HUD Money, or: If You Think You've Heard the Last of Southern Skates, Oh, Guess Again.

Dwaine Caraway wants Southern Skates kept open; Vonciel Jones Hill, in whose district the skating rink on East Ledbetter Drive actually sits, is among those who'd prefer it closed -- or, better yet, sold. Which is precisely what the city wants to do, though as we mentioned back in August, it's been unable to find a viable taker for the pet project of former Black Panther Fahim Minkah, who defaulted on a $400,000 loan years ago and turned over to the city a skating rink it never asked for.

The city began considering a sale back in May 2008, and so far three interested parties have emerged -- all of whom want to either rent the joint (with an option to buy) or receive copious tax incentives to take it over, which is unlikely given the city is still operating the facility through the Park and Recreation Department and has lost close to $1 million on its operations during the past give years. (It also needs $40,000 in foundation repairs and routine maintainence that will come out of the Park and Rec's capital improvement budget.)

And even if the city can find a buyer, selling Southern Skates won't be a simple process: Tomorrow, the council's Economic Development council will yet again discuss the fate of Southern Skates -- and be told that, look, the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development will have a significant say in how the sucker's sold, what can be done with the facility if someone takes it off the city hands and where the money will be deposited should someone open up their checkbook.

Minkah paid for the facility, in part, with $500,000 in HUD loans via the city's Dallas Neighborhood Renaissance program; that means the money will have to go back into the city's Community Development Block Grant program, not the general fund. And they'll have to keep it open as a roller-skating facility -- or, at the very least, something else considered "eligible" for CDBG money.

And even then, the new owners couldn't change the use till there was a public hearing on the subject. Then there's the worst-case scenario should the whole thing go to hell: "If the project is found to be in non compliance, HUD may take actions that range from a warning to reimbursement to the City's CDBG line of credit of up to $1,060,000 from the City's General Fund."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky