We Were Wondering Whatever Happened to the Old Hard Rock Site on McKinney Ave.

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Earlier this week, in the comments of this particular item, we played a little game of Local Real Estate Catch-Up, and one Friend of Unfair Park asked what's become a fairly frequently asked question: What's up with the former Hard Rock Cafe site on McKinney Avenue? No need to rehash ancient history concerning the demise of that structure and the attendant fight over its razing. But as you may recall -- and this feels like ancient history -- in May 2008, we featured on Unfair Park Brett Landes's plans to build upon the scraped site the 16-story, 141-unit McKinney Avenue Tower. Which, of course, never came to fruition.

Why not? Well, the obvious reason, for starters: The economy went the way of the former McKinney Avenue Baptist Church, and that was that. But Landes tells Unfair Park today that there's more to it:

"A lot of people think we ran out of money or didn't have the funds," he says. "But the truth is, we didn't feel like it was the time to put a lot of apartments on the market with the economy where it was and with a glut of apartments in Uptown. The Gables put up 400 units, and we thought it wasn't economically viable to build anything. But we're patient. We're in no hurry. Nobody has a gun to our head."

Still, there are plans for the site -- even if, for now, they're temporary and don't involve any development. And Landes says he's had proposals for the site, one of which sounds stunningly decadent and hasn't been ruled out for when "the economy comes back up and unemployment comes down." Much more after the jump.

Landes says he met with council member Angela Hunt recently and told her that he plans on landscaping the property in the hopes of turning it into an "open space" for public use till something's built upon the property. Just don't use the phrase "temporary park."

"I hate to use that term," he says. "Once you put it out there ... I've learned the hard way that if you say something and it doesn't happen, what follows is guilt by default. So I don't want to put any expectations on what we will or will not do. But I also don't want to create an eyesore." The plan, he says, is to -- most likely -- green up the space, put a fence around it and allow for a public walkway.

Landes says he's also spoken to Hunt about holding an outdoor concert on the property three, four times a year.

"It would be on my own nickle," he says. "Something nice to do for the neighborhood. Get a special permit and allow people to congregate and listen to music. ... The Hard Rock was a pet project in Uptown, and I wanted to do something cool. But we've decided to be patient and see what develops."

On the Landes Group Web site, it says only that the site is "designated for future use." Whether that's the tower apartment complex, which he says may still happen, or something else, well, he can't be sure. No rush. Could be a year. Could be five. And, yes, there have been offers to buy the spot -- some developers have wanted to build a restaurant, he says; others, a nightclub -- but he has no interest in selling.

"I think it's a great piece of property and deserves to have something special done with it," he says. "It was never my intention to create ill will in the community [with regard to the demolition of the Hard Rock], and it did, obviously. It's OK. We'll take the heat on it. I have no animosity toward anyone. But whatever we do, I am in no hurry. But we'll do something to keep it from looking like a neglected, blighted property.

"I will tell you this: A prominent internationally recognized nightclub and restaurant group came to us with a proposal. That was a fantastic concept which would have been an extremely upscale Vegas concept, where we had high-end nightclub downstairs and a pool on the roof. I thought that was cool, but economically it didn't pan out. But that's today. Tomorrow it may make sense. When you looked at the renderings, I thought it was something Dallas didn't have, particularly in the Uptown market. We just couldn't come to an agreement on the numbers, and it may change in time."

Speaking of something nice to do for the neighborhood ... Landes says that beginning at 5:30 this evening at the Idle Rich Pub, he's giving away 500 tickets to the Mavs-Hawks game on Saturday. First come, first served. Limited to two per comer.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky