Deep Ellum's Ambrose Complex on Green Line Is Done Trying to Make Retail Spaces Work

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Dallas Area Rapid Transit
When The Ambrose and DART's Baylor University Medical Center Station on the Green Line finally, formally married three short years ago, Dallas Area Rapid Transit hailed it as the "consummate example of the new transit-oriented lifestyle." After all, the complex at Indiana and Malcolm X consisted of 325 apartments and a city block's worth of retail right on the rail. Said DART's Green Line Report from the spring of '09:
In a tough market for retail, the ground floor is nonetheless gradually filling in. A Jimmy John's sandwich chain will open in the near future. And things are already hopping at It's A Grind, the first Dallas location of a national coffeehouse franchise. On a recent weekday afternoon, there was no shortage of customers bantering with one another, ordering pastries, drinking coffee, and settling in with their laptops. Initial popularity notwithstanding, the store's staff is anticipating a serious boost in business when the station opens. "September can't come fast enough for us," says Cindy Chaffin, the store's marketing director. "That's why we chose our location -- train service will be huge for us."
But the Jimmy John's lasted about as long as it took to finish a sandwich. And It's a Grind shuttered suddenly last October, with owner Serena Connelly acknowledging "the overall project has not proven to be feasible financially." And now that 13,913 square feet of ground-level retail space sits vacant. The reasons are myriad: Rent's high (said to be double normal Deep Ellum asking prices), the location's hard to find unless you're riding the rail, and, in the words of Deep Ellum Public Improvement District president Barry Annino, "There still are not that many people riding the train yet. It's not yet an urban world."

Which is why Broadstone Ambrose will go to the City Plan Commission this afternoon and request a zoning do-over: The complex owner will ask the city for the OK to rewrite its small piece of the Deep Ellum Special Purpose District that will allow it to convert the ground-floor retail into "multifamily units." Says the CPC doc prepped by an approving city staff: "The applicant has indicated that the retail space has been difficult to lease or to maintain tenants due the location of the development."


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62 comments
Michael Smith
Michael Smith

I could see a convenience store, a medical clinic, and a McDonalds doing well here

Michael Smith
Michael Smith

That is actually very feasible.. Too bad it's not retail anymore

Brian Smith
Brian Smith

So retail doesn't work when the rental rates are double the surrounding area? Shocking!

Too Deep
Too Deep

Once Baylor gets the charter school in, they'll be better positioned to control land use and upgrade the demographic to their liking.

Jim
Jim

so they charge rent that is not on par with the surrounding neighborhoods, can't find retail tenants due to no traffic and high overhead, and they want to be rezoned?  time to stand up to the corporate greed and tell them no.  research the area you are in and charge appropriate rents.   

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

It is hard to make a go of things when a business starts its day in a deep rent hole.

In Oak Cliff we seem to be getting the same selling points of Ground Floor Retail and folks living above in Apartments .

Shops and Boutiques....

How many widget places can one town have ?

Tim
Tim

i live right nearby and the Ambrose apartments are waaaay too high. if the retail spaces are anything like it, then they're too high as well. i think the apartments just make money on people who work at Baylor and are willing to fork over the extra $200 per month for convenience.

i know all this urban planning where it's not really urban thing can be tricky. but why couldnt they subsidize a grocery store there? maybe a smaller central market or an urban grocers type thing? this is what Deep Ellum needs more than anything.

as the other poster said...Elbow Room, Stack House, Elm Street and the portion of Commerce all seem to be doing fine. Why cant this?

Phelps
Phelps

Deep Ellum Public Improvement District president Barry Annino, "There still are not that many people riding the train yet. It's not yet an urban world."

Let's not sugar coat it.  There are still not that many middle class white folks riding the train yet.  Stop trying to build Plano style strip malls on the rail.  Lower the rents to the area prices, and put in businesses that people from lower-economic brackets can afford to patronize.  Stop trying to socially-engineer the market and let the market go where it lies naturally.  If you stop jacking with it, it will improve -- it always does.

dallasmay
dallasmay

I have never understood the problems people have with DART. It wasn't designed to get people to coffee shops -it was designed to get people to work. It actually does that pretty well. Sure, you might have to catch a bus to the station, but if you're the kind of person who doesn't have a reliable car, or can't afford gas for it, that's not that bad -in fact, it's something of a blessing. Again, it was never designed to get yuppies to coffee shops. It was designed to get employees  to work. 

