Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Garland Road improvement projects may face insurmountable obstacles

From what I gather, there's a group of folks, at the behest of former Dallas city councilman Gary Griffith. that wants to convert Garland Road into another McKinney Ave. This is not a new idea. Mr. Griffith's predecessor, Mary Poss, produced a lengthy "Garland Road Master Plan," and, when I was director of the chamber of commerce in that area, I and another group of individuals representing both businesses and residents along that corridor presented a vision for Garland Road to Theresa O'Donnell, director of the City of Dallas' Development Services Department, who was putting together the Forward Dallas plan at the time.

During that same time, a developer wanted to build a high-end, high-rise condominium project on the west side of Garland Road. Its highest floors would overlook White Rock Lake and would have a magnificent view of the downtown skyline. The plan was killed by residents in the neighborhood and its death gave me my first clue as to why any kind of Garland Road rejuvenation program is doomed to failure.

It wasn't that long ago -- in fact, during my lifetime (although I wasn't living here at the time) -- that the Garland Road area was considered a comparatively distant Dallas suburb. The residents east of the road still look at the area that way. They don't want urbanization creeping in, even though it is, now, an urban area, and they will fight with all their political will (and they have plenty of that) to make sure their section of the city bears no resemblance to an actual city.

But there's another problem. The entire stretch of the corridor north of the White Rock spillway is dry. That's why there are no decent restaurants along Garland Road.

Texas did not allow liquor by the drink until the legislature approved a constitutional amendment in 1970 allowing local option elections. (When former Texas Gov. John Connally tried to convince the National Association of Homebuilders to hold its annual convention in Texas -- a convention that draws 50,000 delegates -- he was rebuffed. The NAHB said it was never come to a state "so uncivilized that a person couldn't even buy a drink.")

Voters statewide still had to approve the amendment in November 1970 and those in Dallas, Fort Worth, Wichita Falls and most of the state from Waco north voted solidly against, swayed for the most part by a campaign led by the Baptist Church that warned liquor by the drink would lead to more highway deaths, alcoholism and divorce. However, voters from Houston, San Antonio and South Texas voted solidly for it and the amendment narrowly passed.

Dallas voters passed a local option for certain precincts in 1971. Up until then, you couldn't find a really good restaurant in Dallas, but liquor by the drink changed all that. In fact, it was that same year that Mariano Martinez opened his first restaurant Dallas offering his patented frozen margaritas. And, on the culinary front, it's been, for the most part, uphill from there.

Of course, there are restaurants in dry areas of Dallas that serve liquor by the drink under the state's loose private club laws, but those restaurants are mostly the uninspired chain affairs like Olive Garden, Cheddars, Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, etc. Look what adopting liquor by the drink did for the City of Addison.

But getting liquor by the drink for the Garland Road corridor, from what I understand, is not that simple a chore because that decision can't be made just by the people in that area. It has to be at least a city-wide petition drive and election and that could be a dicey proposition, considering how those in Oak Cliff so closely protect their area as no-liquor-by-the-zone.

So without liquor by the drink and the residents of Forrest Hills, Little Forest Hills and Casa Linda realizing they actually live in a city, any plan to economically and visually rejuvenate Garland Road will remain at a standstill. Just ask Mary Poss: Her Garland Road Master Plan passed the city Council almost 20 years ago and has gathered nothing but dust since then.


Amy Severson said...

There is a high hidden cost associated with "Club" liquor sales in that the seller cannot purchase their alcohol from a wholesaler, but must purchase from a licensed retailer. Costs range from 5-60% higher for their goods. Additionally, they must maintain a 1/3-2/3 alcohol-to-food sales, basically eliminating any upscale wine bars.

Our neighborhood chain retailers went to the expense to collect signatures to put the wet/dry issue up to a vote for North and East Dallas. A state judge and our county elected officials essentially eliminated the public's right to vote on the subject. http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/tv/stories/DN-alcohol_30met.ART.State.Edition1.4d52d96.html

Many of our neighboring suburbs have had this wet election allowing small businesses to open without the additional purchasing and regulatory costs. This makes them more appealing for new entrepreneurs seeking their dream. And it gives them a competitive price advantange when the costs for their product are much lower. It also gives these municipalities busy restaurants and higher sales tax revenues.

Anonymous said...

and the opposition of Forest Hills et al is why we don't have mass transit where it would have made sense -- on the rail line. So look at the map -- all of East Dallas loses on transit, the line goes to Mockingbird and then East instead of the more natural alignment on the tracks that are now a trail.