Dallas Development Fund Looks at Sylvan Thirty, Will Consider Funding It In New Year

Sylvan Thirty, the planned mixed-use development for Fort Worth Avenue in West Dallas, has received more attention than any development project in recent memory -- especially given the fact it's nothing but a barren patch of land where once sat at motor hotel. The $47-million project, still closer to concept than reality, lacks adequate funding for build-out; there's nothing more than a location and a zoning plan. Let's just say it's a project about which folks have ... mixed feelings.

"People were excited about it because it's one of the first new developments in that area," Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the city's Office of Economic Development, tells Unfair Park.

Reason we asked Zavitkovsky about it today: We spotted Sylvan Thirty on the agenda for yesterday's Dallas Development Fund meeting -- which makes sense, since, as we discovered in September, there's a $4- to $9-million "funding gap." And after its first look at Sylvan Thirty, the board approved funding for Lancaster Urban Village, another mixed-use development at Lancaster Road and Ann Arbor Avenue and one that's been in the works for about three years. That one's off to council for approval. But what of Sylvan Thirty?

We took a deep breath and called Zavitkovsky, a very patient man when it comes to translating the city's financial processes and offerings into plain English for Unfair Park. So, here's the update on Sylvan Thirty, along with what the Dallas Development Fund has been up to:

Quick boilerplate: The Dallas Development Fund is a non-profit organization that works with the city to disperse money from the federal government's New Markets Tax Credit Program, meant to catalyze job-creating projects in low-income neighborhoods accessible to transit. Last year, the fund received $55 million, and this year it requested nearly $90 million, but the atmosphere is more competitive so it remains to be seen what they will actually receive. A firm figure is expected early next year.

Currently, the fund has $12.4 million remaining in its allocation pot. It's a tax credit, not fast cash, so $10 million roughly translates to $2 million in cash. The allocation for Sylvan Thirty would be between $10 and $12.4 million -- effectively the entire remaining budget. A CitySquare project at Malcolm X Boulevard and I-30, also under consideration, would also effectively drain the remaining money. Both are possible, depending what the feds dole out to Dallas in the coming year.

For Sylvan Thirty and other projects, Zavitkovsky says, "This is only one piece of the puzzle or one part of the capital structure of a project. ... To make this work, it will need a variety of financing sources." Thus far, the project hasn't had any public financing approved by the city, but it's early yet.

"There are a lot of different buckets that they'll have to try to access, some of which are public, some of which are private," he says. TIF funds, tax credits from the Dallas Development Fund and public-private partnership money will all likely be part of the ongoing "will it/won't it" conversations surrounding Sylvan Thirty.

"It's in an area that everybody likes from a standpoint of new development," Zavitkovsky says. "It's an area where there's a lot of interest. The neighborhoods are interesting. There are a lot of people who would like to see new development along that corridor. That's what we're trying to do is get more people to invest in the southern part of the city. This is all really hard work. None of this stuff is easy. There aren't really shortcuts."

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