Now, some people, like the developers in the article, have tried to take the rail system and adapt it to cater to coffee drinking yuppies. Mockingbird Station is a great example of that model working. Downtown Plano is another.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Development is risky as hell. But my point is public Transit should be the kind of big government entitlement/hand-out Republicans and Conservatives should like. It's not like Medicaid or Social Security. It doesn't help a person unless they have someplace they need to go, like to work.  

Montemalone
Montemalone

These retail spaces could be converted to live/work loft type spaces which would attract professionals (atty, acct, insurance, etc), artists, and the etsy crowd, which would then attract another coffee shop or deli.Don't any of these developers have a fucking clue?

elbueno
elbueno

I think they are jumping to conclusions way too soon. Converting would be a big mistake, lowering rents would be better. 

I think the number one problem is that the location of the retail spaces are ill-planned. They should have put a great deal of the retail on the Malcolm X frontage instead of the DART frontage. Look at how beautifully that worked for the West End development on the tracks!By putting everything on the DART frontage, you're missing out on vehicular traffic. By fronting Malcolm X, you still get DART/pedestrian traffic, but your spaces are highly visible to vehicles. That will encourage people to pull over and stop on their commutes. It's quite simple: don't bet all your money on one horse!

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

I noticed a similar problem with an apartment complex on Lemmon (Cityville Oak Park). After years of struggling with their empty bottom-level retail, they seem to have consolidated all of it and leased it all to an emergency care clinic (similar to Texas MedClinic).

Given the Ambrose's location next to Baylor, I don't see why something like that wouldn't work for them.

lorlee
lorlee

I think we need to rethink the idea of all of this street level retail under apartments.  Check West End -- the ground level in the apartment buildings is mostly empty.  The whole US is overbuilt on retail and Dallas even more so and this model seems even less sustainable.

Lance
Lance

The Ambrose is the worst thing that ever came to Deep Ellum. Way to go Womack + Hampton Architects for not understanding cultural and historical urban strategies whilst designing a monstrosity! The City of Dallas planning department needs to hire REAL designers that address urban issues. And the one's not fueled by money, but respecting rich cultural/historical areas such as Deep Ellum.

Ellum08
Ellum08

Stack House and Elbow Room seem to be busy when I stop by, even at night. Wonder what they are doing that these folks aren't.

Anon
Anon

Are they claiming the space is difficult to fill at any price? Or are they just hoping to make more money converting it to apartments than by dropping the rent and filling in the retail space?

If the city believed its zoning was appropriate when they passed the SPD, they should hold their position on the ground floor retail. The fact that the property owner can't make as much money as it wants playing by the existing rules is not a reason to change them.

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

I looked at the Ambrose awhile back and the price per sq foot was atrocious. I always liked that Jimmy Johns, but I got the feeling the franchisee who owned it gave less of a damn that the property owners, as they were always out of what I wanted when I would visit, not to mention they kept bankers hours (11a-6p) which messed it up for everyone..

scottindallas
scottindallas

The Green Line didn't go North back when these ventures started.  I would imagine that that North line will bring in more activity there, as people start to discover the DART rail.  I wonder what rents they are charging.  I guess demand for residential is that much higher.   Pity, I thought it was an ambitious plan, we're not ready, yet.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

This is why that Dallas will never be a cool "urban city" in the true sense. We have too many $30,000 millionaires who either drive a car whose payment is larger than their rent or hitch a ride with their fellow fake millionaire. Eating and drinking next to a railroad track in Dallas is deemed for " po folks". In Chicago, it's just life.

scottindallas
scottindallas

 this is the model for French architecture.  The economies where that style pre dominates have existed for centuries and are able to fill the magazines with no problem.

