City News Roundup

Trinity toll road tribulations lead this summary of Dallas city news

Trinity toll road tribulations lead this summary of Dallas city news

Trinity River toll road rendering
Who benefits from the Trinity toll road? We have a theory. Photo courtesy of Trinity River Corridor Project
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings
Mayor Mike Rawlings is demolishing houses. Courtesy photo
Sam's Club rendering
Trammell Crow creeps one step closer to Cityplace Sam's Club. Photo courtesy of Trammell Crow
Senator Royce West, belk uniform giveaway
State Sen. Royce West will host a meeting about the Trinity Corridor Project on January 8. Photo by James Edward
Trinity River toll road rendering
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings
Sam's Club rendering
Senator Royce West, belk uniform giveaway

With the holidays, things have been quiet in the realm of city news, other than the razing of a bunch of houses in southern Dallas and some noteworthy things written about the Trinity toll road. Here are the highlights:

Demolition derby
On December 30, Mayor Mike Rawlings presided over the demolition of a dilapidated house in West Dallas, the 272nd demolition in 2014 in a campaign to improve neighborhoods by tearing down junk dwellings. In the past four years, Dallas has demolished approximately 940 rundown houses, many of which are said to be infested with drugs, rodents, mold and other nuisance elements.

But what will go in their place? There are hints about apartment buildings, but veteran developer Monte Anderson emphasizes that "small lots and infrastructure that supports the small house movement are extremely valuable."

Some of the worst properties are run by companies that don't keep them maintained. Four ownership groups own nearly 700 rental houses, rated from "poor quality" to "unsound": HMK Ltd., the Topletz family, G.W. Works and Joseph Bevers' JB III Investments.

To drum up development, the mayor formed an organization called Impact Dallas Capital, with 14 "developers, money managers and community leaders" to serve on the board. No clues who; maybe there'll be a big reveal in February, when the city council gets briefed on their a proposal by chief resilient officer Theresa O'Donnell.

Sam's Club update
Trammell Crow started tearing down an office tower on the east side of North Central Expressway at Haskell Avenue, where it intends to build the detested Sam's Club. "We are remediating the building in accordance with federal, state and local regulations, and continuing to prepare the building for demolition," said Trammell Crow representative Scott Krikorian in an email to the Dallas Business Journal.

Word of the day: charrette
Watch out for the bewitching effects of charrettes, warns former city council member Angela Hunt. Charrettes are meetings where participants visit stations and draw on boards, play-acting in an exercise that makes them feel like they're having input into city government. "It's shameless political theater," she says.

She predicts that charrettes will return as Trinity toll road advocates rush to get their road approved by the federal government in 2015. Charrettes will be one more distraction, like the "dream team" of consultants drafted by Rawlings and the toll road advocates, despite the fact that the design actually can't be changed at this point, not without starting a federal review process over again.

"The consultants, the charrettes, the solemn reconsideration, it's all political theater designed to distract Dallasites while the city moves forward with its plan to build a massive toll road in the Trinity floodway," Hunt says.

Why toll road?
If you've wondered who or what would benefit from the toll road, the Dallas Observer's Jim Schutze has an answer: the rich people who own land in the southwest corner of downtown Dallas. "I believe the real purpose of the toll road is to provide a discrete point of ingress and egress for the bustling recreation, convention and transportation center in the southwest corner of downtown that major land owners there have dreamed of for decades," he says. The southwest corner is owned by some of Dallas' most powerful families — "the sort of people who never complain, never explain," he says.

He has a great line about a quote from former DART board chairman William Velasco regarding the idea of DART detouring to the southwest corner.

It didn't make any sense to me at first, but now it makes all the sense in the world," [Velesco said.] Yes, that would be after the chit-chat. No sense before. All the sense after.

Toll road meeting
State Sen. Royce West will host a meeting on January 8 to discuss the Trinity Corridor Project, and he has a star-studded guest list: Mayor Mike Rawlings; former city manager Mary Suhm; six city council members, including Philip Kingston and Scott Griggs; North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris; Dallas County commissioners John Wiley Price and Elba Garcia; developer Monte Anderson; and Patrick Kennedy, Walkable DFW blogger and urban planner.

West is about to head back to Austin for the 84th Session of the Texas Legislature and says that he wants to gather "the various voices and viewpoints together around the table in the hope of refining my thoughts and positions on these projects that will impact Dallas and North Central Texas for years to come."