DALLAS — The city of Dallas will need more commercial land if it expects job growth to continue, according to consultants preparing the city’s economic opportunity analysis (EOA)
An EOA will assess whether a city has enough commercial and industrial land that can be developed to accommodate for expected job growth for the next 20 years. Dallas’ study will cover 2021 to 2041.
On Aug. 3, Beth Goodman, senior project manager and senior planning director, and Margaret Raimann, planner and spatial analyst, for ECONorthwest presented preliminary findings and asked the council for advice on which of three job growth models they should use for the study.
Goodman and Raimann updated the council on the city’s amount of industrial and commercial land available for development; employment trends in Dallas; potential growth industries; employment growth forecast; and whether the city has sufficient land available to accommodate expected growth. “We’ve done a lot of the analysis for the economic opportunities analysis,” Goodman said. “We need some feedback from you so that we know which key assumptions to proceed with, especially on the forecast, and then we can start getting that document together for review by your technical advisory committee.”
The members of the technical advisory committee are local residents who have knowledge of both business trends and land availability in Dallas. The committee has met with consultants three times since the project began.
Goodman said the city has enough industrial land, but lacks enough commercial land to provide for job growth over the next 20 years.
“This shows that Dallas has 213 buildable acres of industrial land and 45 buildable acres of commercial land for a combined total of 258 acres,” Raimann said.
That figure accounts for land that is considered unbuildable due to wetlands, location in a flood plain or riparian zone, or situation on a steep slope.
The calculation doesn’t include the former Weyerhaeuser Mill, which the consultant placed in a separate category of “potentially re-developable” because of issues on that site that may be a problem for developers.
“There’s a lot of known constraints to the mill site being developed,” Goodman said. “There’s still structures on it. There’s still things occupying that space, but it’s potentially available for redevelopment.”
Goodman said there may be contamination on the site.
“Redeveloping an industrial site is hard in any case, it becomes harder when it’s an identified or suspected brown field site. That’s not saying that nothing can happen here. That’s just saying that’s a difficult piece of land,” Goodman said. “It could have some contamination of a substance that is regulated by the Department of Environmental Quality. For instance, old mills often had contamination that could range a wide gamut of contaminate. It could be very hard to clean up. It could be very easy to clean up. There could be no brown field here, also when it comes down to it.”
Dallas Planning Director Scott Whyte said there’s documentation of contamination.
“There is a record. This has a DEQ brown field number on the website and there was testing,” he said. “I believe that there is a no further action letter on there. But sometimes no further action means that you still have to monitor what’s there.”
Goodman presented the council with three choices on the employment growth forecast: The city’s average employment growth rate of .98 percent; the Oregon Employment Department forecast for the region including Dallas, 1.13 percent; or that employment grows at the same rate as the population, 1.61 percent, according to Portland State University calculations.
The council settled on the population growth rate, which means the city would have an 86-acre deficit in commercial land and 180-acre surplus in industrial land.
Goodman said the project team will plug that figure into the analysis and continue to work with the city to finalize the document. She said the final EOA will include policies to help the city make changes necessary to meet future needs, which may include the city deciding to rezone land to commercial.