Anon
Anon

it can have plenty. it just can't have many more with the high rents that new places need to justify their building costs. the developer of this property took a risk, and it didn't play out as hoped. instead of trying to fill the spaces at lower rents it is choosing to try and lobby the city to bail it out of its poor investment.

Andrew Gunter
Andrew Gunter

Ask downtown how Urban Market is working out.

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

Nobody that owns real estate in Deep Ellum or can afford to buy real estate in Deep Ellum *cough* uplift charter shool *cough* gives a shit what Deep Ellum needs.

Anon
Anon

Instead of allowing that to happen we are trying to outlaw check cashing and cash advance stores within the city of Dallas. Making your poor residents cross city lines for the money they need to survive is progress, evidently.

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

I think it's debatable that Dart works pretty well at getting workers to their places of employment. When I still worked in Plano I looked at the routes it take for me to from the Bryan Station to the Plano station, onto a bus and to the closest stop to my then place of employment, estimated time... 3 hours. Fuck that. I stuck with the 35 minute car commute.

G_David
G_David

My guess is maybe because it's next to Baylor.

Montemalone
Montemalone

Notice on Lemmon that 2 new strip centers were built and fully leased.These apartment developers budget exhorbitant retail rents to get financed and won't cut them to get leased to the types of businesses that would do well.

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

Last I checked, retail in the West End apartment complexes was doing ok. They have CVS, Subway, McDonald's, Tiff's Treats, Edible Arrangements, a liquor store, a yogurt store, a fried chicken place, Sushi World, etc. 7-Eleven is about to build a gas station across the street.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

That is a very, very good point.

Anon
Anon

I'd add that the property is within a TIF. TIFs are created for a specific reason and to support a specific type of development. I'm guessing that it wasn't created in this case to create a building with ground floor multi-family. So they want the benefits without the requirements, apparently.

Matt Decuir
Matt Decuir

I agree. The reason they couldn't make money at the price they were charging was because the rent was too damn high. MAYBE if they'd drop the price, they'd be able to fill the space with more tenants, and make some money?

I'm just postulating.

CrackerDaddy
CrackerDaddy

Agree aboput the rents they are charging -- pretty steep for Deep Eluum.

brett
brett

Yeah, I would much rather pay around $1/sq.ft. for a place like Adam Hats or Futura and have a little character in my building than the crazy uptown prices that bland cookie cutter building is charging.

not just me
not just me

it is not their fault that they choose to drivebecause it is so completely undesirable to use DART

At that particular rail station I always (every time) see drug deals or drugs being offered to me and everyone.  Never been there that I have not been seriously concerned for safety.  This is a very bad location.  Businesses will not be frequented by well off people because they do not wish to endanger themselves

And, just so you know, I am only there on weekdays and only in pure daylight times 10a-4p.

mark zero (Jason)
mark zero (Jason)

Wait, wait, real millionaires ride the rail, instead?

Successful retail in that mixed-use development would need to rely upon the people living and working above and around it for its customer base, unless it's compelling enough to draw in people from further away. There's no reason for me to drive my car over to the park & ride, then wait around to hop on the rail to ride downtown and get off and walk into Jimmy John's or a coffee shop. (And if I lived down there already, obviously the rail wouldn't factor in at all, because I'd already be there.)

We're a city of commuters, and many of us never go downtown. Our edge cities are much more in our hearts than a propped-up CBD.

brett
brett

You can't blame it all on the $30k milly's.  DART is the most ill-conceived light rail I've ever seen.  There aren't enough stops in areas where people actually live to make it worth while. Every city that has a good transit system has a train/subway stop within a few blocks' walk.  Outside of downtown Dallas, you have to either wait 30 minutes on a bus to take you to a train stop, or walk a few miles. It doesn't make sense (especially in 100 degree heat) to walk that far to use DART. You can't expect people to walk that far to use transit when they can use their car and get to their destination faster and easily find a parking spot.

