You can have a look at the current status of our plans to upgrade and renovate the old Plaza Inn at I-30 and S. Akard here in Downtown Dallas on last night's Channel 11 CBS TV.
From the start we knew that without neighborhood support the plan would not be possible due to the scoring rules imposed by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) in Austin on the one hand, and the local political reality on the other.
As it turns out, our application received the highest score in the entire state for this round of low-income housing tax credit funding. So, we might have gotten the deal funded without neighborhood backing, had that been our attitude and style.
Then, there is the question of what constitutes "the neighborhood" and "the neighbors" in this case. I'm not at all sure that the Cedars Neighborhood Association (powered by an "overwhelming" 54 total votes in the poll to determine the fate of our deal--we received 15 favorable votes) is very representative of the community in question. Hundreds of people live and work in the area.
Several hundred of our neighbors call the Dallas Life Foundation emergency shelter home every night. Wonder how they would vote on the plan to create homes for those who don't have them? Or, how about those who walk the streets of the Cedars area daily and nightly? I wonder about the hundreds of police officers who work at the new Dallas Police Headquarters building. How would they feel about an upgrade for the old Plaza Inn, now shut down by its owners and soon to be boarded up?
We are of the opinion that the state rule ought to be changed in regard to the weight given community responses to solid real estate plans, especially those benefitting very low income homeless persons. And, frankly, I should have done a better job thinking this all through before we started. Like most deal opportunities of this nature, there just wasn't enough time to cover all the bases. We never had the intention of ramming something through, though some charged us of employing such tactics.
Then, there is the political reality. Without the supportive vote of Council Member Pauline Medrano, we will not get the City Council approval we need next Wednesday when our leaders take up the issue.
I continue to wish that we could find a way, acceptable to all parties, to get just one more month for conversation with the neighborhood.
If we could get a positive vote on Wednesday, February 25 from the City Council, the Cedars Neighborhood Association could send their letter of opposition to the TDHCA. We would continue to negotiate in good faith until the next and final council vote on the matter on March 25. If we couldn't convince the community to support us by then, we would commit to withdraw our proposal and go away. If we did convince the Cedars' group, they could withdraw their letter of opposition and we could all go forward together to improve the neighborhood.
Nothing lost in this approach but one month, and $10,000 in contract costs on our part and lots of additional effort. Those are losses we are willing to incur.
The way it looks today, everyone loses:
. . .the city that needs 700 new units of permanent supportive housing according to its recently approved plan will turn down the first viable project since their vote to go forward with this new housing commitment less than a month ago. . .
. . .the homeless who need a place to call home. . .
. . .the Cedars community that needs to see the old hotel re-done before it deteriorates even further. . .
. . .and Central Dallas Community Development Corporation. We just want to see the heart of Dallas changed for everyone who works and lives there, including the extremely poor.
I wish I could hear some positive vibes from Cedars' folk.
It is not too late, but you are in control.