Larry James Hopes to Open "Center of Hope" on I-30 By End of Next Year

We led off yesterday with the news that Larry James and Central Dallas Ministries are preparing to turn one corner of Malcolm X Boulevard and Interstate 30 into a "center of hope," as James calls it -- 3.6 acres filled with what CDM's CEO says will be "scores of new livable wage jobs, a new health and wellness center, a gigantic food distribution center, a retail grocery store, teaching kitchens and a product exchange center and production facility leased to PepsiCo." PepsiCo's one of the partners on the project; so too the the Embrey Family Foundation, which has ponied up some dough for the project.

James and I spoke more about the project Tuesday evening, with James saying CDM and its real-estate offshoot, Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, just closed on the property two weeks ago. They can't begin build-out till the current occupants, a produce company, moves out. "Then we'll need to scrape it clean to build this center."

James doesn't want to provide significantly more details about the project, chiefly because it's but a first step, he says, in reclaiming that side of I-30. "It's really ambitious in light of other things I can't talk about," he says, mentioning another project on Malcolm X. Speaking of: "I think the center will be revolutionary." He says the project's been in discussion stages for a year, with the foundation and PepsiCo coming in just ahead of the city, which may have some new market tax credits to offer. (At last count, the city has about $95 million in such community development funds available -- and ain't quite sure what to do with them.)

"I am not at liberty to speak for the PepsiCo, but their presence will be catalytic in terms of jobs but also as part of their national strategy to relaunch their efforts at community engagement and healthier food products," says James, one day before Pepsi did indeed announce it was pulling its sugar-based beverages out of some schools within the next two years. "They've been really helpful."

Dallas architecture firm Omniplan, responsible for everything from NorthPark Center to the School for Rural Health at Texas A&M, confirms its involvement. But till the ink's dry, it's best not to comment:

"It is very early in the process," says associate principal David Williamson. "However, we are very excited about the project and look forward to telling you more about it as soon as we can."

James, for his part, hopes to begin construction in late summer and have the center completed "by the end of next year." He imagines it will "have a campus feel."

"We're driving forward full speed ahead to raise money and get this done," says James. "It's characteristic of our style. It's gritty in that we're laying the track and the train's rolling."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky