DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – When most people think of Deep Ellum in Dallas, they probably think of bars, night clubs and late-night partying. But schools? “I don’t see how it’s a good environment for them,” said bar owner, Josh Bridges.
Bridges runs the Anvil Pub on Elm Street in Deep Ellum. When Bridges looks out the front window of his pub, he sees the building that is the likely home of Uplift Education’s new charter school. “Why you would pick to do it where you have nine other bars within feet of school property,” asked Bridges. “It just doesn’t make sense to me,” he added.
Uplift is about to close on the sale of a building in the 2600 block of Elm Street. The goal is to open a new school in August, 2012, that will ultimately house 960 students, grades 6 through 12.
Nearly 30 bar and night-club owners joined forces Monday night to put a stop to Uplift’s plans. The owners believe that a school is not right for Deep Ellum’s entertainment district. “This is a pretty big deal. This could be a game changer,” Barry Annino of the Deep Ellum Foundation told the group.
Yasmin Bhatia is C.E.O. of Uplift and says their organization’s other charter schools fit in just fine in other areas with eclectic businesses. “We’re use to serving students in high-need areas,” explained Bhatia. “We know that sometimes there are establishments like bars or strip clubs that are near us. In fact one of our campuses is a quarter of a mile away from a strip club,” Bhatia added.
According to Dallas city code, a bar or night club can not operate within 300 feet of a school, unless it was in business prior to the school’s opening. This means that existing bars near the proposed charter school will be grandfathered in.
However, if a nearby bar goes out of business and the building remains vacant some time, city code is likely to prevent a new bar from opening in the vacant building.
Deep Ellum merchants also fear that the charter school will prevent new businesses from obtaining permits and will block old businesses from renewing permits.
If permits are denied, many owners say it’s likely to impact the revitalization efforts in Deep Ellum. Neighborhood leaders have spent the last five years trying to remove the crime-ridden and unsightly nightclubs and replace them with respectable bars, restaurants and shops.
Now that it appears a school is moving in, many of the business owners fear they will soon be forced out.
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