Archive for the ‘Retail’ Category

Sign Blight Ordinance is Needed

November 12, 2009
This week  has brought news that the City of Dallas is being sued to fight the sign blight ordinance that was enacted last year. Apparently the plaintiffs feel that their free speech is being violated, when the reality is that the city is trying to clean up its neighborhoods.  Corporations like 7/11 have their own store rules and do not permit excessive covering of windows, and it would be nice if all stores would follow suit and clean up a bit.
When you go downtown to Neiman Marcus, they don’t have 10 signs papering the windows. You know what Neiman’s is offering inside. Well, the same theory should apply to stores and businesses throughout the city. Sharon Grigsby of the DMN states need need for such an ordinance here.
I know that the City Attorney’s office is confident that this case can be defended. This ordinance took quite a long time to be presented to City Council to make sure it would stand against the inevitable lawsuits by various groups.
Dallas’ ordinance leaves ample opportunity for businesses to promote at their location. I’m glad the city is deciding to fight. For neighborhoods like Oak Cliff, South Dallas, and others, such an ordinance is needed.

Let Oak Cliff Development Move Forward

August 9, 2009

After years of dealing with an overabundance of car lots, motels, and boarded up buildings, the Fort Worth Corridor is in a stage of redevelopment and revitalization. The Belmont Hotel, as well as the Cliff Cafe (currently under renovation and rebranding) and the Salón Las Américas center have sparked the rebirth of this once-forgotten area.

Project Luke is the name for a highly-anticipated mixed-use development which will stretch from I-30 to Fort Worth Avenue along Sylvan. It has the makings of the type of development the city had in mind when we got our Form-Based Zoning framework approved; moving buildings farther out towards the street and parking behind the buildings vs. having a sea of parking along the street. The most important piece of this development is the plan for a 30,000 SF +/- site at the I-30 frontage road & Sylvan. Such a footprint would accommodate a mid-size grocery store or an organic grocery like Newflower or Whole Foods. Plans also include loft/studio spaces.

Unfortunately, the entire development is now at risk. There is a major roadblock which is impeding the continued revitalization of this corridor. The issue at hand is the county-owned land that is needed for this development, located at the corner of Sylvan & Fort Worth Avenues (map). Here is a recent picture of county auto shop from DCAD:

According to the news article, a land swap was proposed because State law doesn’t allow the county to sell directly to a private party. For now, the county commissioners are balking at the proposed swap and instead vote to have an appraisal completed at a maximum cost of $12,300 to determine the land value.

All of the commissioners quoted seem to be focusing on the value of the land. The underground fuel tanks were also mentioned; I’m sure the developer realizes that tanks will have to be addressed.

Curiously, there is no quote from County Commissioner Ken Mayfield, who represents the area in which the auto shop is located.

While the county does have a responsibility to make a good deal for the taxpayer, it is not a good idea to risk major developments whose benefits far outweigh the amount of additional upfront value that the county can receive form the developer. The increased tax dollars generated (from its current level of zero) base would also be a benefit.

There are plenty of other places to locate this shop. As noted by Shannon Brown, the assistant Commissioners Court administrator, many auto dealerships are closing. There is also no shortage of service station/repair shops that are closed on which such a county facility could be located.
I’m also not sure if the shop must be located in Oak Cliff.

To me, this land arrangement should not be viewed as a cash cow for the county. It should be treated as an opportunity to bring needed retail and services to this part of Dallas, and one that should be welcomed with opened arms.

Suggestions for Urban Market

June 17, 2009

A lot has been made about the recent changes to Urbanmarket with respect to the downsizing of the store and rumors that the store may close. Keep in mind that I am referring to the downtown location, not the one in the Cedars.

For those of us that visit Urbanmarket, you know that the cafe has been closed and that reports indicate that the non-food offerings may be scaled back.

I think it’s a great concept and a business that is definitely needed for downtown to thrive.

While many have speculated on what the market needs to do to be more successful, I have found multiple suggestions among my blogging friends:

More after the jump.

1. Marketing. Several people I know work downtown and said they’ve never seen any info about the market at their offices, and most co-workers don’t know that it exists. I’ve also been to several high-rises downtown and none of the leasing agents mentioned Urbanmarket as an amenity. These two groups are your customer base and represent major dollars if catered to in a major way.

