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South Dallas Cultural Center To Open This Year. Maybe. When the City Can Find a New Contractor.

A few weeks, on the way down to my old man's auto parts store a few blocks from Fair Park, I noticed that the South Dallas Cultural Center was in quite the state of disrepair -- not such a surprise, given that the 20-year-old building is undergoing substantial renovations, to the point where it's had to move its base of operations to the little-used Juanita Craft Civil Rights House on Warren Avenue. Still, seems like that redo, which began in October 2005, has been going on a little too long. Turns out, yeah, it has. It was already supposed to be re-opened.

But the South Dallas Cultural Center isn't likely to open any time soon -- maybe by the end of the year, though I wouldn't hold my breath.

As it turns out -- and if Dallas' Only Daily has written about this, pardon me for not being able to find it on the Web site or elsewhere -- the project's stuck in neutral (or reverse) at the moment, without a contractor to do the work. (Oh, wait -- here's a story from KTVT-Channel 11 in December.) That's because at the end of October, the contractor, Harrison Quality Construction, "abandoned the project." That's what David Fisher, assistant director of the Office of Cultural Affairs, says -- and that's precisely what it says on the SDCC's Web site, which also "sincerely regrets the inconvenience this situation is causing to community arts audiences in the South Dallas neighborhood and to the artists and arts groups whose programs have been displaced."

For the time being, the rennovation's in a holding pattern till the city finds someone else to do the job -- and Fisher says that there's no new contractor lined up at the moment, far as he knows. Someone from Equipment and Building Services might know better than he, Fisher says, if only someone was around to, ya know, tell us.

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The timeline on the Web site's merely a hypothetical and very optimistic one till then. After all, it says construction is supposed to resume in January or February 2007, and January's almost come and gone. So don't plan on any September events at the SDCC till, like, August.

"It's been an unfortunate project with several unrelated setbacks," Fisher tells Unfair Park, referring also to some problems concerning utility lines and other "hidden conditions (i.e. utility lines, telephone duct bank, casing of piers, etc.)" discovered back in August 2006. "In the interim, we're doing what we can to make sure the programs go on." That said, many of the core programs at the SDCC -- especially its gallery program -- have either been disrupted or discontinued till the renovations are completed. The SDCC's only in operations now from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday -- not exactly the hotspot it once was. And some classes have been moved to the SouthFair Community Development Corporation facilities on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

"Many of the other classes have been affected," Fisher insists, "but nothing's been completely eliminated." But, c'mon, you saw this coming, didn't you? Or maybe you figure something like this could happen at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, which also falls under the Office of Cultural Affairs' purview. Exactly. --Robert Wilonsky

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