Archive for the ‘Businesses’ Category

Central Market: Service from a Bygone Era

April 19, 2010

As my friends know, I love to cook and I love to eat.  Like many self-proclaimed foodies, I shop at Central Market on Lovers Lane.  On Sunday I bought a package of ground beef at CM that didn’t seem fresh once I opened it.  I saved it and took it back to the store on Monday morining.

After the explaining the situation to Jocelyn, the customer service attendant, she apologized countless times and gave me a refund.  At my request she called for someone in the meat department, who also apologized upon inspecting the package.

A special thanks to Eric in CM’s meat department.  Not only was my money refunded, but at my request he opened another package of ground beef that I randomly picked as we discussed the situation.  Then insisted on giving me not one, but two free pacakges of ground beef (shown here on my stove).  Keep in mind that this was after my money was refunded.  Now that’s service!

There are always lots of complaint-related blog posts out there regarding poor service or bad food experiences, so I thought I would share one that has a good ending. Kudos to Central Market and two special employees for their great handling of an unfortunate situation.

Towing & Booting Revisions are a Good Idea

February 10, 2010

Today the City Council voted, by an 11-4 margin, to change the ordinance involving booting of cars in parking lots.

While the previous ordinance was only in effect in Deep Ellum (downtown lot operators had another six months), today’s vote expanded the rule citywide that prohibits booting of vehicles in parking lots that do not provide drivers a receipt.  In addition, it also eliminated video audits as an alternative to providing parking fee receipts.

Because of the way parking lot operators and tow truck companies have been running their businesses, I have started a practice of only parking at meters.  As much as I dislike nighttime parking meters, at least I know that I won’t return to my car with a boot on it (or towed and missing altogether). 

In my opinion, this should have been done the first time; I didn’t see the reason for changing the law in Deep Ellum and giving Downtown lot owners an additional six months.  It didn’t take too much deductive reasoning to figure out that the next move would be to take the shady practices a few blocks west of Deep Ellum, a practice which was outlined extensively in recent weeks.

Apparently, the owner of Hawkeye Towing came to speak at City Council.  He claimed that his business would be in jeopardy and that he’s a good operator; in my opinion what he calls a business should be in jeopardy. Fortunately his crocodile tears didn’t sway anyone.  Here’s their BBB listing (h/t to Travis from Pegasus). I didn’t see the video, so I can’t confirm if it was this this guy from Hawkeye or not. 

I’ve been in lots “attended to” by Hawkeye Towing.  After a friend’s car was booted after a show in Deep Ellum we decided to turn the tables on this company.  The boot guy tried to talk tough in the beginning, but once a couple of us whipped out our cell phone cameras and recorded the shady event everything got real polite and calm.  The boot was removed from my friend’s car.

To this day, I haven’t figured out why lots in the West End have receipt machines but it is oh-so-difficult for these same owners to install such machines downtown and in Deep Ellum. But that’s an argument for another day.

Today was a victory for businesses and patrons, and a tear jerker for the ripoff artists.  We must continue to stay vigilant and keep a watchful eye out for and shady practices.  Keep those cell phone cameras charged.  On to the next one.

My Current Take on Southwest Center Mall

June 29, 2009

A lot has been written lately about Southwest Center Mall. A $120,000 study has been commissioned and presented. Shawn Williams wrote an article for DMagazine. Numerous editorials from various newspapers have been published. I’m not sure if people are going to like what I like to say about the mall, but that’s life.

I’ve been writing about the mall since I started Dallas Progress.

One thing that has to be done, no matter whose feathers get ruffled, is to face facts about the area around the mall. The area around the mall is in shambles.

I don’t feel safe in this area; that is why I have decided to move my family from this neighborhood. The main reason that stores have left is one of the same reasons that I am leaving. All of the writing, trying to expose various issues in this neighborhood, has been for naught. We still don’t get the proper help over here.

Some may feel that I am giving up on this area. All I can say is that I lived it.

