No one believed that Trader Joe’s was really coming. Not until the sign went up. The lot where the store was slated to go, the site of the old Arcadia Theater, was ingrained in the street’s past.
The stretch of Greenville Avenue from Ross Avenue to Belmont Avenue once featured grocery stores, a Woolworths, and the Arcadia, a movie theater built in 1927. The wholesome vibe turned in the ’70s. The Arcadia screened Deep Throat and had to close briefly as a result. Then it became a concert venue where the Ramones and Lyle Lovett played. In the 1990s, it was a nightclub, as well as the site of a murder. The Arcadia’s neighbors changed along with it. The bars and music venues were big and loud; the crowd was rowdy and overserved. When the theater caught fire for a third and final time in 2006, Madison Partners, which was founded by Lou Reese, owned it and many of the buildings nearby.
There was bond money set aside for street improvements, but the City Council, which included Angela Hunt (who would play an instrumental role in the block’s eventual revitalization), was reluctant to invest in what was primarily perceived as a bar district.
“In standard Dallas fashion, it was a mixture of real and perceived problems,” says Jonathon Hetzel, a developer with Madison Partners. “But it was preventing a real renaissance down there.”
Hunt and Pauline Medrano proposed a planned development district. Businesses open past midnight would be required to apply for a specific use permit. Property owners reluctantly agreed. Once the PD went into effect, sidewalks were widened, traffic lanes narrowed, trees planted. Oncor moved the power lines behind the buildings. Andres Properties got to work on Mudsmith and HG Sply Co., which opened in 2013, while Madison Partners opened Truck Yard across the street from its biggest coup: Trader Joe’s. Hetzel had gotten a tip that the grocer was looking for a space and cold-called the company’s head of real estate.
“We just wanted to be part of that turnaround,” says Brooks Anderson, the restaurateur behind Boulevardier in Bishop Arts and soon-to-open Rapscallion. “I remember when I was in college, Greenville was the place to be.”