Dallas City Council members took a break from fighting over budget cuts and how to provide property tax relief — and doled out up to $71 million for a project manager to redevelop the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas.
Twenty-nine speakers signed up to support the council’s contract with Inspire Dallas LLC, which was awarded after an hour-long discussion.
District 2 Councilman Jesse Moreno, who represents a portion of downtown Dallas, said the project will result in a strong economic impact.
“Today is a great day for Dallas,” he said. “It has been evident throughout this process that I am an avid supporter of this once-in-a-lifetime transformational project. This approval will have a direct impact on District 2 and the entire city of Dallas.”
District Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn said she opposed the project for numerous reasons and questioned how Inspire Dallas, which also developed the nearby city-owned Omni Dallas Hotel, was selected.
“I think there’s no question that the firm has done really wonderful things in Dallas, and I commend them for that,” Mendelsohn said. “There’s also no question that this project itself will increase the value of their other holdings, and I think that’s a conflict. The Omni Convention Center that you’re praising still has $400 million of debt that our taxpayers are going to be responsible for.”
Construction on the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center project is slated to begin in late 2024 and it could be open for business by 2028. The project vision includes a mixed-use walkable entertainment district that connects downtown and The Cedars neighborhood to the south. By demolishing much of the existing convention center and rebuilding it along Lamar Street to the south, about 30 acres will open up for new development.
District 1 Councilman Chad West said it’s important for the council to keep its eye on the ball as it relates to housing.
“If we don’t have a thoughtful plan as we move forward with the project to include housing in this development, I will not be able to support it moving forward,” he said.
Support for Inspire Dallas
Downtown Dallas Inc. president and CEO Jennifer Scripps said Dallas residents signaled their confidence in the project by approving in November Proposition A, a 2 percent increase in hotel occupancy taxes to fund the $3 billion convention center redevelopment, along with major upgrades to several buildings at Fair Park.
“If done right, this chosen project manager will help ensure what has been called an albatross is now a connector for downtown Dallas and southern Dallas,” Scripps said. “If done right, this will be a centerpiece of a new walkable, mixed-use development with vibrancy and activity. Importantly, if done right, it will supercharge our tax base, bringing new billions of dollars of revenue into city coffers.”
District 3 Councilman Zarin Gracey said the project should be celebrated.
“This is a huge success,” he said. “This is what we set out to do when we had the journey of equity years ago. This is an outcome that we can all put our hands on and say in every aspect we’ve achieved our goal.”
Inspire Dallas And Jack Matthews
Jack Matthews of Inspire Dallas has been called “one of the most transformational developers for downtown Dallas and The Cedars over the past 25 years.”
In addition to the Omni, Matthews and his team are responsible for redeveloping the South Side on Lamar, Gilley’s Dallas, CANVAS Hotel Dallas, and Alamo Drafthouse Cedars.
The convention center project manager’s scope includes assisting with the development of solicitations for architecture, engineering, design, and construction, developing and providing control processes for the project, outreach and communication, budgeting and cost tracking, and project scheduling.
Council members commended Director of Convention and Event Services Rosa Fleming for her commitment to the city’s Racial Equity Plan and Dallas-based minority and women-owned businesses and subcontractors on the project.
“Let’s keep using all that energy and let’s get this convention center built,” said District 6 Councilman Omar Narvaez.