All of the police attention in this area goes to the neighborhood east of 67 which includes the Chaucer Place neighborhood. Of course, that is inside the South Central Police division which is led by the magnificent Deputy Chief Sherryl Scott. The west side of 67 (Marvin D Love Freeway) is a different police division.

The only time we had any type of consistent patrols was when Pastor Rickie Rush put together an informal patrol of hundreds of men and dozens of vehicles from IBOC Church. They were the best security we ever had in this area.

While we spent $120,000 for the study of the mall, my buddy Shawn Williams gave you a lot of similar insight for the $5 cost of DMagazine. The study does go into more depth, but the basic premise is the same.

My take is a little different. I feel that putting a lot of money into the mall, and only the mall, is a mistake. When you look at the Urban Land Institute (ULI) study (warning: this is a 15MB PDF so it may take time to download), it draws comparisons to Prestonwood Mall. I can understand that; but what it shows is that the two areas are starkly different in terms of income, worker traffic, and spending power. Instead of the city putting $50+ million (as it has been suggested) into one shopping mall, I would rather it gets spread through a bunch of small centers all over southern Dallas.

With respect to Southwest Center Mall, several opportunities were missed. We know that the retail moved to Cedar Hill. It moved there because the city didn’t support former Councilman James Fantroy’s attempts to revitalize the mall between 2003-2006. For example, he tried to put a new Target and a movie theater in and around the vacant JC Penney space to jumpstart redevelopment but the numbers wouldn’t work without city help. As a result, Inland Southwest began to develop a new center at Hampton & Wheatland which includes the Target store that opened in March of 2008.

Some have suggested that we should consider turning Southwest Center Mall into an outlet mall. However, our chance at the outlet mall opportunity has come and gone. In the past year,Grand Prairie snagged an outlet mall that will be next to I20 & 360 owned by Prime Outlets (the same owner as the one in San Marcos), and another got announced for another city farther north (Irving, I think).

You will never get the income parameters you need to bring the stores that you want until you solve the number one problem around the mall. Again, it goes back to neighborhood safety. You have to start the revitalization by tearing down of some of the apartment complexes in the area.

All of the good businesses are leaving the Mall area, most of the reason is that the business owners and potential customers are constantly robbed and assaulted by criminals in the area. As an example of the issues around here, Pizza Hut won’t even deliver to apartment complexes in our neighborhood.

Some apartment operators work to maintain their properties, keep gates in working order, and make sure that they don’t house criminals. Many do not.

One way these thugs get around background checks is to date a female with a decent job and get the apartment in her name. Then, the thug moves in and here comes the crime. The girl then is scared to kick him out because she has been threatened to keep quiet, and the apartment complex does nothing about it. This happens more than you think.

Some of the worst offenders in the area are below. The good tenants are held hostage in the complexes by the thugs and crime element that certain owners refuse to eradicate.

(the crime numbers for 2009 are from January 1st-June 29th)

  • Whispering Hollow – 6910 S Cockrell Hill Road (100 crimes in 2008, 52 in 2009). Owners are based out of California.
  • Redbird Trails – 3636 W Red Bird – again, the owners are based in California. There is always a line of cars outside the gates because they are always broken. Usually a lot of people walking in and out. You can see the drug traffic.
  • Arborstone – 6500 S Cockrell Hill Rd (58 crimes in 2008, 26 in 2009). Check out this stellar review from apartment

I wouldn’t recommend this place to my worst enemy. First off, there is always trash and broken bottles everywhere. People sit outside and drink beer and smoke weed and nobody does anything. Maintenance doesn’t fix a thing.

They will fix the easiest thing that needs to be fixed and leave the other things broke.

The security guards are a joke. They had some really bad ones before that just flirted and hung out, but now they have “invisible” ones that you never see. Oh, except from when they are sleep in their cars. The office staff are not helpful at all, the only one worth something is Deon who works on the weekends. The manager is mean and could care less about the residents. They can’t answer your questions, you have to keep calling to get any help, they don’t listen to you, but they are quick to put a notice on your door about the smallest fees like a $2.00 fee. I am writing a formal complaint to the owners.

