Coppell Chronicle Vol. 3, No. 45
It’s Prime Time for Our Year-End Report • East Belt Line to Lose Lanes for 3 Months • Several Homes Evacuated Due to Gas Leak • Council Likes Simplest Design for Vets Plaza
One of this newsletter’s biggest cheerleaders has a unique problem that I’d like to help her solve. Cherie Walker co-chairs the Coppell Cotillion program. At the moment, she’s wrangling a waiting list of 20 fifth-grade boys because not enough girls have signed up for the classes that begin on Jan. 19. “In my 21 years of co-chairing cotillion we have never needed so many girls,” Walker said. If you’re the parent of a fifth-grade girl, click here to sign her up.
It’s Prime Time for Our Year-End Report
New Year’s Eve seems like the perfect time for a year-end report, don’t you think?
On the first day of 2023, this newsletter had 645 paid subscribers. As of this morning, there are 828 subscribers on the paid list, and an additional 1,287 email addresses on the free list. My long-stated goal is to reach 3,000 paid subscribers, because that’s about how many voters participated the last time a Coppell City Council election went to a runoff. If you care enough to cast a ballot in a City Council runoff election, then you probably care about the content in this newsletter. I must assume the non-subscribers just aren’t aware of its existence.
To help make them aware, I explored several promotional strategies in 2023:
• The Chronicle sponsored the Coppell Baseball Association, the baseball and boys’ basketball programs at Coppell High School, and the Coppell 5K benefiting our local Special Olympics program. And because the Coppell Middle School North PTO didn’t bother to host a fundraising auction last spring, I got an extra year’s worth of naming rights to the school’s gym, aka the Coppell Chronicle Coliseum.
• I had 1,000 copies of a promotional newsprint edition of the Chronicle made so my son and his friends and I could pass them out during the Fourth of July parade. In the wake of that gambit, more than one person asked me whether I was converting this digital newsletter into a traditional newspaper requiring ink and dead trees. I laughed out loud each time that question was posed.
• Much to my surprise and delight, several subscribers — most of whom are not members of my family — purchased T-shirts and hoodies from Tee Public bearing this sentence: “I read all about it in the Coppell Chronicle.”
And people do read all about it. My partners at Substack tell me the free editions published on the final Sunday of each month are opened by more than 75 percent of their recipients, while the editions that are sent to only paid subscribers have open rates north of 85 percent. Those numbers are — to put it in technical terms — bonkers. Experts say an open rate in the range of 20 percent is respectable in the mass email business.
Here are highlights of what the Chronicle’s subscribers read about this year:
Recurring topics: I covered the heck out of Coppell ISD’s latest bond election, if I do say so myself. The topic of short-term rentals offered on sites such as Airbnb and Vrbo always generates interest. And there were plenty of articles about the trials and tribulations of developing Old Town Coppell. (By the way, eight months after the City Council approved Chris Collins’ requested zoning changes for the southwest corner of Bethel Road and Main Street, that land still belongs to Steve Chadick. I need to follow up on that.)
Unique news: The Chronicle broke the news that the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office rejected a case accusing a Coppell ISD bus driver of sexual assault. I haven’t seen any other reports on the anonymous accusations of racial remarks by the superintendent of Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD. And my subscribers found out Coppell will be the site of the first Tim Hortons in North Texas nearly six months before other media outlets picked up on that.
Articles shared by other media: Real estate blog Candy’s Dirt paraphrased an article about the proliferation of rent houses in Coppell. D Magazine republished an article about an isolated Irving neighborhood that can be accessed only via roads in Coppell and Dallas. And the freaking New York Times included an article about a pair of public hearings with a pop music soundtrack in its roundup of “Local Journalism Worth Reading From 2023.”
Odds and ends: I had the pleasure of covering the Cozby Library’s first jigsaw puzzle competition for adults. In that same edition, I wrote about a proposal to designate the American kestrel as Coppell’s official bird. (That designation was made unofficially a few weeks later.) And no 2023 edition of this newsletter inspired more engagement than the brief April Fool’s Day edition, in which I convinced several people they would need a fax machine to maintain their subscriptions. Good times.