Andrew Gunter
Andrew Gunter

My ride to UTD every day doubles my commute time. I thought that would irritate me until I sold my car, dropped insurance payments and my anger at my windshield dropped off the face of the earth. It's the best thing you can do for mental sanity. Besides, it gives you plenty of good reading/studying time.

dallasmay
dallasmay

I'm not sure I know where "Bryan Station" is, I assume you mean Perl Station. But Either way, A 3 hour commute anywhere in the DART system would be unusual. You're right, taking DART is rarely as fast a driving, but, as I said, that's a pretty unusual situation. In fact, I can't figure out how to recreate it. The longest transit time from Perl Station to anywhere in Plano, and arrive at 9:00am, that I can find using Google Maps is an hour and a half. 3 hours is certainly unusual.  

But the time isn't my point anyway. Lets say that 3 hour commute was real. And lets say that you were a family man with two kids and brought worked hard to bring home $24,000 a year, and lets say for whatever reason you couldn't move closer to work. Then in that case it would probably cost you around $5 a trip ($10 a day) on gasoline alone just to drive to work. Meanwhile, a DART pass would cost you $1.75 a trip ($3.50 a day). Thats a potential savings of $1500 on gasoline alone if you take DART. That's real money to a man that brings in $24,000 a year. That's almost an extra month of pay for this guy. Almost an extra month of pay, just by taking public transit. That's just gas too, it doesn't even count a car payment, maintenance, insurance, and not to mention liability. (Seriously, think about the liability of driving. If he got into an accident, he would have to pay for the repairs of his car. Where is that money going to come from? Just by taking DART he has 0 liability.) 

This is real life for a lot of people. It's those people that need DART, not swanky Downtown condo dwellers. 

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

There are Concentra Urgent Care locations near Baylor and Parkland.

phosho-n-dimsum
phosho-n-dimsum

I call bullshit on everyone being offered drugs there...for i'm there, quite often, and have yet to be solicited to:(

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

You gotta live here to understand it. The burbs aren't "bad" per se, they're just really boring, kind of what I would imagine purgatory would be like, a lot of waiting around for whatever happens next.

Andrew Gunter
Andrew Gunter

Your argument would make sense if gridlock didn't have a 50-year head start on light rail. I would say our rail system is pretty good, for having all been built in the last 12 years. You can't just throw up a station every block in 12 years in a city like Dallas. 

Besides, if you have to walk a mile to a train station, it's not gonna bust your kneecaps. I do it every day to go to school, and I still have plenty of energy and willpower to hit the gym when I get home. Man up.

Bob Loblaw
Bob Loblaw

I agree.  How do you spend a billion dollars on light rail and not take it to either airport?

Matt Decuir
Matt Decuir

You REALLY think the DART is the most ill-conceived light-rail ever?

You've obviously not been to Houston and seen the MetroRAIL, which was basically built so the city could host the Super Bowl, back in 2000 or 2001. It's 7.5 miles long, and has 17 stops. TOTAL.It's nearly impossible for the rail to expand north of Downtown in Houston, because of NIMBY problems.

I DO agree that the DART is only really usable if you live by AND work near a station (I'm lucky as I live near and work near two different stations), but at least we HAVE a half-way decent rail, which is more that can be said for other cities in Texas, and even some cities in other states of comparable size.

yeahIsaidthat
yeahIsaidthat

You got the other half of my argument correct. It is ill conceived but in this case it's the "$300 million dollar-oh look at us-we got rail-but we're never going to ride it-we're world class" mentality. So they don't get serious and to your point, make it user friendly. This DART is just a marketing scam, it was never going to work anyway.

Matt Decuir
Matt Decuir

I agree! I quit my full-time job and went to do an internship. Since my income was slashed in half, I had to find ways to save money. So I started commuting from Plano to Las Colinas via train / bus, instead of car. 

While it took me an hour and a half one way, I found myself less stressed, since I wasn't doing the driving, and had ample time to read and such.

Bittershite
Bittershite

DART rider here. Just wanted to point out that the bus and train routes/schedules have changed in the last couple of years, so that could be part of the reason there's a disparity between what you found when planning a trip then and now.

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

Nope, didn't make it up, maybe it was just the un-usability of the dart site but when I initially did the calculation it was just under three hours, I just did it again and got 1 hour 48 and when I first did it I used a the next later connection from the train to the bus (8:30AM instead of 8:00AM to account for any problems that may arise, which would make it closer to 2 hours 20 minutes including time to walk to my destination from the stop). You can keep thinking I was deliberately lying if you have a hard on for me but I didn't post it initially just to bash dart, people that love it or hate aren't going change their opinion based on a blog comment.

