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City, Sixth Floor Museum to Split Cost of $1.5 Million Dealey Plaza Redo Down the Middle

From the Dealey Plaza renovations briefing the council's Quality of Life Committee never got to hear earlier this year
From the Dealey Plaza renovations briefing the council's Quality of Life Committee never got to hear earlier this year

We first told you back in May that Dealey Plaza is due for a makeover, which involves redoing the north and south plaza pergolas, planting new way-finding and history-of signs, and making the plaza ADA compliant at long last. Then we discovered how the city is going to pay for the $1.5-milion makeover: a public-private partnership wherein the city would use bond funds that would be augmented by dollars raised by the Dealey Plaza Renovation Project Fund and Sixth Floor Museum. And, of course, the whole thing needs to be done by a certain 50th anniversary, when the museum in the former Texas School Book Depository is due to take over Dealey Plaza for its tasteful commemoration.

All of which I bring up because ...

I see the Dealey Plaza redo is mentioned on Thursday's Park Board agenda, which says the city's looking to "reprogram" $750,000 in something called Neighborhood Partnership Match Funding toward the project. The Park Board is also ready to let Good, Fulton & Farrell finish out its designs for "architecture, fountains, lighting, utilities, landscape, irrigation, and graphics and signage," at the cost of $134,066, which it also intendeds to split with the Sixth Floor Museum.

Tuesday afternoon I called Willis Winters, Park and Rec's second-in-command, to find out precisely what Neighborhood Partnership Match Funding is. And he explained it thusly:

"It's a fund included in the bond program," he said. "If anyone comes to the city that wants to raise private money for a project and asks the city to match it, then we have the funds. We haven't had a lot of requests for any of this money. We're at the end of our bond program now, and we felt this was a good way to close out the account and use the money for a worthwhile cause and match private donations."

So there's your public-private split -- right down the middle. If, that is, all goes according to plan. And, say Winters, the museum is out there talking to potential donors and lining up the money. But it's not there yet, he says, not even close. Which is why the agenda will be amended before tomorrow's meeting to read that the city is covering the entirety of the design contract. "We're hoping that they have their $67,000 in their account when we go to council" with the contract, says Winters. That's just one month away: December 14.

And $1.5 million, keep in mind, is just for what's referred to as "the basic scope" of the makeover; if the museum can somehow raise another $1.3 million, that would cover the guesstimated cost for a full-on overhaul, including a new filtration system for fountains and new landscaping and streetscaping.

But, I asked Winters, what happens if the museum doesn't raise enough money to cover the initial $1.5 million? He's not ready to go down that road just yet; he reminds that fund-raising efforts have just begun. But, he stresses: "They need to raise $750,000 to match ours, and anything beyond that they have to raise 100 percent. $750,000 is our cap, and whether or not they'll be able to do that, we'll have to see.

"We wanted to make sure when we found our match we could fund a project that could be built and make a difference. And we wanted to make sure we no longer had to be concerned with the condition of Dealey Plaza undergoing international scrutiny" come November 22, 2013. "Dealep Plaza will be in great shape when we're done with the basic scope. And if they want to do the expanded scope we're all for it."


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