Cedar Springs merchants, property owners unhappy with plans for ‘improvements’



DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

Cedar Springs merchants and property owners were unanimous in their condemnation this week of a city plan to narrow the street to one lane in each direction with a third turning lane in the middle.

At an earlier meeting, that proposal was favored by some area residents who live off of Cedar Springs Road but discounted by area businesses.

On Monday, May 4, Cedar Springs business and property owners met at the Round-Up Saloon with Dallas City Council members Adam Medrano and Philip Kingston to discuss the plan. Cedar Springs Road divides the two elected officials’ districts.

Round-Up owner Alan Pierce said with only one lane in each direction, traffic would back up 30 to 45 minutes each time a bar on the street received a beer delivery. UPS deliveries and stopped taxis would also bring traffic to a halt, he said.
Pierce also worried about fire and emergency vehicles getting through, since a fire station is located on the block.

The plan the city prefers would be similar to the one used on Lower Greenville Avenue. But, Pierce said, “Lower Greenville is a mess during rush hour.”

Construction to narrow the street would take more than a year. Business owners worried they would end up being out of business as patrons avoided the area for a year or more because of construction.

On Lower Greenville, construction caused some businesses to close.

North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Vedda said he is concerned that this project could doom Cedar Springs as the center of the LGBT community in Dallas, if merchants from outside the community took over stores abandoned by current merchants once construction ended.

Vedda is involved in helping sell Dallas as a destination to LGBT conventions, businesses and organizations, and he said having a central community is a big draw.

Rick Williamson with Crosland Group, owner of ilume and ilume Park, which both face Cedar Springs Road, agreed with other merchants about retaining the street’s four lanes.

“This is a peculiar street with peculiar needs,” Williamson said.

Another property owner defended his tenants and said, “The three lane proposal poses lots of difficulty for merchants.”

The plan to reconfigure the street favored by city officials only involves two blocks of The Strip and includes removing some of the sidewalk improvements already made by the merchants and property owners.

The problem of cars not stopping at crosswalks, even when yellow warning lights are flashing, was addressed. Merchants said they wanted traffic lights at Reagan and Knight streets. The city traffic department had nixed that idea and Kingston said he had no power to overrule the traffic department.

Woody’s owner Matt Miller suggested those lights could be synchronized to facilitate traffic flow as well as pedestrian safety. Kingston said existing lights are about 20 years out of date and so unable to accommodate the computer technology needed to synchronize them.

Caven Enterprises President Gregg Kilhoffer suggested an ordinance that would make it illegal for a car to drive through a crosswalk while warning lights are flashing. He said signs should also warn drivers to stop when the lights are flashing.

Although pedestrians haven’t been hit recently, many near-misses have been reported when drivers speed up rather than stop at crosswalks with flashing lights. Pierce suggested that while some of it is simply drivers in a hurry, some of it might also be “the malicious factor” because of the nature of the neighborhood.

While the plan to narrow the street took into account the most recent traffic study done in 2011, about 4,000 new apartment units have opened or are about to open within a few blocks of the strip.

The alternate plan includes four blocks — from Reagan Street to Wycliff Avenue — and focuses more on sidewalks and landscaping.

Several merchants mentioned the idea of marking the area from Oak Lawn Avenue to Wycliff as an entertainment district with markers similar to those used in Uptown and the Design District. Currently, pillars, an arch over the street or the simpler markers that neighboring districts have, are not in any of the plans.

Kingston suggested planning might have to start over because there was no consensus on what the neighborhood wanted.

The day after the meeting, Medrano said he was going to talk to city staff. He said he’d like to look at the second option that doesn’t realign the street.

He said he wasn’t optimistic about adding traffic lights, but there are portions of the plan that could move forward. Sidewalks near the Melrose Hotel and near Wycliff Street need repair. Everyone agreed additional landscaping would add to the street’s ambiance and has the effect of slowing traffic. He said other items from that plan might be possible to proceed with as well.

“We’ll call another community meeting and go from there,” he said.


The Centrum undergoing major overhaul   


For years, The Centrum has loomed over The Strip. Now the nature of the building and its occupants is changing. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Despite plenty of free retail parking underneath The Centrum, stores and restaurants have rarely succeeded in the 19-story building at the corner of Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road.

New owners of the building plan to change that.

The building sold about six months ago and the new owners plan to turn the lower floors into a small shopping mall.

Some offices on lower floors may also be affected.

The popular Tex-Mex restaurant Mattito’s moved into The Centrum in January 2014, breaking through the building’s solid stone exterior wall to add an outdoor eating area. In sketches showing the new plans for the building, Mattito’s is not shown, although the restaurant is likely to have signed a standard retail lease, which would be for at least five years.

What is included in the preliminary sketches are a Starbucks and a Target community store. Privately owned condos on the upper floors will not be affected.

— David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 8, 2015.