By a vote of 14-1, the Dallas City Council instructed staff today to move ahead with a plan to tear down and rebuild the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. The redevelopment project, which you canread about in detail here, was applauded nearly unanimously by council members. They spoke to its potential for stirring economic development downtown, bridging the city center to South Dallas with a new deck park over Interstate 30, and creating space for new affordable housing.
The $4 billion teardown and rebuild project will be paid for mostly through revenue from state sales and hotel tax. There will be no impact on the city’s general fund; the money used to pay for the project will come from visitors and existing tax revenue that would have otherwise gone to the state. In other words, Dallas residents won’t be footing the bill.
The convention center has been built and rebuilt numerous times during its 70-year history, resulting in a Frankenstein monstrosity surrounded by lifeless parking lots and saddled with a hefty $500 million deferred maintenance bill. The plan is to tear down much of the existing structure and extend the newest portions of the building south across I-30 and into the Cedars. That would open up a large swath of downtown which council members hope can be used for new housing, a hotel, and public green space. Developers around the convention center also hope the public investment will supercharge the revitalization of a long-neglected corner of the city’s core.
在一个充满激情的演说,西方达拉斯议员Omar Narvaez, who chairs the city’s transportation committee and steered the project to a council vote, praised the redo for what he believes will be “the transformation of downtown Dallas.” He spoke about adding affordable housing, more open space, and potential economic development. The funding mechanisms being used to fund the project will also allow the city to use some of the state’s portion of sales tax to pay for capital improvements at Fair Park, a provision that helped sweeten the deal—and soften political blowback.
“This money that is coming to us will cost us zero out of your general fund—I repeat that: zero,” Narvaez said. “Do we have the guts to transform our city?”
Southern Dallas Council member Tennell Atkins was even more direct.
“This is a no-brainer,” Atkins said. “Every time you get free money from the state of Texas, you better grab it as fast as you can.”
Free money, economic development, affordable housing, deck parks—it seemed the only thing the council wasn’t particularly interested in discussing was the convention business. North Dallas Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn was the lone voice of skepticism during the debate, pointing out that the city was about to invest $4 billion into a building for a business model that she believes may be questionable.
“We really don’t know what is going to happen in the future of conventions,” Mendelsohn said. “Convention centers weren’t growing before COVID. Now they’re in a different situation.”