People say they were improving because they evicted some of the drugs dealers here, but what about the other things. The crazy man who walks around and harasses the women in building 11 and 10 whenever he hasn’t taken his pills. The random gunshots. The half man/woman hooker that does its business out of the empty apartments. You mean to tell me I know all this and the office staff doesn’t. So sad. I cannot wait until my lease is up so I can move

Other complexes should also be considered. A check of the crime records or apartment reviews will show similar reports. They include:

  • Park Village -7575 S. Westmoreland – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Harbors – 7550 S. Westmoreland – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Cielo Ranch – 3829 Gannon Lane – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Broadmoor – 3900 Investor Dr – Dallas, TX 75237
  • Brookfield Apts – 4060 Preferred Pl -Dallas, TX 75237

Add in the motels along I-20, and it adds up to a recipe for disaster if left unchecked.

The model for this area should be based on what was done along Skillman. Yes there is a TIF called Skillman Corridor, but most of the developments received no TIF money. In fact, the only major development that received funding was the Lake Highlands Town Center ($23 million for a $350 million development). The total amount of non-TIF related development in this area: $300 million.

Retail developers will return once they see strong signs that the area is changing. Until then, we’ll be writing these types of articles and blog posts for years to come.

The First Ads from Vote No! aka Build the Hotel

April 8, 2009

We have ads too! And they feature people that live in Dallas!

It’s on! And the case will be made over the next 31 days as to why you should vote no on Propositions 1 and 2. Link to Vote NO – Keep Dallas working!

Here’s the ad:

Victory Park: They Finally Caught Up

January 28, 2009

I have seen no less than three articles in the last month killing Victory Park. Funny thing, I was writing the same thing two years ago; so were others. Gary Cohen of PegasusNews and I both wrote pieces on this exact subject in March 2007 (although I wasn’t as prescient as Gary to correctly predict the demise of some of the tenants). Cary Darling of the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram had a similar piece in April of that year. Here are a couple of paragraphs from the piece I wrote:

Victory would be smarter to put some reasonably priced choices in that area. Then what you would have (along with the occasional high-rollers) is a consistent client base that would bring a family down to Victory, and then the husband and wife could splurge with a night on the town sans kiddos from time to time. That’s a client base.

I could be wrong, and I bet this area continues to flourish in some capacity (read: for someone other than the developers). But it may ensure a quality earnings stream by showing a kind nod to the not-so-rich.

Victory is an easy target, but none of these articles break any new ground compared to what was written in early 2007.

On an up note, there are some good things on the horizon from a City budget standpoint. At the end of 2012, the Sports Arena TIF (the real name for the Victory Park TIF) expires and that tax money will flow into the city’s general coffers instead of recirculating in the Victory area. That’s big.

The current real estate market is tough, so I doubt that we will see much new construction in the near future. The units at Cirque are a little pricey ($1,600 for 700 SF to $2,800 and up for a penthouse) and the Vista starts at $1,100 for 670 SF. Cirque has some of the hottest looking rental units in the city. If you know anything about real estate development, new units with hot views cost money. You can’t live in it for cheap; that’s life.

But wouldn’t it be cool to get some more moderately-priced housing options in that area? Jefferson at the North End always seems to be pretty leased up ($800 for a 1br to $1,500 for a huge 1,700 SF 2-bedroom). I remember almost moving to the North End when I first got to Dallas, but I couldn’t operate a home office and be close to that much ongoing construction (the W was just getting started at the time).

I looked at a unit in the Terrace (the mid-rise, for-sale condo building), and while it had a great view it was pretty straightforward. Still, there’s not many new units in the city that you can get for around $200K. The Terrace has several of them.

I will say once again what I said two years ago: once more companies office in Victory, and as more moderately-priced food and shopping options come online the area will rebound. Oddly enough, the Chili’s at AAC is often packed.