Looking ahead to 2024, I plan to be in Austin whenever the lawsuit filed by Coppell and other cities over Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s sales tax proposal finally goes to trial. I’ll do my best to prepare voters for the primary elections in March, the municipal elections in May, and the general election in November. And you know I will continue to watch every single meeting of the Coppell City Council, the Coppell ISD Board of Trustees, and the Coppell Planning and Zoning Commission.
What else would you like to see covered in the Chronicle next year?
East Belt Line to Lose Lanes for 3 Months
This traffic alert was briefly mentioned in last week’s edition. Based on the reaction it generated on social media, I figured it deserved a full-fledged article.
A stretch of East Belt Line Road will be reduced to one lane in each direction for three months due to the construction of DART’s Silver Line tracks. Those tracks will cross East Belt Line between Kyra Court and Moore Road at ground level (as opposed to the bridge over South Belt Line). Contractor Archer Western Herzog plans to start closing lanes this week, and the closures are expected to continue in three phases through March.
The first phase — which is confusingly labeled “Phase 0” — is set for Wednesday through Friday of this week. That’s when the left lanes will be closed in both directions, presumably so tracks can be laid across the median.
The second phase — also known as “Phase 1” — will begin on Jan. 8 and last through Feb. 16. During that span, the eastbound lanes will be fully closed, but one lane on the north side of the road will be dedicated to eastbound traffic.
The third and final phase — which is labeled “Phase 2,” of course, but would have been funnier as “Phase B” — is scheduled to begin on Feb. 19 and continue through March 28. On those dates, the contractors will shift their work to the westbound lanes, but westbound drivers will be able to use a lane on the south side of the road.
Some of the people who read this news on social media were disappointed to find out that these new tracks will cross East Belt Line at street level. They were hoping there would be an elevated bridge, like the one Archer Western Herzog has already built above South Belt Line. These folks seemed to be anticipating long delays once the Silver Line is operational, akin to what you might experience while waiting for a freight train to cross a road.
I don’t think that will be the case. DART’s Silver Line trains will be much faster and shorter than a freight train, so I doubt the gate arms will be lowered for more than a minute at a time. Speaking of time, we have plenty of it to think about this. Revenue service on the Silver Line is expected to begin in 2026.
Several Homes Evacuated Due to Gas Leak
Several homes in Coppell were evacuated last week due to gas issues. Unfortunately, I don’t have much more to tell you about that.
On Tuesday afternoon, the city issued an alert on social media: “Atmos Energy crews are actively working an incident in the 200 block of Plantation Drive, and some residents were asked to evacuate as a precaution. Everyone impacted has been contacted, and a need for further evacuations has NOT been identified. Please avoid the area to allow public safety and Atmos crews to continue their investigation.”
Before noon on Wednesday, Coppell officials had published a second statement about a gas leak near Business 121 and Vista Ridge Mall Drive. Just after 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Lewisville officials said the southbound lanes of Business 121 would be “closed for several hours as Atmos crews work to find and stop the gas leak.”
On Friday morning, after discovering that Plantation was closed to traffic between Mossy Oaks Street and Southern Belle Drive, I emailed Atmos spokeswoman Jan Rugg to ask a few questions. I wanted to know what she could tell me about the causes of these incidents, the number of homes and/or businesses that were evacuated, and whether both issues had been resolved.
“Atmos Energy’s technicians responded to a call in Coppell, Texas Monday night at the request of the Coppell Fire Department,” she wrote in response. “Our highly trained technicians issued a temporary evacuation of several homes in the area.
“Our number one priority is the safety of the public, our employees, and our natural gas distribution system. Atmos Energy crews remain onsite to assist the fire department and further confirm the area is safe. Natural gas service may be suspended to nearby homes during the investigation.”
By Saturday morning, there was no indication that anything out of the ordinary had happened on Business 121. Although Plantation Drive had been reopened to traffic by then, Atmos crews were still on the scene outside a pair of adjacent homes on the south side of the road. Three devices labeled “vapor extraction unit” were running throughout the day on Saturday.
