Tuesday, July 10, 2007

If I had a magic wand. . .

Let me share a dream or two.

If I could direct the funding--and it would take a major public /private commitment to accomplish what I am about to suggest, I would base the redevelopment of South Dallas on a complete renewal of Fair Park.

Fair Park is an historic jewel nestled in the northwest edge of South Dallas. Beyond the Music Hall and the various museums, Fair Park springs to life once each year to host The State Fair of Texas. During that three week period, the park hosts the Grambling-Prairie View A & M and Texas-Oklahoma football classics. Everyone loves the fair.

But, Fair Park could be so very much more than it is today. Shame on us for not taking advantage of this unique community asset.

If I had a magic wand, here's what I'd do (now remember, I said "magic" wand!):

1) Bring a Major League Baseball club out of the National League to Dallas and locate it in Fair Park. My first choice would be to move the Pittsburgh Pirates Baseball Club to Dallas. Of course, there's not enough magic in any wand ever made to pull that one off. So, as a second choice, I'd move the Tampa Bay Devil Rays to the National League, which would mean the Washington Nationals would need to join the American League East. No easy change, but not impossible with the right wand. There are a number of potential owners in Dallas. Or, maybe we could create a very unique franchise that was owned, at least in part, by the public. The Metroplex could support two major league teams. The competition with Arlington would be fun to watch!

2) Build a wonderful new Cotton Bowl. The stadium I have in mind could easily host football games, including the annual fall, State Fair Classics and other special games. I can see Notre Dame playing Arkansas or Texas A & M. Or, how about a USC--LSU match up? We could host two or three special games annually, drawing from any of the major college teams. During baseball season (remember now, that would be 81 home dates, not counting college baseball!), our new team, let's say the Dallas Knights, would play in our new state-of-the-art sports facility, complete with retractible roof system that would make our summers bearable for pitchers. Lots of new jobs, year-round positions, would be created by a baseball venue that could accommodate other sports. Baseball is always better for communities that seek real economic development because of the number of guaranteed dates for the venue.

3) Redevelop mixed income housing on much of the extra parking area that was needlessly claimed years ago from neighbors who weren't consulted, but who were displaced. Town home condos, moderate and larger single family homes, mixed income/mixed use multi-family housing and retail development would be included around the park.

4) Renew the Martin Luther King, Jr. corridor by providing economic development funds to existing business owners and meaningful inducements to new, larger retail outlets. This key corridor out of Fair Park should be a major part of "Downtown South Dallas."

5) Redevelop all of Second Avenue as a shopping, dining, entertainment district to go along with the stadium renewal. This other corridor of the community could become a bustling center of economic and entertainment health.

6) Make sure that Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) developed adequate light rail transportation services to and from Fair Park and down the new development zones. A rail plan linking Fair Park to Deep Ellum, Downtown, and Uptown would be amazing.

7) Coordinate with the City of Dallas a new, aggressive land bank strategy to build out every vacant lot in the area as part of a dramatic, creative in-fill housing initiative. A plan should be devised to bring non-profit and for-profit developers to this important community challenge. The foundation community in Dallas should join with the city in creating a genuine and very robust housing trust fund that could create thousands of new home owners to take advantage of the in-fill housing redevelopment plans.

8) Appoint a special director or "Czar" for Fair Park renewal and expansion to drive the effort every day until it is completed. This special leader would need to be trusted, reputable, visionary and totally committed. He or she would then need to be surrounded by other community leaders who would drive the project forward.

9) Complete the entire project by 2015.

I can see it.

What would it take? Public and political will. A champion who lives and breathes the vision. Private investment. Community involvement, and by that I mean the folks who live around Fair Park would have to be involved in an official and meaningful manner from the beginning. The entire city would need to be sold on the fact that a success in South Dallas would benefit everyone.

And what a difference this would make for the entire city and region. And, just think, a team with pitchers who take their own place in the batting order!


Jeremy Gregg said...

Czar James, I like the vision!!! Almost makes me want to like baseball... almost. :)

(Ackerman, if you're reading this, I think I still owe you tickets to a game!)

