Last month, the city council’s Government Performance and Financial Management Committee (GPFM) met with the city’s Real Estate Department to discuss the city’s real estate development budget and the city’s maintained 50,000 acres that can’t be touched.
The 50,000 acres covers city development such as parks, civic stations, Fair Park and other development property. There are thousands of acres of property that the city has not used and West questioned how long the city can hoard the space and when can it be expected to be used. Some solutions included adding housing above fire stations and merging developments for a mixed-opportunity setting such as libraries with recreation centers.
“Of course, I can’t imagine a scenario where the city would part with large scale properties like Fair Park, our many city parks, and newer recreation centers,” West states in a newsletter. “But it’s very likely that the City has thousands of acres that it can either sell or lease out over 50-99 years for housing and economic development?”
In another meeting with staff members and the Bond Task Force, they discussed that City Hall’s garage might collapse unless the forthcoming crisis was budgeted. West proposed instead of using tens of million of taxpayer dollars to continue to maintain the issue, they consider City Hall moving to a downtown tower similar to Fort Worth. The property space could be used for public meetings and other optimal uses.
“The political reality is – as we talk about these cool concepts – if you do that, you’re either going to need a council member to carry that through … or you’ve got to have a bunch of data that’s presented to you that’s not refutable, that’s going to say, ‘You’ve got to do this or you’re not going to meet your housing goal,’” West said. “I think we need to have some type of strategic visioning and frankly to give us political cover to say, ‘I’m OK putting eight stories of housing on top of the North Oak Cliff Library redo because we need affordable housing.’ I could muscle that through my district if I needed to, but if I had staff telling me, ‘You have to do this if you’re ever going to meet housing goals,’ it gives me the cover.”
The Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the city’s pension consultants will conduct an independent review of the city’s book of real estate. West proposed collaborating with them at the next GPFM meeting on October 23 for short and long term goals for the 50,000 acres. What this could mean is building multi-use developments vertically instead of horizontally.
“Right now, no department or organization is thinking strategically regarding all of the City’s real estate assets, with the long view in mind,” West said. “My hope is that GPFM can help us find the path to a strategic, ongoing plan, leveraging the work that the EDC and pension consultants have already started.”