What can you do to improve Greenville Avenue with $1.3 million in city bond money? Councilmen Angela Hunt and Pauline Medrano say narrowing the two-block portion of the street between Bell and Alta, creating wider sidewalks that allow more restaurant patios, and adding streetlamps, trees and bike racks should do the trick.

At the same time, the company (Madison Partners) that owns the former Arcadia Theater lot — an acre that has been home to a temporary gardening center for awhile — is applying to the city for the necessary permits to set up a “food park” where chefs can park their trucks and trailers to serve food outdoors.

The idea, as reported in the DMN, is to make at least those two blocks of Greenville (essentially from about Daddy Jack’s north to the Dodie’s strip center) more pedestrian- and family-friendly, presumably at the expense of the various late-night bars and clubs in the area. The goal is to have everything up and running by late next year.

OK, so the naysayers will pronounce that the whole deal sounds like Austin (see the Dallas Observer’s story) but, of course, it really won’t be. And even if it is, they’ll say, two blocks really isn’t exactly a game-changer for an area the size of Lower Greenville.

Ultimately, though, if Lower Greenville is going to be returned to neighborhood retail and restaurant uses — as opposed to its current identity that draws young and oftentimes rowdy bar patrons from throughout the city — somebody is going to have to start the ball rolling. And it appears that between the city and Madison Partners, this is a project that can demonstrate (or not, perhaps) that neighbors will patronize the area if they don’t have to worry too much about being robbed or ripped off.

When Whole Foods quits paying for the lease on its former site just up Greenville in a couple of years, what happens with that site (owned, incidentally, by former city councilman Mitchell Rasansky) is going to determine what happens with the rest of the Lower Greenville.

If that site becomes a huge bar/dancehall that spills trouble into the streets, we’ve all got problems. If this budding effort by Hunt and Medrano — a couple of years in the offing — takes hold and proves to be economically viable, perhaps the Whole Foods site will go a different direction — who’s to say that the place couldn’t be turned into a permanent mini-food mall or even a more upscale farmer’s market, given the right economics and surroundings?

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