Uplift Education's CEO: "We Do Not Want To Be a Roadblock" to Development in Deep Ellum

LaureatePrepinDeepEllumLocation.jpg
Anna's attending tonight's meeting of Deep Ellum property owners and city officials concerning Uplift Education's latest charter school -- which, Uplift CEO Yasmin Bhatia just told me, is very definitely going to take the former Baylor building on Elm Street. As Bhatia put it: "All systems go" for an August 2 opening for the Laureate Preparatory secondary school that will serve middle-school and high-school students coming from the West End elementary campus with ties to the Museum of Nature and Science.

Bhatia says Uplift decided on that spot after a yearlong search for a downtown location, which, she says, is ideal because it's "relatively close to our primary schools and backs up to a DART line. We serve a high-need student, and we try to look for locations near public transportation. And it looks like a school, which is rare downtown, and it also met the economics we were looking for. For lots of reasons we liked it -- and we liked the idea of being able to help contribute to the economic development and revitalization of Deep Ellum."

But, of course, that's the issue here: Property and business owners are concerned that plopping a school in the middle of an entertainment district will have the exact opposite effect -- thanks in large part to the city ordinance prohibiting schools and bars from existing within 300 feet of each other, property line to property line. While existing businesses will be grandfathered in, those whose livelihoods depend upon Deep Ellum ask: What about newcomers who want to open near Laureate Prep? They're terrified that the City Plan Commission and city council would never approve their necessary specific use permit, not in violation of a city law.

To which Bhatia responds: "We do not want to be a roadblock to economic development." Which may be easier said than done; Anna will offer the city and owners' further thoughts on the subject tomorrow morning. But as Theresa O'Donnell, head of Sustainable Development, told us Thursday: "There are concerns."

Bhatia began meeting with Deep Ellum property owners a few weeks ago, and she says that quite frankly, she was "a little taken aback" by their response to Uplift's intentions to open the school, which is allowed by right.

"Anyone who operates a business near one of our nine sites would say we're a great neighbor," she says. "We've been a collaborative and positive neighbor and easy to work with. It might be surprising for some people where we decided to open because they may not realize we serve a high-need urban student population, and we recognize fully with the student population we're serving we will often find ourselves in a situation where there's a bar in the area. Candidly, we know how to operate near them and serve our students and make sure they're ready to go to college and thrive in college. After all, we're in West End now -- in an entertainment district. We have a bar that shares a wall with our school there.

"We're a pretty pragmatic business. I shared multiple times with man people we will be happy to issue to the city a letter of no-contest when a new establishment wants to open near the school that the Deep Ellum community is excited about and the city supports."

Bhatia said as much in her missive to Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Pauline Medrano last week. But there were caveats. As in: "I was not comfortable agreeing to ... a broad sweeping 'no contest' letter for any establishment within 300 feet of the school." Which is what tonight's meeting is all about.

"The mission of our organization is to serve students and make sure they're ready for college and not to be distracted by debates in the community about what's the next property going in across the street from us," she says. "That's not a productive use of our time. I just hope that as the property owners in Deep Ellum get to know the school and get to know Uplift over the course of the first year they'll see what the other businesses near our other schools see -- we're a good partner and will build trust. We don't want to stand in the way. So, really, I understand there's a lot of dialogue about this now, but once the school's in and the property owners see us, they'll be reassured we're dedicated to continuing to make Deep Ellum a great entertainment district for the broader community."
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46 comments
JT
JT

what do you need from their education policy. I know first hand that uplift hires some formidable individuals from top 20 universities; harvard, vanderbilt to name a few. They have just hired an exceptional science curiculum coordinator for grades 3-12 that has already restructured the whole science curiculum to be more engaging and challenging. The location is bad i agree but the schools deserve a chance to prove you pessimists wrong.

Smart CEO
Smart CEO

Lets open a school on 6th Street in Austin. Leslie can walk the kids home.  Maybe put another one on Harry Hines Blvd...

