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Dallas' Convention Center To Be Torn Down, Rebuilt As Part Of $4B Redevelopment Effort

A $4B project that will redevelop Dallas’ convention center and the surrounding area was set into motion yesterday following approval by city council.

Dallas' Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center

The effort to improve the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center dates back to February 2021, when the city began composing a master plan for the facility. Of the four concepts considered by council, one that will spend $2B to tear down and rebuild the center was ultimately chosen.

The plan includes a new entrance on Lamar Street and a connection over Interstate 30 to the Cedars. Another $2.2B is earmarked to enhance the area around the center. Land east of Lamar will be opened up for development, and a new pedestrian street targeted at entertainment and hotel uses is also included.

District 6 Council Member Omar Narvaez said the project is about much more than physical improvements to the convention center. It will provide jobs, affordable housing, connect neighborhoods and open up downtown to further investment, he said.

“The transformation of Downtown Dallas is what this is about,” Narvaez said. “This isn’t about just a building, a building we are literally holding together with Band-Aids, paper clips and diapers.”

A portion of the project’s design and engineering will be funded through a revenue bond made up of state dollars as well as a hotel occupancy tax, according to city of Dallas Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Reich. Construction dollars have yet to be identified, and there is no plan to issue new bonds until 2023, Reich said.

“This is a no-brainer,” City Council Member Tennell Atkins said. “Any time you get free money from the state of Texas … you better grab it as fast as you can.” 

Council Member for District 12 Cara Mendelsohn raised concerns over the project’s cost. She noted uncertainties around the future of conventions given the way Covid-19 has changed the nature of travel, work and entertainment.

“Convention centers around America weren’t growing before Covid, and now they are in a completely different situation,” she said. “We are going to compete with this brand-new facility and possibly only get what we already have.”

The plan ultimately passed in a 14-1 vote, with Mendelsohn opposed. Construction is not scheduled to begin until 2024.