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When I was talking to First Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans yesterday about the city's decision to deny parking-citation scofflaws their vehicle registration, I also asked him about the old Bama Pie building across from Fair Park. No real reason why, except that three looong years ago, Evans had mentioned that the city was considering taking administrative and/or legal action against Derrick Mitchem, who got a total of $364,000 from the city -- in South Dallas/Fair Park Trust Fund money, in Housing and Urban Development community development block grants, in Southern Dallas Development Corp. dough -- to turn the building into something called the Motorsports Museum, which former city councilman Leo Chaney once swore to us would be open by Christmas 2005, hah. I hadn't spoken with Evans since the city declared the project "terminated" last February -- after some $200,000 had been sunk into project without a cent's worth of progress to show for it -- and I wanted to know what in the wide, wide world of sports was going on with it.
Evans said he thought the city had taken possession of the building, or was close to it, but he said Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the city's Economic Development department, would know better than he. Zavitkovsky tells Unfair Park this morning that, no, the city doesn't own the historic building ... not yet, anyway. But documents are being "sifted through," and options are "being weighed." Says Zavitkovsky, "We're just evaluating what we want to do next. Because the question is: What do you do with it?" In other words: Yes, the city will likely take back the building in foreclosure, but there's really no rush to own a historic question mark in Fair Park (where Clyde Barrow once worked, matter of fact).
Truth is, says Zavitkovsky, the city's hoping it will get some kind of an answer early next year, when St. Louis-based housing developer McCormack Baron Salazar hands over to The Real Estate Council and, eventually, the Dallas City Council a study it's currently conducting to evaluate the potential for development along DART's Green and Blue Lines -- specifically in the Fair Park-South Dallas area and along the Ledbetter corridor.
(The Bama Pie building sits almost adjacent to the light-rail track running in front of Fair Park.) The study, says Zavotkovsky, was paid for by The Real Estate Council and with other private donations.
"They're looking at what it takes to actually get deals done in these markets, land costs, the types of projects that can be supported," he says. "They'll present the study to The Real Estate Council Foundation early next year, then it will go to the city and become public information. But they know how to develop in the inner-city, how to negotiate with for-profit and nonprofit investors. And it's the kind of work you want to bring into Southern Dallas."
As opposed to, say, an antique car museum that never was and never will be for which taxpayers coughed up $200,000.