Brian Hills
Brian Hills

I understand that many people on this site are concerned about the possible devaluation of real estate of Deep Ellum, but it seems to me that this charter organization is about giving inner-city kids an opportunity to break the cycle of generational poverty by helping children go to college.  One of their downtown schools, Peak Preparatory, was ranked by Newsweek as one of the best high schools in America (www.uplifteducation.org).  Uplift Education advertises their schools as free-tuition, so they can’t be chasing a profit.  I know I’m biased because I’m a teacher in Irving, but I cannot imagine that a well-intended community would be against assisting hundreds of inner-city children to be the first in their family to graduate from college.  I have faith that, in time, everyone will be able to come to an agreement that will improve the quality of life in our beloved Deep Ellum.

brownbagspecial
brownbagspecial

Occupy a bar stool! Come on, Dallas Observerites! Occupy a bar stool, alleyway, anywhere in Deep Ellum and get pissed ass drunk! Drink until your liver feels as if she's about to blow....and then drink some more. Puke openly in the streets. If need be, take a poop! Let's show these, charter school invaders, that we're not gonna take this lying down! Stand in solidarity with "the deepest of ellums" or if not able to stand....lie face down in your vomit. 

Titus Groan
Titus Groan

Wasn't the whole point of Laureate that it would be near the new Science Museum?  Now they want facilities on the other side of downtown?

Erica
Erica

Why don't they go to one of the 11 schools they just shut down?

Phil
Phil

this whole thing just has a stench, you can smell it.

why should an education crusader be so adamant about putting a SCHOOL in DEEP ELLUM next to BARS and CLUBS? I feel like i'm taking crazy pills. for lack of better options? bullshit, Fair Park and downtown are littered with empty buildings.

Seriously Curious
Seriously Curious

On a side note, who is Anna, and what is her relevance to the story? The inference is that she's a journalist employed by your publication. If so, the reference within the context of the post is amateurish at best. Save it for the high school newspaper.

Stephanie Hastings
Stephanie Hastings

You may not "want" to be a roadblock to development but you will be.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

I guess this wasn't an issue for the area until it became an issue for the area.This should go down as a well played hand by the folks behind the folks who are bringing the school to the area.As much as I side with the folks who have places of business in the area I do find  myself in awe of and respecting  the...... LOOK WHATS COMING TO YOUR AREA  DONE DEAL WE WIN DON'T WHINE BE A GROWN UP  BECAUSE FACE IT YOU DIDN'T  EVEN HAVE  RIGHTS TO A SEAT TABLE IN THE FIRST PLACE  aspect of how this all went down.

Wow Credit where credit is due.

Maybe this is Wal E ?