From a friend:

Well as good as Urban Market says its doing, they should do more to make themselves known to the apartment buildings downtown. Every time I’m in there it seems like every person walking out is going to the Power & Light Building or the Interurban building itself. I’d venture that there might be a good portion of people that live downtown in buildings north of Commerce that don’t know about the Grocery or have misconceptions about it.

They should institute an online ordering system. The store is slightly cumbersome to navigate because things are crammed wherever they can get 2 ft of shelf space and not easily found unless you ask or take time to search. The online ordering would be unique and truly make it a quick seamless process of shopping.

The bottom line is a majority of people don’t shop there that live downtown, and short of sitting in Pegasus square during downtown special events, the store does nothing to promote itself.

As far as advertising, I agree. I know of a person who just now found out Urban Market is in the downtown area. He has lived here for over a year.

(note: I did find that they offer a personal shopping service on their website)

2. Prices. While I don’t expect prices to be at the level of Target or Wal-Mart, several people I know shop at the 7-11 or CVS for many items because the price difference is significant between those stores and Urbanmarket.

A friend chimes in:

I have to say, I am not surprised they are struggling. Their service has always been lacking. CVS seems to be doing well and so does the 7-11. Urban Market’s price structure seems to have always been on the greedy side.

Lets take Horizon Milk for example – $4.69/carton? Lets compare it to Central Market (not Walmart).

CM price is $3.39 (UM is 38% higher – can you believe that?).

Even CVS which is not a grocery store, their price is $ 3.99 (UM is 17% higher) – Also downtown!

I think they are just bad at running a business. They opened in Southside and have just expanded their store to include an entire section for more beer and wine and now closing a similar section in the main store?

You can expect to pay 7% to 10% more in a store like UM, any more and people will learn to buy their groceries elsewhere – and they have.

3. New competition. Newflower Farmers Market opened in March in the old Carnival Space on Henderson, and while they are still working out the kinks they have cool things happening that keep you shopping. For example: on Wednesdays Newflower honors the new sales circular as well as the one from the previous week. I know that this is a different neighborhood but many downtown residents do have cars so this store is a viable option.

4. Selection. One blogging friend wrote the following:

I have to say their meat selection is bare boned sometimes nonexistent. The cuts of meat are either top sirloin or hefty priced Filet Mignon. To find a rib eye is rare. I shop at the market for the occasional dinners I cook.

I don’t bother with any menu planning because, in the past, I found they didn’t have everything I needed in stock. So…why is this? You can’t blame it all on the economy…we all need to eat, after all.

So either they are not pricing appropriately or not keeping adequate inventory…or both. As far as getting rid of the wine/beer/snacks and freezer section that doesn’t make any sense…period. They can’t say they don’t move those types of product. Now toiletries etc…maybe they can reduce some inventory.

I’d be willing to bet that someone is more likely to hop into the store to get a bottle of wine to take to a friend’s place or to go with their dinner vs stopping in to pick up some household cleaner or a bar of soap.

More thoughts:

The people there are nice, but the culture in Dallas does not fit that model, even Downtown. For some reason Downtown/Uptown residents prefer Albertsons and the Walmart Neighborhood Store.

However, the 7-11 model (while not a super market) is viable. There is a new 7-11 in my building open 24 hrs and they seem to be operating at a steady pace…. Read More

Since I’ve been in Dallas, “they’ve” been saving Urban Market – WHY? Let someone come in who can make money. Harsh words … but look at our Auto Industry. Let the market decide.

Why are there Bodegas on every corner in Brooklyn? Why are there so many Beauty Salons in Flatbush? because the market supports it.

Perhaps for the Cafe a Starbucks Business Model may work (isn’t it separate anyway?). The only thing I consistently go in that building for is the bank. I use the Dallas Federal Credit Union.

The Urban Market is convenient and is even within Walking distance from me … Yet I overlook it.

I didn’t write this piece to bash Urbanmarket. I ate there when it first opened and I have gone back from time to time. I wanted to offer suggestions from actual customers which might help the store.

I’m really rooting for this store to succeed. The resident base is growing downtown as well as the number of corporate relocations. If the store can hang on and make a few adjustments, success should be just around the corner.

