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Dallas Armory property sale falls through

DALLAS — Risks outweighed advantages in the proposed purchase of the former Dallas Armory property by the Dallas Urban Renewal Agency.

Long on a list of projects for the urban renewal district, the sale was rejected by agency directors — members of the Dallas City Council — on July 18.

The Urban Renewal District Board of Directors followed the recommendation of the agency’s advisory committee that urged the agency board to decline the Oregon Military Department’s (OMD) $120,000 sale offer. OMD sent the sales contract to the city in May.

Dallas Armory

• The Urban Renewal District Board of Directors declined the Oregon Military Department’s $120,000 sale offer.

• Among the concerns raised included potential environmental issues, lack of time to profit from the agency’s investment and a perceived lack of buyers for the site.

• Talks of purchasing the property began in the 2010-11 fiscal year.

Concerns included potential environmental issues, lack of time to profit from the agency’s investment, and a perceived lack of buyers for the site.

Talk of purchasing the property began in the 2010-11 fiscal year, before the old armory was demolished. During deconstruction of the building, an oil storage container was found underground, requiring removal and monitoring.

The discovery delayed the sale, and the earliest the district could take possession of the site would have been spring 2017, after the Department of Environmental Quality issued a “no further action” letter.

Now agency leaders believe it’s too late for the property to be a worthy investment.

Jason Locke, Dallas’ community development director, said when discussions began, the district was less than half way through its 20-year lifespan. Dallas’ urban renewal district includes the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods and began in 2004.

“Now it’s 2016-17. The life of the district has gotten a lot shorter, for the ability to potentially recoup some of that investment,” he said.

A “no further action” letter doesn’t give the site a clean bill of health, environmentally speaking, Locke said. That means a future owner could be on the hook for more cleanup costs if the site is slated for redevelopment.

“All that means is that they are not requiring any further action on the property. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the property is clean,” he said. “It doesn’t deal with anything related to liability or future liability.”

Locke and the advisory committee also had concerns about the changes to neighboring properties since 2010-11. The armory site, located at 817 SW Church St., is surrounded by vacant buildings, including those that once housed the downtown Safeway, the Dallas Super Market, and local Department of Human Services offices.

The advisory committee concluded nearby empty buildings and possible environmental issues could make it difficult to attract a buyer to redevelop the site in partnership with the district, Locke said.

One benefit of purchasing the site would be that the agency could actively seek partnership opportunities, but the question to the agency was if that was worth spending $120,000 that could be used on other projects.

“The advisory committee didn’t feel like it did and, as staff, it’s hard to make that argument,” Locke said.

With the district turning down the offer, OMD will surplus the property and try to find another buyer.

Director Kelly Gabliks said the drawbacks were too much for her to consider the purchase, even with the knowledge it could be vacant for some time.

“It will be state-owned, state responsibility, so we don’t have to take on that liability,” she said. “Maybe if it was closer, right across the street or part of downtown, it might worth the gamble, but I would accept the recommendation of the committee.”

The board voted unanimously to decline OMD’s offer.

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