Frisco Officials Waiting on a Train Museum. And, For Now, They Can Afford to Be Patient.

The conceptual rendering train museum officials had done for the proposed digs in Frisco
The conceptual rendering train museum officials had done for the proposed digs in Frisco

Late last week, during all the hubbub over the city's decision to sue the Museum of the American Railroad in order to get it out of Fair Park by August 1, no one ever bothered to ask Frisco officials where they stood on the time line without end. So I called Henry Hill III, the city's deputy city manager, this morning -- good timing too. Just yesterday, Hill said, the Dallas City Attorney's Office filed an open-records request to see all of Frisco's contracts and negotiations with the museum, which, of course, culminated with an April 2008 announcement that had the museum toot-tooting to 12.3 acres up Frisco way sooner than later.

Hill explained to Unfair Park the nature of its agreement with the museum: Frisco's leasing the land to the museum and offering up to $1 million in moving expenses, leaving the museum to cover the other $500,000 it said it would take to get 4,500 tons of trains out of Fair Park. Problem is, Museum of the American Railroad president and CEO Bob LaPrelle told Unfair Park last Thursday he doesn't have the dough and doesn't know where it'll come from: "It's tough to raise funds in this economy."

Hill says Frisco can't do anything to help out: Its obligation is capped at $1 million, and "the railway museum knows they are obligated to abide by their agreement."

The deputy city manager says Frisco always expected the museum would begin its move north "during the course of this year," after museum officials began laying track on the 12 acres provided by the city. That, of course, hasn't begun yet, though Hill says, "Their indication to us is they are putting together a schedule to bid out the construction work. That's the discussion we had before this came up" -- this, of course, being the litigation involving Dallas.

Hill says it was his understanding that the move would always take 12 to 18 months, and Frisco's not pressuring the museum to move north. Far as the city's concerned, it's done its part: provided the land, gotten the money, negotiated a deal, signed a contract. The rest -- everything from putting down track to planning the site to designing a building -- is up to the museum, which gets the land for four years and will have the ability to re-up with Frisco after that based upon "performance measures," says Hill.

"Their obligation was to perform all the work," Hill says. "They're the developer."

Frisco's in a better position than Dallas, which says it wants the land at Fair Park to sell to auto manufacturers so they can display new product during the State Fair of Texas. Right now, Frisco's got time invested, but not any money -- not until the museum begins its move, which is ... somewhere down the line.

"We continue to have discussions" with museum officials, Hill says. "Our discussion with them from the very beginning was based upon the fact they had done a study that said they'd like to expand their facilities and wanted to get onto a piece of property that was 12-18 acres. They identified things that were then relevant to the piece of property we had here, and that's what prompted us to contact them. The contact was always, 'What's in the best interest of the museum and the region?' Because this is a national draw. It's a regional museum with a a national-caliber collection, so it's an asset to all the cities in the region."

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