Anon
Anon

State statute regulates the location of bars and stores that sell alcoholic beverages.  A city can always grant a variance if a business that sells alcoholic beverages wants to go in and this statute prohibits it. Here's the controlling statute from http://www.statutes.legis.stat... (This is kind of dry reading - I'd suggest a nice Chenin Blanc, or better yet a very dark beer to go with...) Sec. 109.33. SALES NEAR SCHOOL, CHURCH, OR HOSPITAL.  (a)  The commissioners court of a county may enact regulations applicable in areas in the county outside an incorporated city or town, and the governing board of an incorporated city or town may enact regulations applicable in the city or town, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages by a dealer whose place of business is within:(1)  300 feet of a church, public or private school, or public hospital;(2)  1,000 feet of a public school, if the commissioners court or the governing body receives a request from the board of trustees of a school district under Section 38.007, Education Code;  or(3)  1,000 feet of a private school if the commissioners court or the governing body receives a request from the governing body of the private school.(b)  The measurement of the distance between the place of business where alcoholic beverages are sold and the church or public hospital shall be along the property lines of the street fronts and from front door to front door, and in direct line across intersections.  The measurement of the distance between the place of business where alcoholic beverages are sold and the public or private school shall be:(1)  in a direct line from the property line of the public or private school to the property line of the place of business, and in a direct line across intersections;  or(2)  if the permit or license holder is located on or above the fifth story of a multistory building, in a direct line from the property line of the public or private school to the property line of the place of business, in a direct line across intersections, and vertically up the building at the property line to the base of the floor on which the permit or license holder is located.(c)  Every applicant for an original alcoholic beverage license or permit for a location with a door by which the public may enter the place of business of the applicant that is within 1,000 feet of the nearest property line of a public or private school, measured along street lines and directly across intersections, must give written notice of the application to officials of the public or private school before filing the application with the commission.  A copy of the notice must be submitted to the commission with the application.  This subsection does not apply to a permit or license covering a premise where minors are prohibited from entering the premises under Section 109.53.(d)  As to any dealer who held a license or permit on September 1, 1983, in a location where a regulation under this section was in effect on that date, for purposes of Subsection (a), but not Subsection (c), of this section, the measurement of the distance between the place of business of the dealer and a public or private school shall be along the property lines of the street fronts and from front door to front door, and in direct line across intersections.(e)  The commissioners court of a county or the governing board of a city or town that has enacted a regulation under Subsection (a) of this section may also allow variances to the regulation if the commissioners court or governing body determines that enforcement of the regulation in a particular instance is not in the best interest of the public, constitutes waste or inefficient use of land or other resources, creates an undue hardship on an applicant for a license or permit, does not serve its intended purpose, is not effective or necessary, or for any other reason the court or governing board, after consideration of the health, safety, and welfare of the public and the equities of the situation, determines is in the best interest of the community.(f)  Subsections (a)(2) and (3) do not apply to the holder of:(1)  a retail on-premises consumption permit or license if less than 50 percent of the gross receipts for the premises is from the sale or service of alcoholic beverages;(2)  a retail off-premises consumption permit or license if less than 50 percent of the gross receipts for the premises, excluding the sale of items subject to the motor fuels tax, is from the sale or service of alcoholic beverages;  or(3)  a wholesaler's, distributor's, brewer's, distiller's and rectifier's, winery, wine bottler's or manufacturer's permit or license, or any other license or permit held by a wholesaler or manufacturer as those words are ordinarily used and understood in Chapter 102.(g)  Subsection (a)(3) does not apply to the holder of:(1)  a license or permit issued under Chapter 27, 31, or 72 who is operating on the premises of a private school;  or(2)  a license or permit covering a premise where minors are prohibited from entering under Section 109.53 and that is located within 1,000 feet of a private school.(h)  Subsection (a)(1) does not apply to the holder of:(1)  a license or permit who also holds a food and beverage certificate covering a premise that is located within 300 feet of a private school;  or(2)  a license or permit covering a premise where minors are prohibited from entering under Section 109.53 and that is located within 300 feet of a private school.(i)  In this section, "private school" means a private school, including a parochial school, that:(1)  offers a course of instruction for students in one or more grades from kindergarten through grade 12;  and(2)  has more than 100 students enrolled and attending courses at a single location.Acts 1977, 65th Leg., p. 526, ch. 194, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1977.  Amended by Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 4038, ch. 629, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1983;  Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 260, Sec. 7, eff. May 30, 1995;  Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 388, Sec. 2, eff. May 28, 2001.

holman
holman

“We must burn the village in order to save the village.”  Kudos to Don Cass for standing up.  I can make an argument that the property owners would ultimately benefit from converting Deep Ellum to a gyp.  A mere movie set of its old self.  A municipal prop, like the Calatrava Bridge.  We are talking about the upscale gentrification where by the storefronts and ambiance is an illusion.  I have seen places like Santa Fe, New Mexico go through this transition from authentic to Hollywoodification over the years.  You see, the soul of Deep Ellum must be eviscerated in order to redecorate and accessorize the joint into what visitors think it ought to look like for a brief moment while they gawk.  And the deal is, property values would skyrocket because it would attract much higher rents (yuppies), or so the Uptown/Victory Park theory goes.  But in that process, the bohemians must go, a few relegated to cosmetic dress-up clown hires for the new patrons.  Don Cass knows that it might ultimately be in his bet interest financially, but instead he stood up for those on the low rung of new urbanism.  He knows the current denizens who built this place will be the ones who must go, if the Meadows Foundation and Baylor Real Estate plant a school . . . a stake, in the very heart of Deep Ellum.

Michael MacNaughton
Michael MacNaughton

The first line of the Texas Real Estate Code, "Under All is the Land..." Uplift is simply a real estate holding company.  When charter schools fall out of fashion, or fail, their asset base will be sweet! And all supported by taxpayers! Charter schools take our tax money yet do not provide us with access to their education policy through elected school boards...truly taxation without representation.

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

This whole thing reeks of an unholy alliance between the Dallas Citizens Council, the DISD School Board, and Uplift.