Beyond the difficulties of moving/creating a ML Baseball franchise, what are the barriers to your vision?

What prevents the current Fair Park from being utilized in such a fashion?

Did we miss the boat when the Cowboys' Stadium did not land in Fair Park? Or, as you suggest in your discussion of the benefits of baseball vs other sports, could this open the door to a better future for South Dallas?

Larry James said...

Jeremy, football stadiums seldom deliver what their promoters promise in terms of economic development. Usually, the bulk of the benefit goes to the team owners. An obvious reason relates to the few number of game dates in such venues. Baseball provides 10 times as many events, and that is not counting other sports and entertainment events. Of course, even a baseball stadium by itself will not be enough--it must be part of a comprehensive redevelopment strategy. The fact that Fair Park sits in its current condition with limited attention is a giant missed opportunity for everyone who cares about South Dallas, its citizens and its future.

KentF said...

I think a Triple A team might be more realistic - but who knows. Not attempting to diss Ms. Miller, but she has been 100% clueless in the leadership area in terms of revitalizing an area around a sports theme.

faye said...

I LOVE it! More community IN Dallas, less sprawl. I especially love the rail like from downtown/uptown/deep ellum...Seems strange that we do not have that already.

Good post.

Anonymous said...

Given your (correct) premise that such a vast project would take huge public support to expend the time, effort and (public) funds, the (multi-)million dollar question is how do you generate such support in a city which has for so long been so apathetic to South Dallas?

Larry James said...

As I said, my magic wand!

As crazy as it sounds, I believe if a mayor or a business leader championed the idea, while creating political expectations among those whose lives would be improved, he/she might create a bit of a bind for those who opposed it. The Trinity River project comes to mind--it will be a key infrastructure "re-do" for the entire city. In the same way, a Fair Park "re-do" could benefit every sector of our collective public life from business, to entertainment, to education, to housing to employment. If cast as a once-in-a-lifetime, catalytic opportunity to propel our city forward, we might all be surprised by what could be accomplished. What we need most is a new brand of undeterred civic leadership.

IWTS said...


There is a reason this has not been done before. City government lacks the vision and coherence to pull of anything this big.

We need to get rid of single member districts and vote in leadership that reflects the whole city. Not just neighborhood fiefdoms.

I like the ideas, especially a new baseball team. Casinos are more likely to reshape Fair Park than MLB.

That, and baseball stadiums make horrible football stadiums.

SeriousSummer said...

You don't need a magic wand for the train--it's a building and will be in Fair Park no later than 2009.

I also rather like the idea of a Triple A farm team. It seems much more doable--and maybe I could afford the tickets.

Larry James said...

One last word: this could happen, or something very near it. The key in Dallas political morality is the response of the North. North Dallas council members and business leaders need to become the most vocal champions of the South and its renewal. Strictly from the standpoint of self-interest, "Northern Sector"--why don't we use that phrase?--leaders should call for a focus on the South to improve the schools, expand and even the tax base and make the city something to be proud of.

All we need is leadership. We have a new mayor from the North. He has an opportunity to excel and to convince everyone that the way forward is to go South!

Anonymous said...

Czar, Webster's definition is 'emperor'? Previous Mayor appointed a CZAR over the homeless/displaced community? Why does the City of Dallas need another CZAR over South Dallas where 98% of the homeless in Dallas come from? To rule over them? Isn't CEO/President enough titles over the door? Emperors rule, entrepreneurs rule also!! We are constantly missing the boat with those that sit on the horsehoe in Dallas, 'not in my backyard' is the most used phrase in the language of City Council, a divided house cannot stand, let us see how the new Mayor sets the standard for the new vision of Dallas? Divide and conquer was the phrase of the last ruler, the voters showed her that she would not be given carte blanc or rule the city of Dallas, let's see who sets the standard on this high bar of the Emerald City?

Anonymous said...

Where is the Larry James' post as to the Czar title?

No post here?

Tag your're it!!!