Usually there's nothing to see at the locked-up West End Marketplace save for the giant cowboy-boot-wearing lizard, a remnant from Planet Hollywood days, which ended in 2001. And he's seen better days -- so too has his tail, the tip of which has vanished. Today, though, we saw a rare sight in that part of downtown: people. Which is to say, a person.
Tom Persch, vice-president of asset management for ECOM Real Estate, walked briskly in and out of the building, too busy to keep on his suit jacket, fielding one call after the next. In just a few weeks, a new tenant is moving into the building: Bodies...The Exhibition. Seems appropriate: transient, carved-up cadavers taking up space in a cavernous tomb.
Their arrival comes not a moment too soon. Persch has been scratching his head for ways to redevelop the property since it officially closed in June 2006. There's been some interest, he says, but even the estimated 5,000 residents now living in the Central Business District, according to DowntownDallas, haven't provided much of a draw.
"We're looking to see what the redevelopment opportunities are -- and we've been looking at it quite a while," Persch tells Unfair Park.
There are, of course, a handful of eateries that continue to attract customers, among them The Palm and Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse. But opening another restaurant down there isn't a viable option at the moment. Instead, Persch says, an exhibition like Bodies is a great way to attract not only tourists, but also locals.
"All the people that live in Dallas will come specifically to see the exhibit," he says. "It will help to bring activity back to the West End."
Although the building still reads "West End Marketplace," Persch says nobody in the business calls it that anymore. "We call it 603 Munger now. ... Depending on the redevelopment opportunities, it may not be a marketplace in the future."
There had been talk, years ago, of trying to redevelop the building as apartments -- but many downtown developers have told Unfair Park over the years that it's cost prohibitive to reconfigure the marketplace, which opened in '86, for residents. Nonetheless, Persch says apartments remain an option; but what isn't? Because he insists that the building remains far from forgotten-about: "We've been closed for three years," Persch says, "and every day people are still coming and rattling the doors."