The traffic and parking on Lowest Greenville suggest there's a problem. Restaurateurs say no way.

The traffic and parking on Lowest Greenville suggest there's a problem. Restaurateurs say no way.

Louis DeLuca/Staff Photographer

Ask some restaurateurs on Lowest Greenville in Dallas about the parking problem near the neighborhood's popular restaurants and bar­s and you'll get this refrain: What parking problem?

It's tough to hear if you've been driving in circles for 20 minutes.

Here's the scene on Lowest Greenville on Wednesday, March 29, 2017.

Here's the scene on Lowest Greenville on Wednesday, March 29, 2017.

Louis DeLuca/Staff Photographer

The hot neighborhood -- one of "the most desired locations in the Metroplex," says restaurant tenant rep broker Michael Miller of Stablemade Group -- is stocked with restaurants, bars, dessert shops, even a record store, most of which are regularly busy and undeniably popular. You've probably been. If you could figure where to park your car.

Despite the swath of well-known restaurants and bars on Lowest Greenville, restaurant hoppers began whispering when sales slumped in the second half of 2016: What's happening on Lowest Greenville? A few restaurants such as Clark Food & Wine and Remedy closed. Sammy Mandell, the owner of Greenville Avenue Pizza Company and the president of the Lowest Greenville Collective, described the "struggle" of businessowners to keep sales up in one of Dallas' hottest 'hoods. Mixed beverage sales from the Texas comptroller's office show that many Dallas bars and restaurants, not just those in Lowest Greenville, saw a sales slump in the second half of 2016.

"We've got to make something happen," Mandell said after talking to Lowest Greenville colleagues who also felt the pinch.

The Libertine Bar, a gem on Greenville Avenue, has seen momentous change in its years in the neighborhood.

The Libertine Bar, a gem on Greenville Avenue, has seen momentous change in its years in the neighborhood.

Jerry McClure/Special Contributor

Many said the road construction from fall 2015 to fall 2016 turned customers away. After all, every diner who's driven past the south end of Greenville Avenue in Dallas surely remembers the orange barricades from a $4.1 million construction project that is finally finished: The project widened sidewalks and added traffic signals, pedestrian lighting and landscaping, among other improvements, according to Tim Starr, assistant director of mobility and street services for the city of Dallas.

During the bulk of that construction, traffic and parking on Lowest Greenville were a challenge. Some argue the situation is still bad. The construction is over, though, and Mandell and his neighbors are hosting a party April 1 to re-introduce Lowest Greenville to hungry and thirsty people of Dallas.

Wait: Lowest Greenville businesses were actually struggling?

Take a trip to HG Sply Co. for brunch on a sunny weekday and you'll wait an hour or more for a table at one of Lowest Greenville's buzziest restaurants. Should you wander across the street to Truck Yard to grab a drink while you wait? You might not be able to snag a seat.

It's hard to believe Lowest Greenville struggled at all, isn't it?

Some business are likely doing fine. But HG Sply and Truck Yard tell only a sliver of the story. Addresses on the fringes likely have a tougher time attracting crowds. Diners are fickle. And the weather matters.

Truck Yard, pictured here in 2014, is regularly packed on beautiful days. But Lowest Greenville is home to dozens of restaurants, bars and shops that don't have quite the same draw. Still, it appears this revitalized neighborhood will fare just fine.

Truck Yard, pictured here in 2014, is regularly packed on beautiful days. But Lowest Greenville is home to dozens of restaurants, bars and shops that don't have quite the same draw. Still, it appears this revitalized neighborhood will fare just fine.

Alexandra Olivia/Special Contributor

"If it rains, people don't come out in the masses they normally would," Mandell explains. In a sense, many consumers have experienced Lowest Greenville only at its peak hours: on sunny weekdays and on weekends.

"Lowest Greenville is all about patios," Miller explains.

For Randall Warder, whose Greenville Avenue businesses C'Viche and Clark Food & Wine closed in November and December, respectively, Friday and Saturdays were make-or-break days. You don't get great business on the weekends? Not good.  

