| Schutze |

The Slum of All Things

This is what Roger and Marc Andres have in mind for Henderson Avenue -- in place of an abandoned Carnival.
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I went to the Andres Brothers' deal last night, where they unveiled their plans for the redevelopment of the Carnival site on Henderson Avenue near Ross Avenue. A real East Dallas deal.

Huge crowd. Couple hundred people. Catered by Café San Miguel. Where but East Dallas do people think of a request for a zoning change as a good idea for a party?

There were East Dallas types there -- people I have known for years -- who are worried that the mixed-use development the Andres Bros. have in mind is the beginning of the West Village-ification of Lowest Greenville. I completely get that. Most people would have trouble understanding why we prefer slum to cutesy in my part of town, but there you have it.

On the other hand, there were lots more East Dallas types there last night to whom the Andres deal looks pretty damn good. It’s a mix of neighborhood retail and upscale multi-family. There is nothing cutesy about the design I saw. It looked like everything else the Andreses have done up and down Henderson -- pretty sophisticated and neighborhood-specific.

About a hundred years ago I lived on Victor Street in Junius Heights. A guy wanted to do a French restaurant in a small building near us. And he was like the Andreses -- a good guy from the area.

We got him shot down on the liquor license, because our neighborhood was against the “Manhattanization of East Dallas.” Of course, about six months later Dallas real estate went in the tank for 10 years, and instead of Manhattanization we had the Crackification of East Dallas. I used to walk my dog by that building. I remember at one point thinking, “I wish we could get rid of the crack whores and return to the good old days when this place was occupied by winos.”

Anyway, at one point when that building was really in the absolute pit of the pits, I attended a neighborhood meeting at which someone in the back of the room said: “I wonder if we could get that guy to come back and try the French restaurant.”

Uh, no.

No, the window had slammed shut on that opportunity by then. Slammed shut, cracked, and a crack whore crawled in. That moment was way way gone.

That’s the thing. In the inner city, nothing stands still. It takes tremendous effort and investment and re-investment just to keep things stable. It’s like trying to keep a row boat in one spot out in the middle of the current. The wolf is always waiting.

We can make mistakes in every direction. Allowing somebody to bulldoze us with a huge disruptive mega-development will destabilize the area. But so will kissing off a good deal.

Given the conditions, I don’t believe the Carnival property will turn into a crack house if the Andreses get shot down on the zoning change they are seeking. But it sure could be a neighborhood Wal-Mart. They’ve got the zoning for that on the ground already.

You just really hate to make a mistake and bet the wrong way. Everything has consequences. --Jim Schutze

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