They all stand to profit at everyone else's expense.  

holman
holman

The seller (Baylor currently owns the property) could fix this by deed restricting the property where future owners cannot block any use within 300 feet.

holman
holman

This is probably what the zoning re-write is all about (by the Deep Ellum Foundation).  Eliminating the remote parking allowance would block the school use.

Beerbelly
Beerbelly

"Uplift CEO Yasmin Bhatia just told me, is very definitely going to take the former Baylor building on Elm Street." (shit talking)

"Bhatia began meeting with Deep Ellum property owners a few weeks ago, "

Really? No one confirmed these rumors before Thursday when Robert posted it, except maybe a few insiders on your deal . Why else would everyone be up in arms?

"We're a pretty pragmatic business. I shared multiple times with man people we will be happy to issue to the city a letter of no-contest when a new establishment wants to open near the school that the Deep Ellum community is excited about and the city supports."

that's not what you said the other day....

"I was not comfortable agreeing to ... a broad sweeping 'no contest' letter for any establishment within 300 feet of the school."

well you're the one challenging our 'Mom & Pop owned businesses. Just because we were not opposed to a 'school' as in a potential Art School, Music School or even a Beauty School or Bartending Academy.doesn't mean we want a bunch of kids. The area has denied SUP's for all kinds of underage establishments over the past 5+ years and you have the audacity to force one upon us?

Aside from that, you mentioned 'Topless Bars' as acceptable neighbors for your kids at other previous schools. This in the same breath as Deep Ellum on CBS 11 tonight??? Please! What kind of school do you run? We have intentionally denied kiddy clubs for over 15 years and titty bars to match.

Sadly I see a lot of inconsistencies in your words that I believe no one really wants to hear. Above all, why is this specific building so important to you when the area says in a unified voice 'it's not a good idea'? There are several other area locations that would qualify and you would have support to utilize if you chose to work w/ us.

BigBobRocks
BigBobRocks

Robert, good job as usual. You broke this story and the DMN had to follow you. These are important stories that should be on the Metro cover. Is there anyone still covering Dallas at the DMN? The reporters don't even blog and when they do have a print story, they are just "recording" events that happen. If not for Wilonsky, we wouldn't have a clue what was going on in Dallas.  

Bryanplace
Bryanplace

Why not move into the 500 S Ervay building next to City Hall? I believe that building was trying to lure a school.

Other great options are Knights of Pythias and Fair Park.

Paul Adams
Paul Adams

ughhh, so kids today don't need a playground to actually see the sun during lunch? Yuck!

The Women's Museum in FairPark is being vacated, directly across from the DART line, tons of art and history and what not at its doorsteps.I honestly NEVER thought I'd have issues with a school near my home... my mom's a teacher, my friends are having children and moving to 'a better school district' but, this is just silly.Hopefully they have to get around the same SUP issues the restaurants and bars in the area have to get around with parking and those 75 new jobs will need 75 parking spots

Guest
Guest

"We do not want to be a roadblock to economic development."

Translation: "We're going to be a roadblock to economic development, but we're not going to feel good about it."

Doug in DFW
Doug in DFW

So Uplift will (un)prepare students for the real world by keeping the students undistracted from discussions about the surrounding community? Uplift makes me want to Upchuck.  

A-nony-mouse
A-nony-mouse

All of the properties on the north side of Main St. between Good Latimer and Crowdus and all of the properties on both sides of Elm St. between Good Latimer and Malcolm X are within 300 feet of the property line of 2625 Elm St.

Oh and although the property backs up to a DART line, the nearest DART Stations are over 1000 feet away.

Geekyd
Geekyd

I would recommend that neighbors and potential neighbors look at the kids and their families before, during, and after school hours at the Dallas Can Academy on Ross Avenue. It is a mess! The kids are not model citizens, so it will only be a matter of time before Deep Ellum residents/attendees are blamed/jailed with underage kids running unattended in the same neighborhood that adults and alcohol now occupy. Not laying blame on the kids, just pointing out the obvious.

Doesn't Matter
Doesn't Matter

Adios once again Deep Ellum! It was a short ride back, you will be missed all over again. 

