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An idea-having FrontBurnervian has an idea for The Mercantile. I’ll include the e-mail he sent me (and about two dozen other people at City Hall, WFAA, Rosewood Hotels, and elsewhere) after the jump. But if you want the short version: convert the Merc into a campus for a Culinary Arts Institute. Hmm. It might work.

Ladies & Gentlemen,
I just want to take the opportunity to throw out a unique idea for the future use of the Mercantile and complex. And, thus, a unique approach to getting it done will need to be used by civic leaders to accomplish such. Perhaps even with an inclusion of a gift known as the Atmos buildings; or, just the Merc. and complex separately. “Can’t Do” isn’t what Dallas (center city or otherwise) is, regardless of the latest failure in a hard-to-develop endeavor such as the Merc. An enormous amount of activity in the center city alone over the last several years and change makes it clearly evident Dallas still has a 1984 National Geographic Magazine “Can Do” spirit lying around somewhere. Not everything we all want is getting done the way we all want it, yadda yadda – but, there is plenty going quite well. Politics and finances and you-name-it current buzzwords of ire… aside, I wanted to talk to anyone on any side of a fence or river in Dallas in brief about just one individual idea on a building/complex that should not become parking stripes someday.

Quickly, I grew up living in Irving and Dallas; and, I presently have 13 years in the US Navy Submarine Service. I served in order on these submarines: USS Dallas, USS Florida, USS Houston, USS Michigan, and the USS Georgia. I’m currently living along the north shore of Chicago aiding in setting up the Navy’s Culinary Specialist “A” School as well as teaching in other fields. (I’ve even ran a website for 8 years out-of-pocket dedicated to Dallas urban development, all the while barely visiting Planet Dallas since 2000. The forum has been it’s major reason-to-be since 2001 and a good way for me to stay thoroughly in touch.) Anyhow, I’ve visited the Illinois Institute of the Arts in downtown Chicago several times as well as Kendall College. Both, excellent culinary schools. The former lying right on the river with on-site housing and a pretty extensive set of programs. The activity on the street outside and inside the walls of this massive complex is both highly active and adds quite a unique experience to the downtown life for several blocks. It is probably no coincidence whatsoever that many of Chicago’s widely-acclaimed restaurants and other fine hospitality establishments are within walking range of this university.

Why Culinary Arts and related Hospitality Management in particular? Anyone who knows Dallas or nevertheless has a pre-conceived notion of the City knows Dallas is strongly well-suited for a (another) major culinary arts and general arts institution and the advancement of such within Upstate Texas. Whether a branch of the AI-Dallas on a larger scale in downtown Dallas, or a branch of Austin’s Texas Culinary Academy, or even a branch of a school I’ve attended known as the Culinary Institute of America. As numerous buildings in downtown Dallas are under renovation or on the boards for renovation, the Merc. in it’s numerous failures to be renovated in similar fashion could stand to possibly shine with a far more unique and intuitive adaptive re-use. With added interesting purposes as well. The buildings can serve culinary mgmt. programs/hospitality mgmt. programs/le cordon bleu program/garde-manger program/specialty cuisine program for the region such as Latin American/or any region/etc. There are schools out there as mentioned before; or invent one. The latter being just a thought as the entire premise of this eMail is think tank (not in an ivory tower though) and brainstorming in nature to share with others – with Culinary Arts instruction as a true focus. The on-site housing can double as well for practical applications for students in hotel mgmt. and other related coursework. Every bit of the Merc. complex could possibly be utilized for overlapping housing and instruction use – and then some.

Take the Merc. and associated buildings, razing nothing, and turn it into an all-inclusive Institute of the Arts with Culinary Arts as a major foundation along with interior/exterior/graphic/digital/media design programs as well – if nec. – depending on what fine college program or what fine programs of multiple colleges are recruited. Naturally, the approach of civic leaders and whatnot will need to take this on in a different fashion than with the Forest City(s) of Cleveland and so on. Stone by stone, other buildings old and older are getting their TLC make-over. What is one major complex going another route adding several thousand students to the downtown lifestyle if not even more profound. The Merc. and assoc. bldgs. w/on-site housing for students (just like what I toured several times in downtown Chicago) could thoroughly infuse life into downtown unlike what many have considered. (Also great for downtown if the UNT-Law School idea is pursued to a positive conclusion.) But, that human interaction is a positive by-product of an endeavor far more meteoric for Dallas center city and Dallas as a whole – and the entire region. For example, take the coursework rooted in this facility and branch out to say Grapevine, Turtle Creek, and so on for specialty assignments and journeyman/apprenticeship/5 vector model self-enhancements on wineries and practical school factors with local sous chefs and hospitality supervisors.

The Merc. is sitting there waiting for the next similar idea of going mixed-use to come around and get re-worked via more planet and star alignment all the while trying not to be the next parking lot and lost fabulous ruin of Dallas. I offer a unique endeavor. To top it all off, if anyone has seen images of the ‘painted walls’ in Lyon, France – perhaps google them online. I even go as far as to suggest doing such artistic creations as that to the mundane parts and blank walls of the otherwise less-than-attractive portions of the complex to the average onlooker. The Mercantiles athenaeum of past misses needs little mention in these circles. Copy to Dean Fearing please, Rosewood. Thank you all for listening to the brainstorming and I hope you all take it into your collective.