| Schutze |

Lawson Leaving SouthFair, But is That a Good Development?

Hank Lawson says Leo Chaney, pictured here, is...is...well, actually, Lawson doesn't say as he prepares to leave SouthFair.

Hank Lawson, founding executive director of SouthFair Community Development Corp., will leave the helm at the end of December. He says his retirement from SouthFair--which is behind Park Row Estates, a 30-unit development aimed at mid- to high-income home owners, and other high-profile renaissance developments in South Dallas--has been planned for a year. And he insists it has nothing to do with the half-million-dollar whack City Hall took out of his budget last summer.

He says when City Hall cut his money, officials told him, "You know, you've got a lot on your plate, and we don't want to take any more risks, and you're behind on projects," Lawson recounts. "They had all legitimate excuses to cut our funding," he says now, "but after all that we've been to the community in South Dallas over the years, we found it kind of strange, and I was kind of dumbfounded for a while."

But Lawson is 63, has had two heart attacks and says he needs to slow down anyway. He told me he will continue to put together deals for SouthFair and help in any way he can from the sidelines. The new executive director of SouthFair is Lester Nevels.

Lawson told me: "We seem to be back on track. I was talking to Councilman [Leo] Chaney about some things, how to get us back on track. The one that they wanted to see get going was Park Row Estates, and it is underway."

Lawson wouldn't talk to me about the stuff Chaney is shoveling money into instead, like the Bexar Street project. The big difference, I said, was that SouthFair's projects have a market and some shot at success, while Chaney wants to put all the city's money into the Chaney Family Dry Cleaning Museum on the surface of the moon. But even that kind of an opener wouldn't get Lawson talking.

Guy's too smart for me. --Jim Schutze

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