Chamber Lutz | Elvis Presley | Transport


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borhood have delayed the last hurdle. The chamber has a contract to buy the building at 1001 N. Bishop Ave. from developers Mark Miranda and Craig Schenkel. The sale, however, is contingent on a zoning change, chamber president Bob Stimson said. The City Council was scheduled to consider the zoning change this week, but that hearing has been delayed until Sept.



Opponents Delay Chamber’s Move
Council’s zoning decision pushed to September
BY DAN KOLLER People Newspapers

Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce officials want to move their headquarters to Kidd Springs, but opponents in the neigh-

11 at the request of Keith Jasiecki. In an Aug. 2 letter to the city’s Sustainable Development and Construction Department, he wrote, “This delay would enable us an opportunity to educate ourselves on the

process and to better prepare.” Such delays can be requested by anyone who pays a $150 fee and owns property within a certain distance of the site in question. Jasiecki owns five properties in Kidd Springs, according to the Dallas Central Appraisal District.

When reached by phone last week, the only comment Jasiecki had for Oak Cliff People was “best of luck.” But in a subsequent email, Kidd Springs Neighborhood Association president Pam Conley said

See CHAMBER, Page 8A

El Ranchito’s annual Elvis impersonations are a hit

Bicycle Project Gaining Speed
Plan board OKs designated lanes on Fort Worth
BY SARAH BENNETT People Newspapers


John Ehrenberg — a.k.a. Johnny Rockit — shakes, rattles, and rolls during the first round of El Ranchito’s 11th annual Elvis Presley impersonators contest on Aug. 7.

The King’s Fans Are All Shook Up
BY MARGAUX ANBOUBA People Newspapers

To check out Round 2 of the Elvis impersonators contest, drop by El Ranchito, 610 W. Jefferson Blvd., at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

hen John Ehrenberger took the stage at El Ranchito last we e k , t h e c rowd began to scream and swoon. But it wasn’t his original performance that wooed the crowd, but his ability to imitate the King of Rock ’n’ Roll through his alter ego, Johnny Rockit. Ehrenberger began performing in 2003 after seeing legendary local Elvis impersonator Kraig Parker perform. At the time, he was 42 — the age Elvis was when he died. “To actually start performing and doing a show took a lot of work,”


Ehrenberger said. “I never saw Elvis live, so I had to go buy every DVD — or at the time they were VHS tapes — of Elvis concerts. After 11 years, I can’t do most of the things that Elvis does, and I rarely see anybody who can.” After more than a decade of hound dogs and blue suede shoes, he’s hanging up his studded jumpsuit.

It looks like Fort Worth Avenue is about to get more bike-friendly. The City Plan Commission last week approved plans to construct bike lanes, so a green light from City Council is all that’s needed. The plan is to reduce the six lanes of vehicular traffic between Beckley Avenue and Westmoreland Road to four in order to make room for bicycles. “The vision for this segment of the roadway is a two-way cycle track on the south side of the road,” chief transportation officer Tanya Brooks said during the commission’s Aug. 8 briefing. Brooks said neighbors were “on board” with the plans. But Commissioner Michael Anglin had some questions before signing off completely on the idea. “Was there a consideration … [of ] any potential impact on Fort Worth Avenue from the Horseshoe project?” Anglin said of the Texas Department of Transportation’s efforts to reconfigure parts of Interstates 30 and 35.

Patrons enjoy taking in the sights and sounds of the evening’s Elvii.


Video Game Designer Building ‘Brainville’
What: Carl Lutz is one of three speakers who will discuss “Innovations in Public Education,” an event hosted by the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce. When: 7:30 a.m. on Thursday Where: Hitt Auditorium at Methodist Dallas Medical Center How much: $15-$20 “He had Super Mario Bros. I watched him play it once, and I was instantly hooked,” Lutz said. “And I didn’t leave my mom alone until we got one.” Twenty-eight years later, the Winnetka Heights resident is the creative director at the Center for Brain Health. What does such a job entail? “I like to say I turn neuroscience into video games,” Lutz said. After studying computer animation at the Art Institute of Dallas, film at UT-Arlington, and video games at UT-Dallas, Lutz started a game studio in partnership with a fellow student and a professor. Eventually, they started consulting for the center, a research facility dedicated

Lutz proves that boosting minds can be fun time
BY DAN KOLLER People Newspapers

Carl Lutz can trace the genesis of his career to an event from his gradeschool days: A friend got a Nintendo Entertainment System, a console that had just come on the market.


Carl Lutz of the Center for Brain Health demonstrates how his See LUTZ, Page 6A virtual-reality avatar can mimic facial expressions.