More than A Grocery Store in Oak Cliff (with Video)

June 10, 2009

Yesterday was a great day in Oak Cliff. The Save A Lot grocery store had its official ribbon cutting for the brand new Save-a-Lot store at the Crest Shopping Center in the 2600 Block of Lancaster (map). Note: the Google street view also shows how it looked before the renovation.

Dwaine and I, along with the Mayor, city staff, neighbors, and the shopping center developer have been working on this for nearly two years. We were first looking at putting the store across the street from its current location. Everyone settled on keeping the store in the shopping center. The neighbors’ input was used in creating the store, from the items stocked on the shelves and beyond.

Save A Lot is an important part of this community. In these times, Save A Lot provides the opportunity for a family to get a healthy, balanced meal for $5. Compared to buying fast food every night for dinner because it’s cheap, a void is being filled in this neighborhood. People couldn’t wait to get into the store, as you can see people pushing carts by us even as the press conference progressed.

One major bonus: Save A Lot donated 5,000 pounds of food to the North Texas Food Bank! According to one of their reps that translates into 100 full carts of groceries for needy families at a time when donations are shrinking.

As I have said from the beginning, this is bigger than just a new grocery store.

In the process, the new store also provided us an opportunity to get rid of the asbestos filled theater that was on the north side of the center. The theater had been vacant for years and could not be rented due to the aforementioned issues. Now there’s a new grocery store in its place.

Mickey’s Catfish, owned by Vincent Hall, has just opened in the last couple of months. The mall and the neighborhood has a lot more energy now vs. before Dwaine took office.

You will also see that the entire mall is undergoing an extensive renovation and repaving, which was spearheaded by everyone working with the owners of the center as part of our Lancaster Road Initiative.

One of the comments that struck me the most were the ones made by Rick Meyer from Save A Lot:

“I’d like to take Dwaine on some road shows with me, (and) teach some folks in other communities what it’s all about to be a good partner.”

A comment like that makes it all worthwhile. When you see the various articles and conferences held with respect to what Southern Dallas needs to bring growth and development, this is what it’s all about. You can say it and claim you’re a leader all day long, but just like a World Series Championship baseball team you need a starter and a closer. We have that in our Mayor and Dwaine. This is one of the reason that I’m glad they’re both in office and in leadership positions on City Council. In his remarks, the Mayor also hinted at another store to be announced for District Four pretty soon!

This store and center will always be special to me. It’s where Dwaine’s campaign office was located when he first took office. The neighborhood was promised that this center would be a catalyst for positive change in that part of Oak Cliff and along Lancaster Road. I can’t count the number of nights we walked the center hoping that we could someday be a part of its turnaround. It’s here, but there’s more to come. The work is not done, but we’re moving in the right direction.

Video is below:

Remarks from from Rick Meyer, Vice President of Save-A-Lot.

Remarks from Vanessa Foster from Save-A-Lot and Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert.

Remarks from Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway.

Remarks from Cathy Misko and Vanessa Foster of Save A Lot and officials from the North Texas Food Bank.

Summer’s Coming – Time to Hang Out!

June 1, 2009

With Memorial day in the rear view mirror, it’s time to fully embrace Dallas.

In the last few weeks I have done a lot of things in and around Dallas. I’ve eaten at Screen Door, ALÓ, Royal Thai, and other spots. I’ve done some hiking at the Cedar Ridge Preserve, hung out at the Loft at Gilleys, and taken in the view of our skyline from Oak Cliff to the top of the Mercantile (see the header pic of this blog).

We have a lot to do in this town. Now that it’s summer, it’s time to go sit out on the lawn at Nasher and take in a movie or two as we did last year. I’m really looking forward to the completion of Main Street Gardens (though it’s a little ways from being open), which replaced a hideous block of buildings in the middle of downtown. The Dallas CityArts festival is coming in two weekends.

Until I saw the news on Saturday, I completely forgot about the 7-acre park in the Arts District that will be completed in four months. And there’s much more to do than I’ve listed. By the way, several of the things I’ve listed are FREE!

Life is what you make it. Dallas has a lot to see and do, don’t let it pass you by!

Tweeting for Food

May 13, 2009

Nancy Nichols of D Magazine (whose food recommendations have made me look good on more than one occasion) found this article in WaPo. It’s about a food truck that tweets its location as it moves through the city.

