Developer: Irving City Manager Torpedoed $252 Million Entertainment Complex Because it Wouldn't Donate to Son's School
Las Colinas Group
Update on Aug. 8: I spoke with Mayor Beth Van Doyne who told me, basically, that LVG doesn't have much of a case.
"The Las Colinas Group is in a corner," she said. "The city has done everything they were obligated to do. It's nothing but a smear campaign."
The city will allow the lawsuit to make its way through the courts before it decides what to do about the entertainment center, but she expects the development to proceed in some form. The city has already invested $40 million in the project and there is already considerable development happening in the area, with 6,000 new residences, the $200 million convention center, and the opening of DART's Orange Line.
"I think everybody is in agreement that we need to hav something in that area. City has invested a lot of time and resources to make it a business friendly and business inviting development," Van Doyne said. "And we're very disappointed" that LCG wouldn't work with the city.
Original post: The Irving City Council decided last night to move forward with plans for a $252 million entertainment complex without the Las Colinas Group as a partner.
LCG waited only about as long as it took for the Dallas County courthouse doors to open to make good on its promise to sue.
According to this morning's filing, things between LCG and the city were going swimmingly for a time. The "visionary developers" met with city leaders in 2007 and hatched plans for a "multi-use entertainment center" complete with an 8,000-capacity performing hall, themed restaurants and nightclubs, and an open-air plaza.
Developer and municipality were close partners in the project, which was expected to spur $400 million in economic activity, create 2,700 new jobs, and turn around the Las Colinas Urban Center which, the suit notes mildly, "has lost much of its luster." The project has the support of a majority of the Irving City Council and two-thirds of voters.
Enter City Manager Tommy Gonzalez who, according to the lawsuit, led a small contingent of the city in making "every effort to kill the project and thwart the will of the people" by frustrating LCG's attempts to raise money and sabotaging the city's bond rating process. (A call to the city has not been returned.)
The 51-page lawsuit lays out in detail how Gonzalez allegedly went about. There was a damaging leak to Standard & Poor's, secretive and possibly illegal meetings of city officials and other things that boil down to a breach of contract on the part of the city.
Mostly, though, the suit slings mud at Gonzalez. He shakes down companies who do business with the city, the lawsuit alleges, requesting, donations for his son's private school. He drove out real estate development head Brenda McDonald after she complied with an open records request for documents related to the collapse of the Dallas Cowboys' practice facility, according to an affidavit by McDonald filed with the suit. He generally conducted business as a "petty tyrant."
Another developer has stepped in and has promised to complete the project, but this seems to be a pretty solid nail in the coffin. Which is probably just as well, because let's be honest: you've sunk pretty low if you choose Las Colinas as your entertainment destination.
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