Lower Greenville Transformation Begins, Block by Block

Yesterday, Councilmember Pauline Medrano and I joined neighborhood association presidents, residents, Dallas Police, and major property owners for some exciting announcements about the future of Lower Greenville. 

Bottom line:  We’ve got a two-prong approach to transforming Lower Greenville, block by block.  First, we’re going to require Lower Greenville businesses open after midnight to get a specific use permit from the city.  That’ll help weed out some of the late-night, problem businesses that have brought crime, noise, traffic, and vandalism to the area.  Second, we’re going to improve the streetscape, making it more pedestrian-friendly with wider sidewalks, a narrowed street, street lamps, trees, enhanced crosswalks, and street furniture.  This will make the area more inviting for residents and visitors, and help lure back daytime businesses, retailers and restaurants.  Instead of waiting years to get this done, we’re going to start construction on part of this project — from Bell Street to Alta — NEXT SUMMER.

Some highlights from the press conference:

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano welcomed everyone and opened the press conference:  “Lower Greenville is an area ready for change.  It’s no secret that Lower Greenville has had its share of challenges in recent years.   The over-concentration of late-night bars has eroded the quality of life for surrounding residents, who have had to live with the resulting noise, traffic, vandalism, and most concerning, crime.”

Central Division Deputy Chief Mike Genovesi and Lt. Albert Martinez — who oversees the Lower Greenville operation — then addressed public safety. 

Deputy Chief Genovesi noted that the crowds that come to the bars late at night require the Police Department to have a significant police presence on Lower Greenville to ensure public safety — anywhere from a dozen to thirty officers.  He said he would much rather have his officers out patrolling neighborhoods than monitoring these three-blocks, but that right now it’s a necessity.

He went on to state that crime on Lower Greenville intensifies after midnight, pointing to the two murders this year as unfortunate examples.  He concluded by saying it is time for a change and that the DPD fully supports the proposed improvements to Lower Greenville.

I then stepped to the mic to confirm that the future of Lower Greenville looks bright.  We’ve got a plan to build a better Greenville block by block and here’s how we’re going to do it.

 

First, we’ve got to bring some balance back to the mix of businesses in the area and give the city and nearby residents more input into the types of businesses that operate in this neighborhood late at night.  To accomplish that, we’re going to create a planned development district that will require businesses operating after midnight to obtain a special permit from the city.

Councilmember Medrano then noted that driving out the problem businesses is only part of the solution.  “We also need to create an environment that will attract new businesses and provide a pleasant atmosphere for residents and visitors.  So the second part of the solution is to create a beautiful, walkable street.  We are going to build a better Greenville block by block with wide sidewalks, street trees, new lighting, enhanced crosswalks, and street furniture.”

Rather than describe our plans, we then presented some exciting images of the new Lower Greenville Avenue:

The crowd applauded the new designs, then I noted that Councilmember Medrano and I are impatient — we don’t want to wait years to see this vision become a reality.  So we worked with city staff to find a creative way to jump-start the new Lower Greenville Avenue.

Then the big announcement:  We aren’t going to have to wait five years to turn this vision into a reality.  We aren’t going to have to wait two years.  Thanks to $1.3 million in 2006 bond funds, we will be able to fully transform two blocks of Lower Greenville from Bell Street to Alta starting NEXT SUMMER.

We were joined by representatives from the surrounding neighborhood associations, which unanimously voted last summer to support these efforts:  Vickery Place president Will Short, Greenland Hills president Ted Thompson, Lower Greenville president Pat Carr, and Bruce Richardson for Lowest Greenville West (Belmont president Diana Souza was out of town and couldn’t attend).

Resident Erica Jones, a single-mom who lives in the Lower Greenville neighborhood with her nine-year old daughter, spoke about her concerns with personal safety along the corridor. 

She said she would like to walk from their home to have dinner on Lower Greenville, rather than get in their car and drive elsewhere, but that she didn’t feel comfortable due to the bar crowds.  Erica was enthusiastic about changing the mix of businesses and constructing a more pedestrian-friendly streetscape.

We were very pleased to be joined by two of the major property owners along Lower Greenville who have owned land there for decades.  Marc and Roger Andres from Andres Properties fully support the efforts to transform Lower Greenville.  

Marc said they have heard from many restauranteurs interested in relocating as a result of the planned transformation for the area.  He said these changes will make Lower Greenville an important economic engine that will be an asset to the surrounding neighborhoods.

Jon Hetzel then spoke on behalf of Madison Partners, who unveiled a very exciting new development they’re planning for the one-acre Arcadia block:  an outdoor food court with airstream trailers. 

The development is modeled on a similar project in Austin:

Jon noted that the new pedestrian focus for Lower Greenville will complement their outdoor, family-friendly project.

I’ve gotten a couple of questions about these plans for Lower Greenville that I wanted to address.  First, there was some confusion about the city’s involvement in Madison’s project.  Madison’s project is an entirely private investment with no city subsidy.

Second, some folks had wondered if we could get rid of the overhead powerlines on the east side of the street.  We would love to!  The powerlines are visual clutter and impede the sidewalks.  BUT, it’s very expensive to bury powerlines — it’d cost $5 million to do so from Belmont to Bryan, and perhaps a third of that to do the two blocks that will be done next year.  At this point we don’t have the funds.  However, we’re trying to figure out a way to do this and I’ll keep everyone updated on our progress.

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