Developer has plans for Deep Ellum renaissance



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Posted on January 30, 2013 at 11:53 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 31 at 8:18 AM

DALLAS — For more than a century, music has helped define Deep Ellum.

At least 16 venues boast live performances in this eclectic community on the east side of the downtown Dallas.

But Scott Rohrman intends to change that. Over the last three months, he has quietly bought up 32 vacant properties here.

"We really think if open up the buildings and kind of unlock them, then they can become something the artists, the creative types, and the restaurant people will say, 'That's a place I want to be!,'" Rohrman told News 8.

He plans to renovate the storefronts, restore original walls, wooden beams and concrete floors for new music venues... and more.

"We have three or four restaurants we're talking to, three or four art people we're talking to, a bicycle shop; so we're already seeing a whole lot of interest, and we've only owned these buildings a couple months," Rohrman said.

He would not reveal how much he's investing, but told us he hopes to have the project complete within three years. Outside, more work is under way.

The City of Dallas started a $10 million renovation of Elm Street last week designed to help improve Deep Ellum — the neighborhood.

Fifteen years ago, 300 people lived here. Today, 2,000 people call Deep Ellum home. Its most vibrant time  is during lunch and early evening happy hour. It's bustling no longer just at night.

"It's never going to be what it was, because I don't think what it was is really where we want to go," said Barry Annino, president of the Deep Ellum Foundation.

Improvements to Elm Street, he said, will take 14 months and will change the look of a mile-long stretch.

"The sidewalks are going to be wider," Annino said. "You're going to see more sidewalk cafés. It's going to be softer and friendlier, whereas right now it's kind of a broken street."

That's where developers like Rohrman come in, Annino said — people who are willing to rescue vacant property.

"I truly feel that we're in a positive momentum," Annino said. "And the process is moving us in the right place. Scott timed it well."

"Deep Ellum has energy; it's eclectic and it's edgy," Rohrman said. "But it's not dangerous or dirty."

Acquiring 32 properties in three months is quite a statement.

But Deep Ellum is known for music, and Rohrman said that's what he wants to preserve.