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

So Bhatia wouldn't consent to a no restrictions no-contest letter to any new establishments within 300 feet but then says:

"The mission of our organization is to serve students and make sure they're ready for college and not to be distracted by debates in the community about what's the next property going in across the street from us,"

It seems if she offered the no contest letter up front then there would never be a need for debate (or maybe the concept of contradiction isn't taught at charter schools.)

Some (existing/potential) bar owners are gonna get screwed over in the not so distant future....

Dallasfilmgirl
Dallasfilmgirl

There already is one off of Harry Hines.. google "Uplift Education". They have been quoted to pride themselves on opening charter schools within walking distance of bars and strip clubs. It is sort of a bragging point for these scammers. http://bit.ly/bav1HI

Smart CEO
Smart CEO

Brian, There are plenty of other buildings for them to pick from all over DFW

dryexpomarker
dryexpomarker

as in teacher in an uplift school in irving?

RTGolden
RTGolden

Those were public schools.  In most cases, the land upon which we build our public schools is crappy land nobody wants and has little value.  Reference other comments in this thread about the real business underneath charter schools.  They're in it for the real estate value.

Stealur
Stealur

Because they see it as prime real estate, which is what the business of charter schools really is. Think Catholic church.

RTGolden
RTGolden

You do realize this is a blog right? Not a newspaper or formal publication.  Yes there is some sniping at grammar and spelling and what is or isn't proper among the comments.  By and large though, these blogs are a conversation between the Observer's writers and the people of the city.  As such, a casual reference to what Anna may be doling out to us later is perfectly appropriate.  To you, Anna, Robert, Schutze and the rest may simply signify by-lines to stories, but to those of us who read these blogs regularly they're family.  Some of them (Schutze) are from the hill-jack part of the family and we don't talk about them in polite company, but they're family just the same.

If you want stilted, formal, boring and often irrelevant news reporting on your screen, part with some cash and get behind the DMN's paywall.

zobzerto
zobzerto

I'm seriously curious why your dumb ass doesn't have a clue.

Sandi_snipe
Sandi_snipe

So this how I imagine meetings go at these types of things:

"People of Earth, your attention, please. This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system. And regrettably, your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you. There’s no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now. … What do you mean you’ve never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven’s sake, mankind, it’s only four light years away, you know. I’m sorry, but if you can’t be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that’s your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams."

Thank you Douglas Adams

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

This really is the best we can hope for at this point, that the market indicates there is no desire for parents to send their kids to a school next to bars and Uplift shutters the location and it goes back to being a vacant building.

It will be more important than ever to support establishments like Anvil Pub, Trees and the other establishments that will be grandfathered in without an SUP challenge in case it comes down to waiting game between the existing neighborhood businesses and a school nobody wants.

Texasdave60
Texasdave60

no need to worry, it's allowed by right...not even zoning can keep them out.

Casteoutbhatia
Casteoutbhatia

....already taken care of by Medrano under the table IMO. 

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

"Bhatia began meeting with Deep Ellum property owners a few weeks ago, and she says that quite frankly, she was "a little taken aback" by their response to Uplift's intentions to open the school, which is allowed by right."

This is just as rich .

TimCov
TimCov

Oh no! They might have to walk 3 and 1/3 football fields. Whatever shall they do?!

thefncrow
thefncrow

That much should have been obvious in the last story, when they said they wouldn't issue a no-contest letter.

If you as a business hold on to a right you have absolutely no intention to use, your insistence upon holding that right is causing an entire community to rally against your very existence, and waiving that right would put an end to all the nastiness, you don't decide that you're not going to waive that right unless you intend to use it.

I mean, for as much complaining as there is about how this school is a bad idea, I imagine most of it would completely dissipate as soon as the school granted that unconditional waiver.  The waiver is the absolute path of least resistance when it comes to community acceptance.  For the school to look at that easy solution and decide against it means that they seriously value the ability to play kingmaker and decide who does and does not get to move in to Ellum.

thefncrow
thefncrow

It really is.  I mean, imagine the thought process that leads to being taken aback by that.

"People are upset at the idea of the school?  I mean, all we want to do is barge into this neighborhood and be granted ultimate license over all future development in the community.  Why does anyone find that problematic?"

Casteoutbhatia
Casteoutbhatia

The point being is they can legally ask for a 1000 ft expansion, effectively eliminating the entire area's bar and restaurant business, as well as tattoo. This is not a minor point. 

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