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Crow's Nest

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Pardon, but what's the big deal here? So Ed Oakley and a majority of his fellow council members voted on Wednesday to give $583,360 in tax abatements to Crow Holdings so Harlan Crow and his team could renovate the former Parkland Hospital on the corner of Maple and Oak Lawn avenues. And the problem is ...?

See, folks like Mitchell Rasansky and Tom Leppert and Dallas Blog are trying to make it look like Oakley's helping out a major campaign contributor. (Says Oakley's financial report for the runoff period, them Crows dished out a combined $30,000 in mid-May. Which is very, very legal.) “We have a situation where we approve tax incentives and tax giveaways for developers that give money to candidates even though the building has already started,” Leppert said at a forum in East Dallas only last night.

And, yup, Oakley is good pals with Crow Holdings, which got its Dallas Design District designated a Tax Increment Financing District. You remember the Design District -- where Oakley owns some land of his very own?

But when it comes to this particular building, so what?

In this instance, Oakley and the council were merely rubber-stamping an earlier Landmark Commission recommendation for a historic preservation tax incentive. And while it may also be true that several other developers wanted to buy the building, as Rasansky insisted during council on Wednesday, there was no guarantee any of them would have actually developed the beleaguered building. Indeed, Unfair Park knows of at least two earlier would-be buyers who balked and walked after realizing the scope of renovations needed to make the building habitable, much less profitable. On the other hand, the Crows have had crews gutting the building for months.

Fact is, Leppert's picking on Oakley for OK'ing the abatements is nothing less than hollow, distracting grandstanding at this late date. Unfair Park is HQ'd right across the street from the former Woodlawn -- among the most beautiful buildings in town -- and we've seen the result of decades worth of rot. Wasn't so long ago we were writing about cops chasing copper thieves through the building. That's all it was -- a motel for squatters and thieves.

Now it'll be the home to Crow Holdings, and no matter what you think of Harlan, Trammell or the rest of 'em -- their politics, their personalities -- there's no way they will ever let the building turn back into a decrepit tomb. Or maybe you just like driving by a historic landmark and shaking your head and wondering what might have been. --Robert Wilonsky

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