Street Upgrades Annoy Some Dallas Residents

$5.6 million project makes changes to South Lamar Street from convention center to McKee Street

By Ken Kalthoff
|  Tuesday, Apr 17, 2012  |  Updated 9:14 PM CDT
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A Dallas street beautification on South Lamar Street between the Dallas Convention Center and McKee Street has one business' loyal customers upset.

Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News

A Dallas street beautification on South Lamar Street between the Dallas Convention Center and McKee Street has one business' loyal customers upset.

A business and its loyal customers say they are upset about changes from a $5.6 million Dallas street beautification project.

The project is a $5.6 million upgrade of South Lamar Street between the Dallas Convention Center and McKee Street.

Scott's Discount Liquor lost five Lamar Street parking spaces to a wider sidewalk that was constructed at the store's front door.

"I'm just a normal person trying to make a living, support my kids through college, act like anyone else," owner Scott Lim said.

Customers relied on those parking spaces, and the remaining spaces on the side of his business are harder for them to use, he said.

Devonte Horsechief was one of the customers complaining about the change Tuesday.

"You're going to make this man lose his business by putting a big old sidewalk here," Horsechief said. "Where the people going to park at now?"

Jeff West, vice president of developer Matthews Southwest, said his company tried to buy Lim's business but he refused to sell.

"Historically, there were several liquor stores in this area, and we worked to minimize that, and it's a way to create a more friendly, safe environment; perception being what it is," West said. "People like to be in an environment where there's less of that and more of just simple retail and entertainment."

Matthews Southwest, a partner in the beautification project, owns several tracts of vacant land and older buildings along Lamar Street, where future development is planned. It is the developer of Southside on Lamar Apartments, The Beat condos, a Nylo Hotel under construction in an old Lamar Street building and the Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel north of the Dallas Convention Center.

Neighbors said Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban also owns a large tract of vacant land along the stretch of Lamar now under renovation, and Gilley's nightclub is there, too.

West said the beautification project is the result of years of planning with Dallas Area Rapid Transit and the city of Dallas.

In addition to wider sidewalks, plans call for improved street lighting and moving overhead power lines underground.

Two DART light rail stations are at each end of the street improvement project, and West said the new path would benefit passengers, residents and local businesses.

"This kind of treatment makes for a very comfortable experience," West said.

But Scott's Discount Liquors customer Buck Reeve pointed to the heavy truck traffic heading to Interstate 30 and said commercial traffic has always been hard on Lamar Street.

"You can't make this no nice street," he said. "You got too many trucks come down this street, going to tear this street up. This street has been torn up since the '60s."

The beautification plan also includes several pocket parks along Lamar Street, including one right beside Scott's Discount Liquors.

"It will make all of our property appreciate," West said. "He'll benefit from it, as will the other businesses and residents here south."

In their Complete Streets Plan, Dallas city leaders envision cafes and pedestrian-friendly activities on wide sidewalks like the one now in front of Scott's Liquors.

Lim said no one explained all of it to him before the concrete was poured in front of his store. He said he certainly could not afford to make all the improvements happening around his store himself but is still not sure if he will be better off with the lost parking spaces and unhappy customers.

"I hope; this is my lotto jackpot," he said.

The Lamar Street improvements are due to be finished this summer, about the time Matthews Southwest's new Nylo Hotel opens up the street.

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