City Hall

Vonciel Jones Hill Asks Fellow Council Members to "Catch the Vision" of Texas Horse Park

In the end, the council's Economic Development Committee didn't want to talk about economic impact studies or debate the risk of sinking $12 million into a project where its partner fell millions short when it came to raising matching funds. In the end, most of its members wanted to make it clear, time and again, that the Texas Horse Park is a necessary, vital and key piece of the Trinity River Corridor Project -- a "gateway to the southern sector," as Tennell Atkins called it, and every bit the signature component as, say, the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, in the words of Vonciel Jones Hill.

Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan came to council this morning to pore over those estimable docs we looked at yesterday. And in the end only council member Ann Margolin was against the city looking for an outside operator to take the reins of the horse park, which has been around in one way, shape or form since the bond package of 1998. Margolin is concerned the city will wind up footing the bill for the park; the potential of profit did not sway her decision.

But her colleagues disagreed. Because, after all, said Atkins: "We have $12 million sitting there." And if the city doesn't at least see who's interested, "it's kinda like we don't know what the market is." Jordan heartily agreed.

Said Jerry Allen, those who crunch the numbers and remain skeptical are merely opposed to the entirety of the Trinity River Corridor Project as a whole. Because, he insisted, "the Trinity River project is one of those type of deals where you're either for it or against it. When it comes to looking at the numbers [that] determines which side of the fence you're on." He insisted it was all just a matter of perception, interpretation. "I've always been for the Trinity River project, and I see it as a great opportunity for the citizens of Dallas, our kids in particular. ... So I look forward to seeing a RFP going out and further dissecting it."

But it was Hill who spawned the catch phrase that so delighted her colleagues.

"I caught the vision of this project a long time ago," she said. "I don't see how this project can lose. It has languished for four years. But I caught the vision back then and am happy to have the opportunity to push it now. .... With the park will come hotels, restaurants, leisure facilities. That's the vision I catch. It will not happen overnight. It's a long-term vision. But what the city has been selling for the last several years is a piece of dirt. The city has to do something. Investors have got to see something on the ground before they're going to ... donate. I've heard this from outsiders: 'The city's not doing anything.' This is an opportunity for the city to do something."

She called it an "integral" part of the Trinity River Corridor Project -- "one of the pieces we don't have to have the Corps of Engineers approve." She asked Jordan if that's correct; the assistant city manager said that's absolutely right.

"That's a bonus for us and the corps," Hill said. "We can get this done. Like the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, which we are now opening, this is a project where you have to catch the vision. If someone had not caught the vision of the bridge, this would not have happened. I distinctly remember a council member calling it the bridge to nowhere -- I never did figure out if that was downtown or West Dallas." But the bridge, she said, "will bring tremendous economic development to downtown and West Dallas. Council members, just catch the vision. Just imagine what this can do for where it is. Clearly, clearly I support this project, I don't see what hard is done by letting the RFP go out."

Later, said Allen: "Those are true words, and I totally agree with council woman Hill."

Next stop: the full council. Giddyup.