Jan 28, 2022 - Business

New Dallas convention center is only the latest attempt to redevelop area

The Dallas Omni Hotel
After hundreds of millions of dollars, the area around the convention center still looks like this. Photo: HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The plan to build a new convention center is only the latest in a decades-long string of proposed publicly funded projects to redevelop the southwest corner of downtown Dallas.

Why it matters: Despite spending hundreds of millions of dollars over the last 20 years, the area around the convention center is still mostly unpopulated and devoid of the foot traffic in other parts of downtown.

Driving the news: Next week the City Council will be briefed on plans to renovate or tear down the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and build a new one that could cost a reported $4 billion.

Context: Here are a few other projects the city has considered or followed through with in an attempt to draw people to the area.

The Trinity Toll Road

In 2007, the City Council voted 14-1 in favor of building a six-lane toll road inside the eastern levee of the Trinity River. Most renditions included an off ramp leading to this part of town.

  • Planning such a thing became an engineering boondoggle that cost the city tens of millions.
  • In 2017, Council voted 13-2 in favor of pulling support, canceling the project.
The Omni Hotel

In 2009, Dallas sold $400 million in bonds to fund the building of a 1,001-room city-owned hotel directly adjacent to the convention center.

  • Within five years of opening, a city financial advisor informed the Council that the hotel was nearly $1 billion in debt and the city wouldn’t be able to discuss selling it until 2029.
  • A 2019 audit of VisitDallas showed considerably less tourism in Dallas than had been promised.
Bullet Train to Houston

The high-speed train between Dallas and Houston is only hypothetical at the moment, but some of the same developers pushing the new convention center proposal are behind it.

  • The proposed bullet train would have a station in the southwest corner of downtown.

The intrigue: So far, nobody at City Hall is talking seriously about the idea of scrapping all but the oldest parts of the convention center and just not having one.

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