Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Deep Ellum as an Entertainment District

Please read this blog about the Pitfalls of "Entertainment Districts".  Deep Ellum would certainly fall into the "naturally occurring" entertainment district category, as any historical reference to the neighborhood will mention it being Dallas' home of jazz and the blues in the 1920s.  Long story short, Deep Ellum has been Dallas' watering hole for the better part of a century.

Luckily, Deep Ellum has not become the "overnight" example of entertainment districts, despite talk in the past of building a West Village style development in the heart of the neighborhood.  I remember there being a lot of opposition to this project, and rightly so, as single entity ownership limits diversity and flexibility of commercial and residential space.

But opposition to this project empowered another group, which can be called the Circa 92, or the Keep Deep Ellum Empty faction.  The general belief is that if it worked in 1992 as an active collection of bars, it'll work today.  What is the definition of insanity again?

Deep Ellum will never be a relevant neighborhood in Dallas if it's only seen as an entertainment district.  Is the goal of the neighborhood is to be the receptacle of Dallas' debauchery?  Entertainment districts are notions rooted in suburban development, which necessitates great distances between drink and home.

To revitalize a neighborhood, or to make it like any other thriving community in any city around the world, commerce needs to take place at all hours of the day.  Attract people during the day, and Deep Ellum will be a completely different place.


  1. Very good and interesting article. The 1992 Deep Ellum, as great as it was, spun out of control because it became "only" a bar scene. Retail, residential (both within and around the area), restaurants, plus low-cost square footage for artists, must combine with nightlife to make a vital, long-term neighborhood.

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you for reading!

    Dallas is a city of roving night spots. Deep Ellum had its day, and so did the West End at some point. On the other hand, Uptown has been able to sustain its growth because of the development strategy around its "entertainment district". You will see density and mixed use buildings off of McKinney Ave, specifically in the State Thomas neighborhood.

    The problem is that the price point of residential and commercial space precludes many people and businesses from moving to the area. Deep Ellum's advantage is that there is more than enough land to provide the supply of mixed use buildings. If the demand for these places remains the same or supply increases, prices can be kept at a reasonable level.

    Long story short, both Deep Ellum and Downtown lack the volume of residents needed to avoid the status of "entertainment district". This area needs to be competitive with places like the Village in order to have a local population that will support local businesses and add to the local tax base. if there remains nothing to do during the day, the cycle of roving nights will continue and people find the next best neighborhood to get their drink on.