I had Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the city's Office of Economic Development, on the phone this afternoon, so I asked him for a couple of updates per several Friends of Unfair Park's requests piling up in the comment box. After the jump, a word from developer Larry Hamilton as well. And a message left for one city manager.
Anyway. First off, some of you were wondering if the city was pursuing new downtown retailers per the Main Street District FOCUS Retail Initiative, about which the city council's Economic Development Committee was briefed back in early June. (Long story short: The city, with Neiman Marcus's spurring, is hoping to get new and big-name retailers downtown using grants and forgivable loans worth $1,531,489, which would come out of the Downtown Connection Tax Increment Financing District.) Says Zavitkovsky, Nope, hasn't happened yet.
"We have allocated $1.5 million that was part of the Mercantile TIF bond issue to create a retail incentive program," he says. "At this stage of the game, we haven't utilized any of that. As the developers in that designated area around Neimans are negotiating with tenants, then we have a wide range of things we can dip in to to provide assistance. But there's been nothing yet, and I think that would go forward on a case-by-case basis, which we'd take to council."
Now, on to the latest downtown "area plan," which has been floating around Dallas City Hall since 2007 and finally wound up in the paws of Berkeley-based Moore Iacofano Goltsman, Inc., in the spring. MIG's manager for the project, Chris Beynon, is out paternity leave; and team leader Daniel Iacofano is out of town and unavailable for comment. But Zavitkovsky says MIG's team was here last month, during which folks involved in the project "had a number of meetings with stakeholders downtown." And they're coming back next month for more sitdowns.
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"The idea here is we've had a number of in-depth plans over a wide variety of areas, and we need to pull them together," Zavitkovsky tells Unfair Park. "We've got the Arts District, the [Woodall Rodgers] deck park, Victory Park -- even though it's experiencing a tough time, it's clearly a seminal change for that that area -- the convention center hotel, the Mercantile. We've got a lot of things going on, but we're trying it pull all this together and see how we best utilize these resources and anchor projects so they're radiating energy as opposed to being successful by themselves. It's on target and will take a year or so to get completed, but the objective is to get a blueprint for how we ought to move forward."
And I'm sure you read this morning's piece about the Aloft Hotel downtown. But Larry Hamilton says that just because that sucker's done, don't expect he and Ted to move forward with the Atmos Complex any time soon. I asked Larry today when he thought they'd get around to the renovation. To which he responded, after a small pause, "Well, that's a mystery to us." No doubt, you can guess why.
"We've completely finished the design of it. The issue is financing, and we're in about as bad a time as you can imagine to get financing. I think we're going to get it together, but we're having to come up with a program. We've got some city incentives and tax credit money and a bunch of other stuff that makes it a deal we think is going to get financed by somebody, but it's not easy. Its like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. We're hopeful we might be able to start turning dirt by the end of the year. But that's soonest."
A few of you also asked about those downtown video boards. Left a message with Assistant City Manager A.C. Gonzalez. So, anything else?