This is the kind of cool stuff that I want to make its way to Dallas. Tell me: would you sign up for tweets for lunch? I know a few restaurants that send out their specials via Twitter, so to me this is the next step.

Hot Dog Vendors = A Real Downtown

May 12, 2009

I saw this article in the paper, where a local restaturant owner is trying to get rid of a hot dog vendor that’s on the corner of Main and Ervay.

Vinny Navarro, the cart owner, got a permit from the city. He followed the rules.

Maybe the restaurant owner should think about it this way: someone walks by on their lunch break to get a hot dog…while waiting, they notice the restaurant and make note to check out the restaurant for dinner. Everybody wins!

According to the article, Vinny even sells hot dogs until 3am on club nights. To me, that’s genius. Back home, when the clubs let out there are certain food places that get tons of business. Go by a Williams Chicken at 2am and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

We were real excited when we saw the hot dog vendor on Main. To us, It’s a sign that downtown is growing and foot traffic is increasing to the point where someone is trying to make a living as a vendor. You want a “real” downtown? Well, a real downtown includes vendors along with sidewalk musicians and people like that.

As long as no one is down there selling gold chains from the inside of their trench coat, I’m cool with it.

This is why You should Vote No

May 6, 2009

You know my track record. For years I have been standing up for you and making sure that your voice is being heard at City Hall.

Let me tell you about my journey to Dallas. I looked at cities all around the country, and after going to school in Atlanta I knew I wanted to be somewhere vibrant, progressive and on the move. So I moved here.

Just like you, I did not pick up my entire life to move somewhere dead and stagnant. A lot of you are in the same boat. We could live anywhere, and we chose Dallas and have stayed in Dallas. A lot of folks that are from Dallas have stayed here for the same reason. We are in this fight together!

This is a long post but I have to make sure you fully understand what’s going on here. These are important issues and crucial times.

So let’s get down to business:

This is about two propositions on the ballot that both jeopardize the future of this city. Proposition 1 is about the hotel. Proposition 2 is about limiting the city’s ability to attract and recruit companies.

WHY VOTE NO (instead of Vote Yes):

There has been a lot of confusion as what “Vote No” means and what “Vote Yes” means. It’s set up this way because the people against us are the ones that wrote these propositions. It’s meant to confuse people into voting YES because a lot of us support these projects and this city moving forward.

In this case, vote no means you are for Dallas moving forward.

Let’s look at the hotel first:

If you Vote No, the city will be allowed to help finance the building of hotels within the city of Dallas.

The other side and their $5 million are claiming that hotels are empty, and we shouldn’t do it. You do have to wonder why someone that owns a hotel would spent $5 million if they thought the hotel wouldn’t be a success.

Well, 30 Dallas hotels are supporting Vote No. The hotels that are closest to the location to the Convention Center support it, including the Hyatt Regency and the Adolphus Hotel.

Why? Well if a convention brings 10,000 room nights, and the convention hotel has just 1,000 rooms guess where else they stay? The other hotels!

Here’s a question that I see often: If it’s such a great deal, why doesn’t someone build it privately? The answer is twofold: The city can get a lower interest rate than a private company. The threshold for private industry and their cost of capital is different than the city. Also, the city cares about the overall tax base as well as the economic impact and revenue generated, which is something a private developer doesn’t care about. It’s that simple.

People can say it’s the wrong time to build, but Denver built theirs in 2001 right after 9/11 when it was said that people won’t fly anymore. Denver’s hotel is profitable.

The anti’s also keep comparing Dallas to St. Louis, whose hotel has gone into foreclosure. The difference between Dallas and St. Louis has already been addressed on this blog.

Remember: we lost the Dallas Cowboys, the Texas Motor Speedway, and other things because we bent to people that didn’t want development. What the anti-hotel people aren’t telling you is that in the last 5 years we have lost conventions and tons of money because we don’t have an attached convention center hotel. We have lost conventions that would have brought in $1.5 billion of economic impact.

We cannot attract large conventions if we don’t have an attached convention hotel, and it’s for weather days just like we’ve had the last few weeks. Nobody wants to walk three blocks to a convention in the rain or in 90-degree heat with all of their books and packages. That’s why we’re losing. If you look at the list, the reason next to almost every “decline” of Dallas being chosen is lack of attached Convention Center Hotel.

