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Been a loooong time since we've written about Derrick Mitchem and his proposed Motorsports Museum across from Fair Park, in the old Bama Pie building. Been no reason to: Last I looked, oh, three weeks ago, the place looked just as it has for years and as you see above -- more or less abandoned, despite here-and-there renovations made over the better part of the decade. It's always been the project no one at City Hall really wanted to discuss, even though it ate up about $200,000 in federal community development block grant money. Former city council member Leo Chaney once promised us it would be open by Christmas 2005.
But the project resurfces today because the name of Mitchem's nonprofit, N2WIN!, shows up in tomorrow's city council agenda (Addendum Item No. 16, to be specific). But only because the city has decided to "reprogram" $92,522 that was initially supposed to go to the Motorsports Museum. That money will now go toward something called the MLK Blvd. Business Facade/Revitalization Program, which is being handled by the city's Office of Economic Development. What happened to the Bama Pie building? Look in the fine print of this city council Housing Committee briefing from February 2: On Page 34, it says only "Project terminated."
Unfair Park left a message with Lee McKinney in Economic Development to discuss the specifics of the revitalization project along MLK. But David Cook, the city of Dallas's chief financial officer, tells Unfair Park today the city opted
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to spend the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant money on "other efforts along MLK Boulevard" using "money that was supposed to go to N2WIN! and the Bama Pie building."
In 2006, Mitchem maintained that he never got the project off the ground because he had trouble navigating the rules and regulations attached to federal money. He claimed that dealing with the city was difficult: "You couldn't have convinced me it would have taken this long and that dealing with a municipality as big as this city would have been like this. I never would have thought it, and no one warned me about it." He also said he'd used more than $172,000 in federal money to repair "the roof, the windows, the doors, the drywall work, the structure work, plumbing, electrical" in the old building. He could not be reached for comment today, but city records show that $197,478 has been expended on the project.
Which leaves $92,522 to go toward spruicing up MLK -- though where, precisely, Cook says he doesn't know, referring Unfair Park to Economic Development. He does say that the money should be available within "the next 30 to 60 days," after which Economic Development, likely with community input, will designate the area along MLK that would most "benefit from building facade improvements and other revitaliztion" efforts.
Of the Motorsports Museum, Cook says, simply, "The project clearly did not go as it was intended."