Cedar Springs gets flashier

Crosswalk lights, signs represent 1st phase of pedestrian safety plan

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SIGN, SIGN, EVERYWHERE | New signs warn pedestrians to use crosswalks, above, and cars to watch for pedestrians. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

City crews have begun implementing a three-part plan to make Cedar Springs safer for pedestrians with the installation of new signs and crosswalks. The short-term plan should be completed over the next few weeks.

Then, engineering studies will be conducted in February to determine whether additional traffic signals are needed and whether a turn lane should be removed. If warranted, that work will be done in June.

A long-term study will include the possibility of adding a center island with trees and wider sidewalks, and reducing traffic to two lanes.

On Wednesday, Jan. 25, the Cedar Springs Merchant Association discussed the safety improvements during its first monthly meeting of the year, which was attended byIMG_6167-1-(dragged) Paula Blackmon, Mayor Mike Rawlings’ chief of staff.

In response to four traffic accidents involving pedestrians that included two fatalities within two months, the city has been working to find solutions to improve safety in the entertainment district, which the Merchant Association now refers to as The Strip on Cedar Springs.

“We want to see The Strip become the international destination that it should be,” said ilume developer Luke Crosland. He said ilume 2, to be built on property diagonally across from ilume, could break ground within the next few weeks. Crosland favors the two-lane approach to make the area more pedestrian friendly and more attractive.

He mentioned that The Strip does $30 million in alcohol sales annually and he’s about to invest $55 million in construction there — and he expressed frustration with the city for not paying closer attention to an important economic engine.

The short-term solution for traffic and pedestrian safety is almost complete. That plan began with the installation of additional street lighting early in January.

New crosswalks have been painted at Knight Street, with eye-level yellow warning flashers added at Knight and Reagan streets. For the first 30 days, the lights will flash constantly to warn drivers of pedestrians in the area. After that, they’ll be activated by buttons.

“No pedestrian crossing” signs were installed in the middle of the block in front of Kroger and ilume. Additional police enforcement has also begun. On Thursday morning, police cars were patrolling Cedar Springs Road after Buli owner Robert Clauson and others at the meeting asked for additional patrols.

Also this week, a push to educate pedestrians got under way. The effort includes fliers distributed by Cedar Springs merchants to explain the pedestrian crossing lights and encourage everyone to cross only in marked places.

The last item on the first phase of the plan is the lighted crosswalk near the Round-Up Saloon, which will be raised 6 inches to slow traffic. Yield bars will be painted in the street in advance of the crosswalk to distance vehicles from pedestrians.

In February, a study will be conducted to determine whether traffic signals are needed at Knight Street and Reagan Street. The study is expected to show that a signal is needed at Knight Street. The signal has already been paid for and would be installed in June.

The study is also expected to call for the removal of the island and turn lane on the southeast corner of Cedar Springs and Douglas.

Cedar Springs Merchant Association Executive Director Scott Whittall said the study may determine that from Reagan Street onto Cedar Springs would be safer as a right turn only from either direction.

The plan also calls for looking for “opportunities to install trees or other vegetation to calm traffic.”
CSMA formed two committees. One will be to create a long-term traffic plan for The Strip. The second is to create a plan for where taxis can stop to pick up fares along Cedar Springs Road.

Whittall announced upcoming events on Cedar Springs including the March Wine Walk and Easter in the Park. The Merchant Association took over that event last year with just a few weeks notice when its longtime sponsor, the Turtle Creek Association, pulled out.

Whittall said that word-of-mouth about last year’s reintroduction of Razzle Dazzle Dallas was strong. He expected twice as many people to attend this year’s main event on June 9. An announcement about entertainment will be made soon.

He also announced a new marketing campaign. He said that the entertainment district’s Facebook page was taken down and will be reintroduced in March after a new logo is chosen from a contest the merchants are holding.

The group is marketing the area as The Strip on Cedar Springs, which is how it is now most commonly known. Since Crossroads Market closed, few continue to refer to the area as The Crossroads.

Whittall compared The Strip’s Facebook fan page to that of Bishop Arts District. BAD has more than 17,000 fans, while Cedar Springs had just a few thousand. He said that was because the page was called the Cedar Springs Merchant Association, which sounded like it was a trade group rather than an entertainment district.

The logo contest-winner will be named at Easter in the Park and the new The Strip on Cedar Springs Facebook page will be launched then.

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The Cedar Springs Merchant Association is running a contest to design a new logo. For more info or to enter, go to TinyUrl.com/8yb7uj8.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 27, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

It’s official: JR’s is getting a ground-level patio

We’ve heard rumors for months about an upcoming remodel of the 31-year-old JR’s Bar & Grill Dallas, billed as “Texas’ most successful gay nightclub.” This morning, those rumors were finally confirmed.

Rick Espaillat, a spokesman for JR’s owner Caven Enterprises, reports that work began today on a month-long project which, among other things, will give the club a ground-level patio along Cedar Springs Road. When we asked how much of the interior of the club will be eliminated for the patio, Espaillat replied, “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

The last time JR’s underwent significant renovations was 1998, when the second floor and balcony were added, Espaillat said. The club will remain open during the project. Here’s his full statement:

Work began this morning on the new series of improvements to JR’s Bar & Grill Dallas.

The project will bring better, more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks with new trees; better views from the existing upstairs patio, and a new downstairs patio that will give JR’s guests a front-row seat to the gay Crossroads. Work is expected to take a month to complete.

“We’re always looking for ways to grow and improve.  These changes will add to the variety of JR’s, enhance the character of our neighborhood and add to the beautification of Cedar Springs as well” said Gregg Kilhoffer, President of Caven Enterprises.

JR’s Bar & Grill Dallas was created in 1980.  Though still in its original location, the iconic club has grown through three renovations to become Texas’ most successful gay nightclub.  It is owned and managed by Caven Enterprises, an employee-owned company with over 100 staff members.

—  John Wright