If we can’t bring in tourists to generate revenue, then we have to make up the difference through higher taxes. Wouldn’t you rather have tourists help pay for what we need?

We are already in the hotel business at DFW airport with the Hyatt – and it’s successful. The DFW Hyatt was financed the same way as our proposed hotel, but not one peep from any anti-hotel people. Why is that? We’ve been waiting for the response for months.

If convention center hotels aren’t needed how can places like the Gaylord Hotel & Convention Center, in the middle of nothing but an outlet mall and a Bass Pro Shop, charge higher rates than those proposed for the Dallas Convention Center hotel? I know. A couple of months ago, we paid more than $200 a night to stay at the Gaylord for a retreat. The food was expensive. The parking was expensive. We still paid it, and I’m sure the City of Grapevine appreciated the revenue.

I found it strange that the anti’s have always said that the Mayor made it personal, when it was the Vote Yes side that immediately called the Mayor arrogant and has continued the name-calling throughout the campaign. However, notice that when it came time to debate in Southern Dallas last Sunday (the day before early voting), the event was ignored and they had to find someone to stand in at the last minute. The Mayor and the hotel supporters at City Council have been accessible to address questions and concerns.

I have to talk about the attacks on our Mayor and City Council. What kills me the most is that I see our Mayor and Deputy Mayor everywhere in the city trying to affect change! The Mayor said in his campaign and his inauguration speech that the hotel was a priority.

Consider some of the sources of most of the anti-hotel sentiment.

When you have so-called papers like the Observer chasing down the Dallas residents who are in the pro-hotel ads for quotes, I wonder if they did the same to the actors in the Vote Yes ads. We know the answer. Their whole existence for publishing seems to be to create an anti-campaign against Mayor Leppert, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Dwaine Caraway, and anyone else that supports southern Dallas. The campaign has been an epic FAIL so far. After the elected officials, the Observer went after the Black churches. It never stops.

One Dallas Observer political writer lives in Frisco, and the other thinks southern Dallas is a third-world slum. Why is this important? Because if the area that you live in has development and all of the things that other neighborhoods don’t have, why wouldn’t you want other areas to have a chance to thrive?

Such a campaign will continue to be an Epic FAIL as Caraway has no legit election competition and most people in southern Dallas continue to see the Mayor work and be seen in southern Dallas. The newspaper that gave us Laura Miller as Mayor is in no place to dictate who should be the Mayor, Deputy Mayor or any other elected position.


$500 million of economic impact is already on the hook if the hotel gets built – these are conventions that are definite if the hotel gets built! In addition, there is another $1.9 Billion in economic impact under consideration from other conventions based on the hotel being built. WE CAN’T AFFORD TO TURN OUR BACK ON THAT OPPORTUNITY!

The city is losing more business than the hotel would cost. Again, we have lost $1.5 Billion in economic impact because of the lack of an attached convention center hotel. $2.4 billion dollars of economic impact and $800 million in direct spending is waiting for us if we VOTE NO!

They also aren’t talking about the things that will go around the hotel, such as more restaurants and shops in this part of downtown. A minor-league baseball park on Industrial that wants to be there BECAUSE of the foot traffic and spending that will come with hotel visitors.

Also remember the jobs: 3,000 jobs during construction of the hotel. 800 permanent jobs, and the thousands of jobs at surrounding places as this part of downtown gets developed! The haters hold their nose at hotel jobs, but these jobs feed families.

If Prop 1 passes, then the city could be bound from doing any type of financing deal for a hotel which includes incentives. Prop 1 is so badly worded that this may be the case.

Is there a risk? Yes. There’s risk in anything, and there’s also reward. We have paid the price time and again for sitting on our hands.

Let’s look at Proposition Two:

Proposition 2 will require Dallas to conduct a citywide vote each time it wants to offer $1 million or more in subsidies to private developers of hotels, condominiums and retail facilities-when just 500 Dallas voters petition for such a vote.

No company or developer is going to wait until next May or November while we have an election. If we cannot help to finance economic development and recruiting of companies, this city will dry up.

Proposition 2 will prevent the city from being able to recruit companies and generate jobs and business in the same way as other cities.