VO L . 8, I S S U E 3 3

Snacks are an important part of energizing kids for learning.”
(See Page 4A)

6A | AUGUST 16, 2013



At 9 : 0 5 p. m . o n Aug. 7, a resident of the 2000 block of Atlantic Street l o o ke d out of his apartment and saw someone trying to break into his car. When he went downstairs to confront the burglar, an accomplice brandishing a gun demanded all of the money he had on him, which was $280. Deeming that a satisfying amount, the two crooks were kind enough to leave without breaking into his car.



Between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 6, a burglar broke into a white 2008 Chevy Silverado in the 700 block of North Montclair Avenue and stole a $40 canvas bag that held a $1,200 Dell laptop, a $20 phone charger, and a prescription for Focalin, an ADHD medication intended for the victim’s son.


At 9:05 p.m. on Aug. 5, as a woman was driving west in the 200 block of West Davis Street, a miscreant threw a white liquid at her silver 2005 Ford sedan, splattering it across the passenger side. The woman immediately stopped her car and watched the miscreant run into a nearby house, so she called police. The responding officer assessed the white liquid as having a “milkshake consistency” b u t wa s n ’t q u i t e s u re what it was. The officer knocked on the door of the aforementioned house, and the miscreant emerged. After being positively identified by the woman, he was issued a citation. At 11:30 a.m. on Aug. 9, a contractor left a few items unattended in a backyard in the 100 block of North Edgefield Avenue. When he returned


Of The Week
At 9:15 p.m. on Aug. 8, a woman tried to sell a chainsaw to a resident of the 600 block of West Neely Street. When he declined her offer, she smashed his windshield.
a few minutes later, his $200 Craftsman miter saw, $200 Ryobi drill, $75 Sprint phone, and $50 USA Mobility pager were all gone. By noon, all four items had been sold to Cash America Pawn in the 600 block of West Jefferson Boulevard.

Between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Aug. 6, a burglar broke into a home in the 1200 block of Haines Avenue through a bedroom window after failing to get in through a bathroom window. The persistent burglar stole a $3,000 60-inch Samsung TV, an $800 iPhone 5, a $700 camera console system, and a $200 27-inch Insignia TV. At 1 2 : 3 0 p. m . o n Aug. 6, a thief stole a $150 Schwinn 24-speed mountain bike from a driveway in the 1100 block of Ballard Avenue. At noon on Aug. 7, a thief stole a $300 maroon Trek 10-speed mountain bike from the Valero station in the 200 block of South Beckley Avenue. The victim chased the thief on foot but, of course, could not keep up.


At 7:36 p.m. on Aug. 7, a gunman robbed the Subway in the 1200 block of Nor th Beckley Avenue . The crook made off with a $50 register that held $200 in cash.


6. 7.

Between 4:30 and 4:45 p.m. on Aug. 7, a ne’er-do-well wielding a paint can attacked a silver 2007 Chevy sedan in the 200 block of West Ninth Street, causing $700 worth of damage to the front fender and $350 worth of damage to the trunk.


Between 8:05 and 8:17 a.m. on Aug. 8, a burglar broke into a tan 1998 Toyota Camry in the 200 block of West Colorado Boulevard and stole a $40 purse from the trunk. The purse held $6 in cash and a driver’s license. — Dan Koller


Lutz Continued from Page 1A

to studying the brain in order to strengthen its lifelong function. “I loved what they were doing here,” Lutz said. “The virtual-reality project they wanted to develop sounded fascinating.” The center’s researchers wanted to create a safe place where people with autism and other social deficits could practice interaction. To hear Lutz tell it, his background in video games was ideal for several reasons: ■ Video games are fun: “We know that when we’re having fun, our brains learn better.” ■ Video games hold our focus: “Have you ever had to step in front of the TV or call someone’s name four or five times before they turn it off? When we have that kind of focus, we learn better.” ■ Video games are a safe place to fail: “Gamers spend 80 percent of their time failing. When you’re comfortable failing, then you’re comfortable trying new things and experimenting and stepping outside of your comfort zone.” Tandra Allen, a leader of

the center’s social cognition project, said a simple conversation can be outside the comfort zone of a person with autism. “Because of the incredible realism brought to the game by Carl and his team, they’re suddenly playing a game instead of worrying about what to do or say,” Allen said. “Participants feel comfortable trying conversations they otherwise would never attempt.” Fittingly, the virtual small town they’re building is called “Brainville.” It includes an apartment building, a bookstore, and a coffee shop, so participants in the center’s studies can practice applying for jobs at multiple businesses. A school and a movie theater are in the works. In 2010, center founder Sandra Bond Chapman offered Lutz staff positions for him and his whole team. These days, the team consists of five full-timers besides Lutz and three parttimers. Their projects range from apps to online tests. But their prized creation is the Brain Table, an interactive display that supports 32 touches at a time. “When we bring someone in who is not a neuropsychologist with four PhDs, and we’re talking about this


“The brain has billions of connectors,” said Winnetka Heights resident Carl Lutz, using the “Brain Table” to illustrate his point.

brain science, I watch people, and they’re smiling,” Lutz said. “They’re reaching down and touching, and they’re looking at things. They’re engaged and having fun.” Just as Lutz was when he first saw Nintendo. Email dan.koller@

Lutz displays blunt-force trauma injuries that a patient suffered during a car accident.

