Bazaldua: Remodeling the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is good for tourism, but what’s the actual benefit to South Dallas?

Bazaldua: Remodeling the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is good for tourism, but what’s the actual benefit to South Dallas?

Dallas Economic Development Committee

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center project is moving from concept to reality, and while elected officials are supportive of the plans, the District 7 councilor asked tourism officials to stop touting the benefits to South Dallas and Fair Park residents – because, he said, there are none there.

During a Feb. 5 Dallas City Council Economic Development Committee conference, District 7 Councilman Adam Bazaldua said highlighting connectivity and economic development as a benefit to South Dallas is not accurate.

“We have to get away from this language of saying this is doing everything for South Dallas,” he said. “South Dallas is a neighborhood. Confusing this with The Cedars, or an expansion of the Central Business District, I don’t know what we are trying to achieve here, but the reality is that this is not giving my constituents in South Dallas anything. I think it’s important to articulate this. I also think it’s important to look at what a missed opportunity this is to bring economic development to South Dallas.”

District 7 Councilor Adam Bazaldua

South Dallas is south of downtown, bordered by the Trinity River to the west, Interstate 30 to the north, and the Greater Trinity Forest to the south and east. South Dallas is considered the lower quadrant of the city, which includes parts of several City Council districts.

Mayor Pro Tem Tennell Atkins, who chairs the Economic Development Committee and represents District 8 in South Dallas, echoed Bazaldua’s sentiment and added that when they sell the convention center, tourism officials should also sell The Cedars and South Dallas.

The $3 billion convention center redevelopment, along with major improvements to several buildings at Fair Park, is being funded through a 2 percent increase in hotel occupancy taxes. Voters approved Proposition A in November 2022.

A full briefing on plans for the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas is scheduled for a March 6 Dallas City Council meeting.

Construction and project timeline

Rosa Fleming, director of convention and event services, promoted the KBH Master Plan website, which highlights progress during the implementation phase.

Timeline of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas

Before Councilman Bazaldua made his comments, it was clear that Fleming and others were pushing the narrative of the project’s benefit to South Dallas.

“We’re working to make sure our connections to South Dallas aren’t just a physical connection with a park and a walk, but we’re actually growing the community by investing, encouraging entrepreneurship, job development, job creation and workforce development,” Fleming said during last week’s conference call.

Dirt is already being turned and construction will continue through 2028, Fleming said.

District 6 Councilman Omar Narvaez said it was exciting to see the project come to life.

“The voters spoke and here we are, finally going into the design and issues that will come with this massive new building,” he said. “It’s a huge economic driver and impact for this whole area, but the connection that’s going to happen for South Dallas is huge.”

Assistant City Manager Robert Perez said there has been “significant discussion” about the Eddie Bernice Johnson Junction Station being a transportation hub in the downtown area.

“We’re continuing to look at the Dallas Streetcar extension as part of the convention center development to see how we can connect the M-Line trolley and Dallas Streetcar to the convention center circuit,” Perez said. “We know there is some interest in extending the tram beyond the central link, so as we continue to develop this plan we will look at those possible extensions in the future.”

Michael Morris, director of transportation for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, said Amtrak has been invited to the council’s March 6 conference to discuss high-speed rail plans from Houston to Dallas.

Economic Development Commission Conference, February 5

Bazaldua said South Dallas is also being left out of the expanded streetcar network.

“Here we are again with another monumental historical investment in our city and who is left out?” he said. “I can’t stress enough that we have a huge gap in our transit system… Please go to the drawing board and give this council an option to consider that will break these gaps, that will address the inequity of the place where we have investment historically. If we just keep perpetuating the same thing, you know what I mean. The results will also be the same.”

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