UPDATE: A spokesperson for Bottled Blonde emailed to say that DART's current plans are not finalized. His comments have been added to the story. In addition, Dallas urban planner and DART Board member Patrick Kennedy responded to an email and his comments have been added, as well.
Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) has hit a milestone in its development of a second subway in downtown Dallas — and if all goes according to plan, it'll be curtains for the Deep Ellum bar that earns more in liquor sales than any other bar in Dallas.
Bottled Blonde, which until the coronavirus came along was consistently selling more than $1 million per month in liquor sales, stands in the way of the new line and, according to the current plans, is slated for demolition.
Another dramatic change: The current Deep Ellum train station would be "moved" one block north to the corner of Good Latimer and Live Oak Street.
The transit agency recently completed 20 percent of the design plans for the D2 Downtown Tunnel, commonly referred to as D2, a second light rail line that will ease the traffic in downtown Dallas and extend from Victory Park to Deep Ellum.
With this update comes a clearer vision for five new stations and 20 acres of development potential along the route.
The 20 percent design is a big benchmark, says Steve Salin, AICP, Vice President Capital Planning for DART.
"The 20 percent design is a significant milestone in the development of any rail transit project," Salin says. "Before 20 percent design, many alternatives were on the table as part of the conceptual development stage. As we learned more technically and engaged with our stakeholders, we were able to reduce the number of options and craft a project that meets as many factors as possible."
Before it happens, plenty of issues need to be worked out, not the least of which is the reconstruction of I-345 by TxDOT.
Where is D2
D2 will serve the Orange and Green line trains from Victory Park to Deep Ellum. The Orange Line could be a flex line east of downtown, either turning north to resume current service to Parker Road Station, or divert south to Baylor Medical District Station.
There will be five new DART stations constructed downtown:
- Museum Station will go at street level next door to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science
- Metro Center Station — The largest subway station will go in below the West Transit Center near West End Station. It will be the only station serving all rail lines.
- Commerce Station — The rail stop will sit below Commerce Street outside of the new Discovery District at AT&T’s headquarters.
- CBD East Station — The underground station planned for Pearl Expressway between Main and Elm would serve the new East Quarter district and other points on the eastern edge of downtown.
- Live Oak Station — A new station would be constructed at Live Oak Street and Good Latimer, between the Latino Cultural Center and Live Oak Lofts. It would replace the Deep Ellum Station, which is being removed. (Much of the existing Deep Ellum Station will be salvaged and relocated to the Live Oak Station.)
Deep Ellum changes
On the east, DART has already announced The Epic's third phase of development as the site where the tunnel returns to street level in Deep Ellum. DART will purchase the land where Bottled Blonde and Lizard Lounge currently sit, then demolish them to make way for tracks.
Bottled Blonde has been trying to find a buyer for the property since 2018.
The portal will come up near Swiss Avenue immediately east of I-345, and from there, tracks will split with one going north along Good Latimer and the other track going southward to Baylor Medical District Station.
The elevated I-345 highway splitting through downtown from Deep Ellum keeps D2 in limbo. Three scenarios are being floated: modifying to remove downtown off-ramps; sinking the highway below grade; or removing it altogether.
Current plans call for D2 to begin its re-emergence from the tunnel below the I-345. If the state opts to rebuild below grade, DART will have to reconfigure its route, causing significant delays.
Bottled Blonde spokesman Michael Massof emphasizes that the plans currently in the works are only 20 percent complete.
"The route through Bottled Blonde is one of many possible routes DART could take," Massof says. "The route which would not only knock out us, but most of our neighbors which are in the process of being built, is being fought. DART has nothing set in stone and currently no money raised for this project, which wouldn't start for years."
He also clarifies that Bottled Blonde is not for sale. "Our owners have had the land underneath Bottled Blonde for sale for a while now, which was the original plan before they bought it," he says. "It was for sale assuming Bottled Blonde would still hold the lease for as long as need be."
Dallas urban planner Patrick Kennedy says that 20 percent is both small and yet large at the same time.
"The most important thing regarding D2 is that 20 percent design would sound like the cake isn't yet baked — but 20 percent from a planning, funding, and process standpoint is pretty far along," he says. "The cake isn't baked but it is going into the oven very shortly and if people want their voice heard, on anything politically, it is best to get involved early and often."
Prime development opportunities are located at the East and West portals, where the trains descend and ascend from underground.
The West Portal will go in the middle of six acres of parking lots near the Dallas World Aquarium along Griffin Street at Woodall Rogers. The trains would disappear into the sides of the towers where the tunnel would begin. The property is owned by DKW Partners, a partnership between Woods Capital, Kaizen Development, and Dundon Capital Partners, who acquired the land in 2019.
The CBD East Station has six acres of development opportunity made up of parking lots and aging buildings divided into dozens of parcels and owners.
Federal funding could come in as early as 2022. DART is seeking grants from the Federal Transit Administration’s Capital Investments Grants Program, adding core capacity downtown. The grant could fund up to 80 percent of the $1.3 billion price tag and dictates the timeline for design, engineering and construction.
Other transportation brewing
Elsewhere downtown, DART, the city of Dallas, and other partners continue to invest in alternative transportation. An extension of the Dallas Streetcar to the Omni Convention Center Hotel is proposed to begin later in 2020. It will eventually connect to the McKinney Avenue trolley.
The high speed rail station is also advancing with contractors hoping to begin construction in 2020, Texas Central Partners told the Dallas City Council’s Transportation and Infrastructure in March.
DART’s next steps for D2 are to submit an environmental impact study and other documentation to the Federal Transit Administration to get approval to begin the 30 percent design phase. The project could be included in the FTA’s 2022 funding recommendations, DART says. Then the agency will complete the 30 percent design stage and seek approval to start engineering of the D2 tunnel.