Selling my car would not have been an option at the time so I would have gotten zero of the savings Andrew (the poster below) got. See, I don't contrive situations like you do, I operate as things really are, which also means doing things like allocating extra time to deal with contingencies that might be out of my control.

dallasmay
dallasmay

I still can't recreate your commute. Again, the longest I can pull up is half of what you said. http://bit.ly/xU8uMR. Face it, you made it up, and you were caught. That's the real trouble with DART. It's people like you that don't WANT to like it, so you make up reasons to hate it, and justify not using it to yourself. Some people complain about crime (which is virtually non-existant), others complain about cost (which is much less than driving), you complain about time -and as Andrew pointed out below also neglects to consider the fact that you aren't loosing any time. You can do other things like read a book, run through your e-mail or phone calls, eat breakfast, or sleep. You can't do those things while driving. But it was never supposed to actually make sense, it was just an excuse to drive your own car. 

Downtown Resident
Downtown Resident

I was thinking of the St. Paul station, I wasn't bs'ing about the three hours just because I don't like DART, I looked up all the times to get from St. Paul to a bus stop on Tennyson in Plano. By the time you make all the stops and the down time between bus connections it came up to right around three hours.

Your original statement of "works pretty well" is still relative regardless of the scenario you come up with. If you take your $24K working stiff and ask him if he likes DART he wouldn't gush about saving $1500+ a year, he'd bitch about spending 3-6 hours a day away from his family because of what he perceives as the necessary evil of an inefficient transit system (if he could put the situation, costs and time into perspective like you did he'd probably be resourceful enough to find a way to mitigate some of the artificial constraints you placed on him too).

If you like DART, cool, ride it to your heart's content, everybody's individual contexts and opportunity costs are going to result in a whole array of opinions from "it blows goats" to "greatest thing since sliced bread", but if you can understand why people would like it don't pretend you can't understand why some wouldn't. 

James
James

The rail in Seattle goes directly to the airport from downtown too. It's very nice.

Bob Loblaw
Bob Loblaw

That is my point.  In Philadelphia (Philadelphia, for all love) the light rail station is right by the baggage claim.  It would be stupid to not take the train.  

The light rail also doesn't go near any courthouse (federal, civil, criminal,--I know it's only "a few blocks walk" but if you're in a business suit on a 100 degree day, or it's raining, or you have something heavy to carry, forget it).

Matt Decuir
Matt Decuir

Have you actually been on the green line?The green could have gone to Love Field, like seriously into the airport, or at least build a shuttle from the DART into the airport, but it doesn't go to the airport. And has anyone noticed that Burbank and Bachman are closer to Love Field than the Inwood / Love Field station is?Rumor has it that DART is trying to secure an East-West rail that will go from like Garland into DFW. But we'll see how that goes. That MARTA that literally goes into the airport is cool.

Ed D.
Ed D.

It goes vaguely near Love Field. In Atlanta, MARTA goes right into Hartsfield. In Chicago, the trains roll right up to O'Hare and Midway. In most cities with rail service, they go right to the airport so a passenger can walk off a plane, collect their bags, and walk onto a train. DART does not go to Love Field.

Andrew Gunter
Andrew Gunter

The green line goes to Love Field now. Thanks for playing.

Brian
Brian

The problem with light rail is that it has a low capacity. Subways can handle a well over a thousand people per train with 5-10 spacing during rush hour. The 300 people that can ride a DART train ensure that there will never be enough people on the system to independently support retail. It becomes a cool side show that makes areas hip while all the customers are still forced to drive. DART hasn't failed because Dallas people love driving down Central at 8 AM. It failed because it is slow and lacks capacity.

brett
brett

DART is the most ill-conceived light rail I'VE ever seen.  I avoid Houston like the plague, so I obviously haven't seen it's light rail.  But comparing anything to Houston like comparing chicken salad to chicken shit.

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