The impact from yesterday’s big news about the massive increases in downtown land values by the Dallas Central Appraisal District will not be fully realized until other appraisals are released in coming days. But two distinctly different schools of thought have emerged, along with both sides playing the blame game. Angela Hunt is pleased that DCAD has finally gotten its act together; Michael Anderson, a longtime player in the downtown real estate scene, not so much.
“This is not just between Harlan Crow, the city and a few council members,” Anderson tells Unfair Park. “Now it involves everyone with an interest in downtown.”
Anderson is general counsel for Chavez Properties, which owns several parking lots downtown. Anderson says the dramatic increases in 13 properties owned by Chavez are a sign that values will be going up all over the city. “The collateral damage will hit the entire community. And if you hurt downtown after all we’ve spent, it’s just fundamentally bad public policy,” Anderson says. “And it’s because people were playing checkers [as opposed to chess] and didn’t understand the repercussions of their actions.”
We’ve noted that Anderson is unwilling to name names, but it appears as though his finger is pointed at council members Hunt and Rasansky. He claims that DCAD made its decision because of the press and concerns regarding the convention center hotel land purchase, saying “they did it due to the heat.” And that’s just fine with Hunt, who stresses that she doesn’t believe she or Rasansky are responsible, but says she’s thrilled to take credit for it.
“The bottom line is, if this issue shed some light on what is a real problem -- a real inequity -- then I’m glad it came out,” Hunt tells Unfair Park. “My fear was that DCAD wasn’t going to address it, and obviously they are, and I applaud them for that.”
Anderson says if other parking lots like the ones that Chavez owns see the same increases, downtown parking prices will go up -- and some lots might even shut down. He also says this will affect residential rent prices and could deter businesses from coming downtown. Anderson says he doesn’t blame DCAD, which “didn’t have a choice.”
Hunt says she doesn’t see the parking issue as a problem, but it leads to “a whole lot of other questions about developing a better mass transit system downtown.” The new values won’t keep businesses away, she says, because DCAD is not driving up prices. Rather, she insists, it’s “more accurately reflecting what these properties are being bought and sold for.” And if other land downtown is similarly affected as expected, Hunt says she shouldn't be blamed.
“All these property owners who might be seeing a rate hike should look to Chavez Properties and thank them for their tax bill, because Chavez Properties are the ones that asked for this large sum to sell their property,” Hunt says.
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Hunt maintains it is a simple matter of equity and everyone pulling their own weight. “For too long, I think business property owners have had a very sweet deal, and residential property owners don’t get that deal,” she says.
Hunt isn’t as convinced as I am that the price of the convention center hotel land is no longer an issue, but she says the new DCAD value has made it much less of a concern. “I think it lends further support to the city’s appraised values and tends to make me somewhat more comfortable, although I’m not there yet,” Hunt says.
Hunt says the land price is the only concern some of the other council members have, instead of focusing on the larger question of the net economic gain from a potential hotel. “I’ve heard enough in the council discussions that there is a desire to build a convention center hotel, regardless of facts supporting its economic impact on the city,” she says. “There seems to be this desire to do it for the sake of doing it amongst some.”
As some council members emerged from the shadows with concerns about the hotel deal, Mayor Tom Leppert is likely to use this new information as a way to make them feel warm and fuzzy about it all over again. Now that he’s back from China, he’ll be focused on sealing the deal on the land purchase before the new June 20 deadline, just before the council takes off the month of July for recess. --Sam Merten