Victory Park is a beautiful district, and the city will need multiple types of districts to thrive in the future. One example is the Design District in which more housing units are being built as we speak on the other side of I-35.

It’s also not just about Victory Park being new and built from scratch, compared to an existing neighborhood like Knox-Henderson. That’s being shortsighted. It’s about creating the events that make people want to hang out when there’s nothing else going on. The Nasher Sculpture Center is also considered to be a great piece of modern architecture like Victory and not “organic,” but whenever they have movie night during the summer or host their “Target First Saturdays” the place is packed with families.

The area will always hold a special place for me because of the fun I had there a few months back, and from being a season ticket holder for a while. Remember back when you could park at a meter a block from AAC and hit the game? Oh the memories!

I want Victory Park to succeed, and I’m sure many others feel the same way. In terms of long-term viability, Victory Park is far from dead. All things in time.

Lessons in the MillerCoors Loss

July 16, 2008

As you may have heard, MillerCoors chose Chicago over Dallas for their new HQ (story broken locally by Candy at DMag’s DallasDirt). They will be located in downtown Chicago.

The DMN wrap-up shows that while we will win some of the battles, there are issues on which we must continue to focus as a city. These are some of the factors cited in picking Chi-town:

  • Chicago’s “vibrant, 24-hour” central business district
  • Broad options of affordable housing with easy commutes.
  • Economic incentives to help offset “considerable” relocation costs.

Dallas is improving but we must continue to make ourselves a better competitor on a national and global stage. It will not only make us more attractive to companies seeking to relocate, but will also make us a better city.

The Call to Invest is Deafening

December 3, 2007

In the last few weeks, there have been multiple articles on the disparity of investment in southern Dallas compared to North Dallas. Here are some of my favorites:

Rufus Shaw’s community editorial in the Dallas Morning News: “Where is southern Dallas’ share?” (link).

My article in the December issue of D Magazine (link).

“The Dreams of Tomorrow” editorial in the DMN (link).

The voices will get louder. It’s not going away.

New Blood on the Way

September 17, 2007

I wanted to say congratulations to my buddy Tiffinni Young who will be representing District Four on the Park Board. She’s under 30 years old. Also, I will be representing District Four on the City Plan Commission. Mentorship and opening up opportunities is very important if this City is to grow and develop; thanks to Dwaine Caraway for seeing the value in such a practice. Former Councilman James Fantroy and Council Assistant Mary Hasan gave me my first shot at Dallas board leadership years ago, and I will always appreciate that.

Thank you to all of the City of Dallas employees and City Council members that have wished me well and offered advice and encouragement.

You see, a lot of the people that you see hating in Black Dallas have no youth in their corner. I may be in my 30s but in the political arena I am one of the younger active people on the scene.

They are more interested in doing what I call “passing the torch sideways” to each other instead of mentoring and training new leaders and exposing them to what really happens in the political and business worlds. They have found themselves on the outside looking in, so they have no choice but to throw stones hoping that someone hears their catcalls. They don’t represent the Black community they represent their little clique, and with the progress going on (without them) people are becoming wiser. The clique cannot control the message that comes out of the community anymore, for there are now multiple voices with theirs taking a backseat. Maybe they should grab the key of the torch they’ve had handcuffed to their arm for decades, and pass that torch to someone else.

I have also talked to some elected officials and other leaders that are trying to find some young people to groom. That is commendable as well. Lead by actions, and let the chips fall where they may. If it doesn’t go your way, remain classy.

The world is turning, and people are seeing what’s going on. They don’t believe you anymore.

June 17, 2007

7/11 Needs to Get it Together

Shawn Williams of Dallas South reports on the ridiculous store conditions at Kiest & Polk. Quick question, does your 7/11 look like this?

If anyone from 7-Eleven Stores Inc. reads this blog, contact me so we can get this fixed. It’s store #27646 at 1102 W. Kiest.