Dallas URD looks to armory site

DALLAS — The Dallas City Council — as the council and in its capacity as the Dallas Urban Renewal Agency Board — will consider moving the new senior center to the former armory property downtown. But only with assurances that the city won’t lose the grant money for construction.

The city has a $1.9 million grant to build the center on the lot behind the Carnegie Building, and has spent some of that money in the planning process. When the agency purchased the armory property and received the deed in December, the idea of putting the center there gained traction.

Interim City Manager Greg Ellis brought the proposal to the Urban Renewal District Advisory Committee last month. The committee rejected the proposal in a 7-2 vote.

Some councilors still support the move and can override the committee’s decision when acting at the urban renewal agency board.

Councilor Jim Fairchild asked his fellow councilors to consider the change at the council’s Feb. 20 meeting.

“What I’m asking is have the staff look into the pros and cons of using the armory site for the new senior center,” Fairchild said.

Jerry Wennstrom, a member of the senior center, said he would like council and urban renewal board to do the research.

“It just makes sense to me that we use that armory site,” he said. “It’s plenty big enough. We can build a really, really nice building.”

Councilors Micky Garus, Kelly Gabliks and Bill Hahn said they worried the city would lose the $1.9 million Community Development Block Grant if it made the change and delayed the project further.

“I really hate to see us take a chance on having to go through the process again,” Hahn said. “It’s ready to go. I think we should move forward. They talked about, we could do a ground breaking, so why all of a sudden do we want to change the process?”

Ellis said the state agency overseeing the grant would need the city to answer why the change is needed, and provide a budget, time frame, and rudimentary plans to make sure the building still fits the grant’s purpose. The documentation was sent to the state last week.

If the change is made, the city would have to pay for an environmental assessment, geotechnical assessment and survey — which were already performed on the current site — at the cost of $3,000 to $5,000 each, Ellis said.

Mayor Brian Dalton added the urban renewal agency paid $100,000 for the armory property.

Councilor Ken Woods Jr. said that the council should at least get the information needed to decide if the change is possible.

“I would like to see our city manager move forward and get the answers to our questions as quickly as possible, then we all can make a better decision,” Woods said. “I like the idea of that site, better access.”

Woods made the motion to have city staff present the answers to the council at a work session before the March 5 meeting. Gabliks added she would like a presentation or a letter from the state answering questions about grant during the session. The motion passed unanimously, and the work session will begin at 5:30 p.m. on March 5 at city hall.

A meeting of the Urban Renewal Agency, which owns the armory site, is scheduled that evening in case decisions regarding the property are needed.

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