And let's look at some history: The "new" Lowest Greenville was cleaned up a few years ago after the City Council tightened operating rules for bars and restaurants, which forced some to close. Miller says restaurants were just hitting their stride on the re-imagined Greenville Avenue when construction started in 2015. "It was just timing," he says. "That, combined with some closings and buyouts and reconceptings, culminated in giving a perception that there was an issue on the street."

A blessing and a curse? Lowest Greenville is often congested, meaning it can be challenging to park but that the 'hood is (mostly) vibrant.

A blessing and a curse? Lowest Greenville is often congested, meaning it can be challenging to park but that the 'hood is (mostly) vibrant.

Louis DeLuca/Staff Photographer

But "Lowest Greenville is in the heart of the city. It has great access points," Miller explains. He describes the "dense, mature, residential neighborhoods" on the M Streets and the desirable young families who live nearby. He points to the "cool, old buildings with a lot of character."

He helps restaurateurs hunt for their next new lease and says he's got plenty of people jumping at the chance to move into a new Greenville Avenue address when a restaurant moves out. Still, the neighborhood has more than a half-dozen "for lease" signs up at vacant addresses.

"Name me a closure on Lowest Greenville and I can tell you the landlord has already told me they've got somebody better going in there," says Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston.

But let's talk more about that parking problem

Kingston, who lives near Lowest Greenville, offers a challenge: "Anytime anybody says, 'I can't park there,' I say, 'Come to my house. We'll find a parking spot in five minutes.'"

He points to parallel parking spots several blocks from the action -- which would require a modest walk for restaurant and bar hoppers -- where drivers can find a free space not protected by the "resident parking only" signs. (Look to Lewis and Sears streets, Kingston suggests.)

Just valet on Lowest Greenville, say some of the restaurateurs.

Just valet on Lowest Greenville, say some of the restaurateurs.

Louis DeLuca/Staff Photographer

"You have to be creative. You have to be accepting of street parking. But it's still down there," Kingston says. According to a city of Dallas spreadsheet counting parking spaces in Lowest Greenville, the bars and restaurants do appear to be in compliance with the required number of parking spots, even if it feels like you can never find a spot.

But for businesses that thrive on word of mouth, perception is nearly as important as reality. "Parking has affected all of the businesses to some extent in that neighborhood, without a doubt," Warder says.

The new, free valet system

To convince customers that Lowest Greenville is accessible to drivers, the neighborhood now has a new, free valet parking system in effect since fall 2016. Any valet stand south of Belmont and north of Ross avenues is free -- though customers should still tip, Kingston says.

"We want people to stop using the phrase, 'There's no parking down there,' Mandell says. "There is: We're paying for it!"

Landlords in the Lowest Greenville area share the bill for the valet stands.

The significance of the April 1 'experience'

On April 1, Lowest Greenville restaurateurs are inviting customers out to "experience" the neighborhood -- again.

Good Records, located near the south end of Lowest Greenville, has its own parking lot right out front.

Good Records, located near the south end of Lowest Greenville, has its own parking lot right out front.

Matthew Busch/Staff Photographer

"Now that construction is over, it's time to do something," Mandell says. Mixed beverage sales receipts from the Texas comptroller's office already show a lift in sales since the dip in late 2016.

On April 1, more than a dozen businesses on Greenville Avenue are hosting small events inside their shops. It won't be a block party with closed-off streets -- goodness knows the neighborhood doesn't need any more barricaded streets. So instead, businesses are hosting pop-up parties inside their establishments on April 1.

To name a few: Village Baking Co. is handing out free mimosas from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dude, Sweet Chocolate is pairing chocolate beer at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Blind Butcher is hosting free cocktail classes at noon and 5 p.m. Single Wide will be spinning soul, funk and R&B on vinyl from 4-8 p.m.

On April 1, business owners hope you experience the "new" Lowest Greenville: a construction-free dining district with complimentary valet parking and the same great patio scene it's had for years.

Still can't find a parking spot? Park farther away, wear comfortable shoes and deal with it, Kingston says.

Or just valet. It's the Dallas way.

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