp & Crown getting an SUP, I'm sorry, those are easy people to approve, and they don't want them to have it? I become less than sympathetic. ... The SUP was not meant by any stretch of the imagination to solve the problems of Lower Greenville, nor was it meant -- and I sat in on all the discussions -- to keep out new businesses, late-night-serving businesses. ... One of the five requirements -- you have to have a track record -- was not meant to keep out new businesses. It means existing ones have to prove they're a good neighbor."

"But take a neighborhood like Lower Greenville, which was set up to provide community retail services -- a mix of all-day uses -- surrounded by densely populated single- and multi-family dwellings," Anglin says. "We have to be careful we moderate our impact on neighborhoods as we grow. Dallas will grow. Dallas will change. And it'll either do so in an unplanned way or a planned way. I am not trying to elevate this one question, this one application of the ordinance, into the future of Dallas. But it was a difficult case to decide, and very intelligent people ended up on two sides."

In coming days, Madison Partners and would-be operator Brooke Humphries will have to decide if they're going to appeal the no vote to the Dallas City Council, which would have to give a 3/4 in-favor-of for the project to move forward.

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