I contacted the owner of one of those homes via email on Friday and asked if he had more details. His reply: “As you can understand, I don’t have anything to share at this time due to the ongoing investigation.”
If you smell gas, call 911 from a safe distance as well as Atmos Energy’s 24-hour emergency number: 866-322-8667.
Council Likes Simplest Design for Vets Plaza
When presented with three designs for a veterans memorial, the Coppell City Council favored the simplest option, which happens to be the least expensive.
Coppell resident Samit Patel of Olsson Studio recently met with the council for the first time since they upped the project’s budget from $350,000 to $1.5 million. During their Dec. 12 meeting, he showed them a trio of concepts for a memorial in Town Center Plaza. Concept A was the most popular, and it was also the only one with no digital elements.
The estimated cost for Concept A was $875,000. It would feature six stone structures, one for each branch of the U.S. military: Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard. There would also be a monument sign facing the Town Center parking lot and a battle cross in an area currently occupied by picnic tables.
“The first concept you came up with, I think, is particularly strong, and just the strength is in its simplicity — the kind of classic approach,” Mark Hill, the only architect on the council, said before referencing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.: “It’s just such a simple idea, but it’s so strong.”
Olsson Studio’s designs for Concept A and for Concept C (which I’ll show you in a moment) call for the six stone structures to be scaled-down versions of the obelisk that’s already a feature of Town Center Plaza.
“As we look at the park as a whole,” Patel told the council, “it adds to that timelessness, that classic design nature of the entire park, really maintaining the feel that it is today.”
However, Hill was not on board with that aspect of the designs; in fact, he said it disturbed him. “That original obelisk is not particularly appealing,” Hill said. “More of an eyesore than anything.”
Council Member Jim Walker didn’t say he was disturbed, but he agreed with Hill: “We should try to redesign something that is more in line with the presentation that we’re trying to make and less in line with the obelisk structure that’s already out there.”
Concept B would have replaced the miniature obelisks with six interactive digital displays. Patel said they would be activated by motion sensors, which would initially trigger videos about each military branch. “As you stand there a little bit more, it actually captures your face,” he said, “and then it comes to an image of a soldier saluting back to you, with your face, visualizing you — especially for the kids — visualizing you as a future serviceman or woman.” The estimated price tag for Concept B was $1.8 million.
Most of the council members expressed concerns about what it would cost to program, maintain, and eventually replace those digital displays, which would be exposed to the elements, of course, because they would be outdoors.
“I don’t feel comfortable burdening the residents with that kind of cost over the budget that we already expanded, and the costs that we don’t know going forward,” Mayor Pro Tem John Jun said.
Concept C called for the digital elements to be incorporated into a display wall at the memorial’s south end. Its estimated cost was even higher: $2 million.
Council Member Kevin Nevels said he loved the idea of using interactive video elements to keep kids’ interest. Pointing out how close the memorial’s future site is to Town Center Elementary School, he wondered about Concept A, “Is that going to be something that would capture a younger audience?” As for Concept C, Nevels said, “I understand that that’s a hefty price tag.”
Council Member Don Carroll also favored the boldness of Concept C. “However, saying that, clearly that is not the way the room is moving,” Carroll said. He then wondered if there was a way to have a static backdrop that would be dramatically lit rather than digital. (Carroll cited the Bonfire Memorial at Texas A&M University as an example.) Nevels liked that idea, as did Hill. “There’s something about that terminus at the end of the view,” Hill said.
Director of Community Experiences Jessica Carpenter said Patel’s firm would incorporate the council’s feedback and bring back revised designs on a date to be determined.
One more thing: Jun asked his colleagues to consider changing the name of Town Center Boulevard to Veterans Way. He said that wouldn’t be a huge logistical undertaking, as there are only two buildings with addresses on that street: the Coppell Justice Center and the Coppell Family YMCA.
• Have you noticed the relatively new Velvet Taco and Son of a Butcher restaurants along State Highways 114/121 in Grapevine, due west of Main Street? Two other eateries are being built on that same stretch of westbound frontage road: Firebirds Wood Fired Grill and Rock & Brews. The latter business is associated with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of Kiss.
