Is Lake Highlands becoming an entertainment destination? And when will the Alamo open?

From left, Ted Hill of the Lake Highlands Chamber of Commerce, Craig Collins of Nazca Kitchen, Nick Kopach of Top Golf and Bryan Tenley of Alamo Drafthouse. (Photo by Carol Toler)
From left, Ted Hill of the Lake Highlands Chamber of Commerce, Craig Collins of Nazca Kitchen, Nick Kopach of Top Golf and Bryan Penley of Alamo Drafthouse. (Photo by Carol Toler)

Lower Greenville is for frat boys and Bishop Arts is for tourists, but Lake Highlands is becoming its own “entertainment destination” with a focus on families. That reputation will be solidified with the opening of the Alamo Drafthouse, which will make its debut in February, assuming construction stays on schedule.

“I think that ‘drafthouse’ middle name throws off some families, but we’re very kid friendly,” Bryan Penley, president of Alamo Drafthouse DFW, told the Lake Highlands Chamber of Commerce on Thursday. He explained that means everything from Saturday morning cartoon screenings, complete with all-you-can-eat sugary cereals, or the latest Pixar flick with a customized menu.

What’s coming to the old Tom Thumb at Skillman and Abrams will be its own version of the Austin-based chain that Wired.com called the “coolest movie theater in the world.”

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“What you will see in Lake Highlands is different than any other Alamo. That will be something we surprise you with,” Penley says, adding that the community will have a role in shaping what it becomes. “A lot of what we do when it comes to events is inspired by our fans.”

Construction is on its way and the Alamo is hoping for an early 2018 opening. As it gets closer to February, the chain will begin hiring around 150 employees, from kitchen staff to ticket takers.

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Alamo was one of three family focused entertainment venues who spoke Thursday about Lake Highlands’ growing reputation as a city destination.

“We’re getting some really unique things — why is that?” asked Ted Hill, a chamber board member.

Craig Collins of Nazca Kitchen and the newly reopened Red Hot and Blue BBQ says, in part, it comes down to economics. “The market has become saturated,” he says, explaining that Highland Park and Preston Hollow have gotten so packed, more affordable businesses are priced out. “That makes places east of 75 more attractive.”

Not to mention, East Dallas and Lake Highlands are known as a hip place for young families who intentionally avoid the suburbs. “It’s kind of like the Austin of Dallas,” Collins says. That’s why Red Hot and Blue’s new design includes a live music stage and outdoor movie screen for regular entertainment meant for a family crowd.

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“We can do all sorts of special events with this new space,” Collins says.

Nick Kopach of Top Golf says the family-focused nature of the neighborhood has been a driving force behind their business growth. They added the miniature golf, batting cages and field games in response to the desires of the community.

“We’re able to get all ages out here, all skill levels and all types,” Kopach says, adding that it’s a model that’s been replicated in other markets after the success in Lake Highlands.

Hill was hopeful the opening of the Alamo will raise Lake Highlands’ business profile. “There’s not very many places you can go to get a drink, get a nice dinner and see a movie all in one place,” he says. “Knowing the Alamo Drafthouse is coming is probably one of the best things to happen to this community.”

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