Tearing Down I-345 Idea Is Starting to Get Interest From Important Rich People

We know the real estate industry is doing well in North Texas because we keep getting stuck in traffic at huge construction sites. If you have an idea for a weird new thing you'd like to be built in Dallas, local Realtors are a good, powerful group to get on your side.

Ten years ago, few people could have predicted that Dallas would one day have a big park on top of the freeway. Then, in 2004, a trade group called the The Real Estate Council put down a $1 million grant to fund a study looking into the feasibility of such a park. This caught the attention of a few other rich business people, and now we have Klyde Warren Park.

Now that same Real Estate Council is putting its money into another promising-sounding feasibility study. The group is giving Dallas $125,000 to examine the effect of tearing down the Interstate 345, the controversial proposal that has been inspiring heated debate/trash-talking wars among bureaucrats, urban planners and local opinion columnists these past few months.

The Real Estate Council actually offered Dallas the money for the study back in March, but nothing happened for awhile. Council CEO Linda McMahon told the Dallas Business Journal a few days ago that the city just didn't seem interested in her group's free money offer. That story seemed to give Dallas a good kick, and the DBJ is now reporting that Dallas finally accepted the money.

The Real Estate Council's official stance is that it doesn't have an opinion one way or the other; the study is supposed to be an unbiased look at the effect of a tear-down. But the Real Estate Council's board of directors and executive committee are made up of a few downtown-based commercial firms that would likely stand to gain from a new, nearby patch of empty land.

They're not the first group to express interest in the highway debate. Last month, Ralph Hawkins, chairman of HKS Architects and former Trammell Crow executive, told The Dallas Morning News that his Dallas Regional Chamber is also thinking about the I-345 and what tearing it down might mean for businesses. "We are bring constrained now by the highways built around us for people coming to work," the paper quoted him saying.

Residential Realtors aren't quite as interested yet as their commercial counterparts. "We've never discussed it," says Bill Head, spokesman for the Metrotex Association of Realtors, but then again, he points out that residential Realtors aren't concentrated quite so close to the city center.

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Amy Martyn
Contact: Amy Martyn