Just the mentioning the neighborhood name “Deep Ellum” will evoke a variety of responses from Dallasites. Long-time residents might lament the changes to the neighborhood, while the younger ones are likely to mark it as the heart of the downtown scene.
Technically they’re both right. Deep Ellum started as an industrial neighborhood with two railroads running through it in the 1890s, and became a hub for blues and jazz. But Deep Ellum’s more recent heyday was in the ’90s, when it turned into a haven for alternative music and venues like the Bomb Factory (which recently reopened) booked bands including Megadeath, The Ramones and Sonic Youth. Deep Ellum was home to 57 bars and nightclubs at its peak, and it seemed unlikely for its reign of success to ever end.
It was around 2001 that crime rates started spiking in the area and reports of homicide caused many Dallasites to reconsider their trips to the neighborhood. Many venues and bars shuttered their doors. In 2005 a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district was established to redirect property taxes to nearby public amenities. Then, around 2009 many of these same businesses reopened, the perception of Deep Ellum faded, and the area began to fill with new life.
With several waves of success ebbing and flowing through the neighborhood, it’s important to ask: What does Deep Ellum mean for Dallas? Or more importantly, what does it provide?
Currently, Deep Ellum’s mix of live music, bars and eclectic food is a huge draw for the young adult and adult crowd. And with more murals going up every day, it’s the kind of arts-loving center that perks up the ears of Austinites and causes them to question their view of Dallas.
And then there’s this.
This is the supposed future. A Dallas developing company wants to build 15 floors of office and retail space in an abandoned lot along Good-Latimer, just 0.3 miles from the building where Kurt Cobain once got punched by a security guard. The announcement came less than a year ago, and the news has been answered with both concern and indifference.
Will a 17 story tower rob Deep Ellum of its soul? Not likely, though it might look out of place.
The growth of Deep Ellum has been largely centered around using the spaces that are available. Despite all of its success, and while a new business seems to pop up every week, there are still plenty of undeveloped buildings in Deep Ellum. In fact, the persistent entrepreneurship in Deep Ellum is what caused the resurgence in the first place, so it’s fitting that it will ultimately decide the fate of the neighborhood.
So don’t be too quick to call this building announcement the end of days. Instead, consider opening up that craft grilled cheese place you’ve always dreamed about and taking the future of Deep Ellum into your own hands.