Dallas City Council Approved $2 Billion Convention Center Plan – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
Dallas City Council on Wednesday approved plans for a new $2 billion convention center.
Proponents said removing the outdated Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and repositioning a new one on I-30 will transform downtown Dallas and keep the convention business booming.
Council member Cara Mendelsohn was the only one to vote against.
She cited 17 reasons for opposing the plan and had more to say before her speaking time expires.
Among other things, Mendelsohn said decades of deferred maintenance allowed the building to decay.
“I want to know and taxpayers deserve to know how this happened and how do we know it won’t happen again,” Mendelsohn said.
The proposed location would place the new convention center right next to the proposed station for the high-speed train between Houston and Dallas.
“There is no agreement on the financial participation of the adjacent wealthy landowners who have incredible advantages to derive from this agreement,” Mendelsohn said.
Proponents of the plan said removing the old building would free up a large area for new development that could benefit everyone. Several city council members have said they want affordable housing included in the new development area.
Amy Tharp, acting president of the Downtown Dallas, Inc. recall group, said the council’s action keeps downtown’s momentum going.
“This effort has turned into a rare chance to reposition the southern half of downtown as a vibrant, well-connected neighborhood,” she said.
AT&T Performing Arts Center representative Chris Heinbaugh was a television reporter and then an aide to former Mayor Tom Leppert during plans to renovate the convention center.
“I am here to urge you to stop the patch up. Tear it down and build a new convention center,” Heinbaugh said.
Several tourism businessmen took turns to address the city council ahead of the vote.
“Many cities that Dallas competes with for meetings and conventions have recently been modernized,” said Hilton Dallas Lincoln Center General Manager Brett Kraft.
Hospitality officials said the plan was good for hotels in the city.
“We believe going forward this will be a game changer for the city of Dallas,” said Traci Mayer, director of the Hotel Association of North Texas.
No regular Dallas property or sales tax that funds other city services would be used, supporters said. The expense would fall primarily on visitors to Dallas.
Dallas Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Reich said she attended Wednesday’s meeting in person rather than virtually to ensure there were no communication issues regarding financial details.
“I didn’t want there to be any difficulty hearing myself or any transmission issues because it’s such a critical issue that we’re doing it right and we don’t have false information,” said Reich.
A state-funded formula for additional hotel sales taxes that would help pay for the new convention center would also send money to Dallas Fair Park, which is an additional selling point for supporters.
“So I see this as nothing but an all-around win. This is a victory for our tourists. It’s a win for Dallasites. This is a win for our business community,” said Councilman Adam Bazaldua, who represents the Fair Park area.
Councilman Omar Narvaez, who heads the city council committee that has spent months reviewing the plan, was the main cheerleader on Wednesday.
“We’re already on the map, but that leads us to being an exceptional place, a place that people want to come and visit,” he said.
Wednesday’s vote only sends the plan further for a design 30% of the preferred option. Other future decisions on construction and financing will be necessary. Funding bonds are not expected to be sold until November 2023.
A voter referendum in November will be needed for the additional hotel tax that will help fund the convention center and Fair Park. Expect to hear more promotion of the plans from supporters before voters have a say.