• I’m sorry to report that the Smashburger in Coppell has apparently closed its doors for good. According to the Dallas Central Appraisal District, its building on Denton Tap Road — which also houses a Jersey Mike’s Subs and an Einstein Bros. Bagels — was purchased two years ago by a company called Olex United States Inc. That firm owns no other properties in Dallas County under that name; its mailing address is a UPS Store near the Park Cities.
• Are JC’s Burger Bar’s days in Coppell numbered? When trying to find contact information for Olex United States Inc. or its leasing agent, I stumbled upon a LoopNet listing that indicates the JC’s space on Sandy Lake Road is available. That listing says the “vibrant dining space” offers a “bustling atmosphere and steady traffic,” and it also says this: “EXISTING TENANT STILL OPERATING. PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB.” Oops.
• Evidence that not enough of my neighbors subscribe to this newsletter: My subdivision was lined with recycling containers on Wednesday morning, despite the adjusted schedule mentioned in last week’s edition. Coppell’s trash, recycling, and yard waste collections will shift by one day again this week. Trash will be collected on Tuesday and Friday, while recycling and yard waste will be collected on Thursday. Lewisville will follow the same “delayed by one day” pattern, so collections that normally happen on Wednesday will occur on Thursday. But in Irving, the trash collectors will take New Year’s Day off, then pick up as normal the rest of the week.
• If you want to provide feedback on Coppell ISD’s calendar options for the 2024-25 school year, you have until Friday afternoon to speak your mind.
• The space in the Braewood Shopping Center on Denton Tap Road that was formerly occupied by Board & Brush Creative Studio has a much different tenant these days: Fuel Mixed Martial Arts.
• Smoothie King, which is headquartered within the Cypress Waters portion of Coppell ISD, has renewed its naming rights for the home arena of the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.
• Mr. Cooper Group, which is also based in Cypress Waters and holds the naming rights for the Coppell Arts Center’s lobby gallery, is dealing with a data breach that may have affected more than 14 million customers.
Game Night: Families are invited to enjoy classic and contemporary board games, plus a few giant ones, between 6 and 8 p.m. on Wednesday at the Cozby Library and Community Commons.
Guided Bird Walk: A Cozby Library and Community Commons staffer will help participants observe winter bird species between 9:30 and 11 a.m. on Jan. 7. Registration is required.
Four Day Weekend: The acclaimed improv comedy troupe will return to the Coppell Arts Center for their monthly engagement at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 11.
Health Expo: Alloy Personal Training will host a health expo between 1 and 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 12 featuring a few other Coppell businesses — Fleet Feet, Free Form Chiropractic, Project Lean Nation, and Stretch Lab.
Meditative Drawing: No art experience is necessary to attend this class scheduled for 2 p.m. on Jan. 13 at the Cozby Library and Community Commons, but registration is required.
Darren Nicholson: The Grammy-nominated bluegrass musician will perform at the Coppell Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 13.
Assistance League of Coppell meeting: Is your New Year’s resolution to become more actively engaged in Coppell? Come to the next Assistance League meeting and see how you can easily connect. Members and guests will gather at 11:15 a.m. on Jan. 18 in Room 236 at Valley Ranch Baptist Church for a two-part program. First, Atmos representative Jan Rugg will present a donation that will bring the company’s three-year total to $8,000. Then, Lynne Ryan will lead attendees in putting together games for goody bags that will go to “Night to Shine” participants on Feb. 9. After the meeting, members and guests will go to lunch at a nearby restaurant.
Coffee With a Cop: Coppell Police Department officers will be hanging out at Gas Coffee between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 20, when Frost Bank will pay for your cup of joe.
9 to 5: Coppell High School’s Cowboy Theatre Company will present five performances of Dolly Parton’s musical based on the 1980 film. The first show is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 20.
Dallas Symphony Orchestra: The musicians from Big D will venture to suburbia for a performance at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 24 at the Coppell Arts Center.