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What Qualifies As "a Relatively Small Public Investment"? Let's Take a Look Downtown.

This morning, the council's Economic Development Committee will take up whether or not to give Dean Foods a $250,000 economic development grant (and $1,673,964 in tax abatements) for that new factory in the southern sector, which Ron Natinsky mentioned last week.

At the same time, the committee will consider another grant almost as large: $200,000, which was requested by Houseman Building LLC, the owner of the ca.-1921 building at 400 N. Akard Street.

Right now, the 40,576-square-footer -- which has been advertising renovated spaces for lease -- has but two tenants on the ground floor, including an AlphaGraphics, both of which have leases about to expire. Owner Ken Good, with whom the city's been working on the Olympic Arts building rehab near Deep Ellum, wants to use the dough to redo the building, re-up the leases and bring in new businesses -- including a barber shop and a restaurant. Also, says Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez's memo to council, nearby First Baptist Academy of Dallas "will create a new playground in the northern portion of the park area and Houseman will open the building to the park and create an outdoor seating area that can be utilized by park patrons and cafe visitors."

Problem is, Good's promise to invest $1.75 million "to purchase and renovate the building" (which he actually bought in May for $1.4 million) doesn't come anywhere near the minimum eligibility guidelines laid out by the city's Public Private Partnership Program, which insists an owner create at least 250 jobs or invest $25 million in order to qualify for an economic development grant. Which is why three-quarters of the council will need to sign off before it's approved at Wednesday's council meeting. Writes Gonzalez:

Staff recommends approval of the economic development grant. For a relatively small public investment, the property owner will completely fill and previously vacant small downtown building, add ground floor retail space and work with nearby property owners to reenergize a small public open space.

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