8A | AUGUST 16, 2013



Shane Gabriel performs “Suspicious Minds” during the first round of El Ranchito’s 11th annual Elvis impersonators contest on Aug. 7. The second round is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

Leonard Evans, the rare blond Elvis, belts out his version of “Treat Me Nice.”

Johnny Rockit gives an El Ranchito patron the thrill of his love.

El Ranchito Continued from Page 1A

“It’s tough balancing your work, a family, and having to do a show three or four times a week,” said Ehrenberger, the owner of Superior Graphics in Lake Highlands. “I’m going to cut my hair and sideburns and look like the rest of you guys.” A l o n g h i s j o u r n e y, Ehrenberger has made many friends in the Elvis c o m m u n i t y, i n c l u d ing Shane Gabriel. They met five years ago, when Gabriel, who works for the government, approached him after a show. “I’m three years younger than Elvis was at the time that he died,” Gabriel said. “I feel on the one hand that I’m a late bloomer, since Elvis started his career when he was 22, but I also feel young because I real-

Armon Ramirez, the only competitor trying to evoke young Elvis, sings “Blue Suede Shoes.”

ized many of [the impersonators] didn’t start doing Elvis until after they were 40.” Ehrenberger and Gabriel both performed during the first round of El Ranchito’s 11th annual Elvis impersonators contest. Juan Sanchez, the restaurant’s manager and host for the evening, started the con-

test because of his passion for Elvis and those who love him. “It’s fun to see all these guys dress up like Elvis and faithfully get up on stage, which is not an easy thing to do,” Sanchez said. “Getting up on a stage in front of people is not easy — even though it may look easy, and sometimes it

looks a little painful.” The victor of the night, Ehrenberger, announced to the crowd’s dismay this would be his last contest. “I’m glad at my last contest I could go out with a bang,” he said. “Maybe next year I’ll come back impersonating Johnny Cash.” Email margaux@ Charlie Wentworth had a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on.

Chamber Continued from Page 1A
Subdistrict 1 of Planned Development District 830 should be “comprehensively” reviewed. “Changing zoning one lot at a time is neither good planning nor is it productive,” said Conley, who owns three Kidd Springs properties herself, per the appraisal district. In Subdistrict 1, an office use is permitted only as part of a mixed-use residential project. The Chamber of Commerce is proposing an office as a main use, and is requesting a subdistrict that will allow


The Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce is eyeing this former medical building on Bishop Avenue, between Neches and Fifth streets.

an office by right. In other words, nobody will live at the property. When the city sent letters to neighboring prop-

erty owners about the proposed zoning change, it got 41 responses. Only one was in support of the change, and that response came

from the building’s owners. Consequently, Stimson circulated a flyer trying to drum up visible support for the chamber at this week’s council meeting. In the flyer, Stimson addresses three points he said have been made by the opposition: ■ “Spot zoning”: Stimson said this term implies that the chamber is trying to bring a new use to the building. But he pointed out that the property has been used only as a clinic or offices since it was erected in 1963. “Our request is simply to fix the zoning so that this building can be used for the purpose it was built, stopping it from

continued deterioration,” he said. ■ Parking: Stimson said the city’s parking requirement for the building is only 12 spaces, which is exactly half the number of spaces in its lot. There are also six spaces on the street. “By all measures, we have more than sufficient parking,” he said. ■ Hours of operation: Stimson said his opponents have been telling people that the chamber hosts many late-night events, but he insists that it keeps regular business hours. “All of our after-hours events are held at various members’ venues as a way to help those members,” he said.

Stimson, a former member of the City Council, knows that when such relatively minor zoning changes are brought before the council, its members typically follow the lead of their colleague who represents the area in question. So the opinion of Scott Griggs, North Oak Cliff ’s lone voice on the council, will be key. On Tuesday, Griggs told Oak Cliff People he’s still studying both sides of the issue. Thanks to Jasiecki, he has a bit more time to do so.

Here’s Dan’s number: 214-523-5272. So call him, maybe.

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