This is a fight against business as usual.

In both cases, we have to decide if one small group is going to decide our future and the future of this city. I don’t want that, and if you’re willing to stand with me and with us, we can succeed.

We finally have a Mayor and City Council (well…most of them, anyway) that understands that to build a great city you must build south of I-30 as well as downtown.

We won’t be able to effectively bring back South Dallas, Oak Cliff, Pleasant Grove, and West Dallas if we don’t VOTE NO. How are we going to pay for it if we don’t VOTE NO?

Now that early voting is over, the election is May 9th.

I want you to vote and to get your friends to vote just like you did last November because it’s just that important. VOTE NO FOR YOUR FUTURE – VOTE NO and SAVE DALLAS.

Find your Election Day polling place

Demonstration of Touch Screen Voting Machine (Flash player required) (link)

Services Available to Voters with Special Needs in Texas (link)

Join Me and Save Dallas! Mega Event – Is Dallas Ready?

April 27, 2009

If you haven’t already heard, we are having a mega event to urge people to Vote NO and Save Dallas.


Vote No and Save Dallas!

When: Wednesday 4/29 – music starts at 4PM
City Hall Plaza
Akard and Young Street, at the fountain
Rally Location (Google Maps)

Add to your outlook calendar (link)

Many of you moved to Dallas and live here because of the opportunities available to you. You moved here because Dallas is a growing city.

Dallas has been losing everything of value to the suburbs.
*We lost the Cowboys to Arlington.
*Nokia Theatre is in Grand Prairie.
*The Texas Motor Speedway is in Fort Worth instead of on I-20 in Oak Cliff.
*Don’t you want to do things in Dallas?

More than $2.5 billion dollars of economic impact and $800 million in direct spending is waiting for us if we VOTE NO! One group is trying to prevent that from getting to Dallas.

If Dallas becomes less business-friendly, we lose. The economic future and opportunities of our generation depends on whether or not we VOTE NO!

We didn’t like the last Mayor because she shot down every project and now we have a Mayor with great ideas for a great city. We need to have his back!

Dallas will be become a ghost town.
We won’t be able to bring back and build up South Dallas, Oak Cliff, Pleasant Grove, and West Dallas unless we VOTE NO!

No more places in Dallas like West Village, Mockingbird Station, and Uptown.

If Dallas can’t bring big events to downtown, finance economic development, and recruit companies, this city will dry up! The more we lose, the more jobs leave Dallas, and the less opportunity you have to succeed. That’s not why you came to Dallas!

The haters have more money but we have more people!

If you want Dallas to continue to grow, you need to come to our rally on Wednesday April 29th in front of City Hall.

Music starts at 4PM and the speakers start at 5:30–guest speakers include Veronica Torres – Chair for the Greater Dallas Hispanic Chamber Young Professionals group, Michael Davis of Dallas Progress blog, Ron King of Media, and others.

Are you going to let one group stand in the way of YOUR future?

Come hang out with your friends and learn why we must fight for our city.

Early Voting: April 27, 2009 – May 5, 2009

Election Day: Saturday May 9th.

Check your voter registration by name or address

Demonstration of Touch Screen Voting Machine (Flash player required)

Services Available to Voters with Special Needs in Texas

State of Texas Early Voting Rules

Google Map of All Dallas Early Voting Locations

Mercantile Place Grand Opening

April 17, 2009

Tonight, I got to attend the official grand opening for the Mercantile Place.

Mercantile Place actually consists of three buildings: Wilson Place, The Merc, and Element. The opening was for The Merc and Element.

The Element is a brand-new building, and the Merc is the fully restored and updated Mercantile National Bank Building. The Merc was once the largest building west of the Mississippi River for some time. This is the building with the multicolored spire which was recently lit for the first time in years.

I found our tour guide to be extremely knowledgeable of the history of The Merc. I had to leave before I got to check out the Merc’s vault, but I did get to see some amazing spaces.

I focused more on the views than on the inside of units. I will tell you that the finishes were top-notch (marble, granite, the works), and units featured Viking stoves and Bosch washers and dryers in each unit. The pictures here include the last penthouse in the Merc building which was recently leased. The cost: $6,300 per month. Rent for other units start from $1,299, which is reasonable for downtown in any city.

Check out the pics.