Dallas Morning News column – Convention hotel should shift south
This is a column that I wrote which appeared in the Dallas Morning News on Thursday. Dallas South readers saw most of this last week. There are however a couple of points that I didn't make in last week's post.
Plans for a Dallas Convention Center hotel are moving forward, and Mayor Tom Leppert would like to see it built before the Super Bowl comes to town in 2011. While the city looks into financing the project, the discussion will soon move to where the hotel should be located.
For those who have dared to dream of a hotel constructed near the convention center, the vision usually includes a structure on the "front," or downtown side, of the building. I've always thought the same thing.
But over the weeks since I wrote my first Viewpoints column on the hotel, another potential site has emerged. Imagine, if you will, a hotel erected on the southern side of the convention center. Use Eddie Deen's Ranch as a reference point.
In that initial Viewpoints column, I made the following argument:
Convention visitors judge a host city by what goes on each day after the meetings are over. Where do we eat? Is there anywhere to shop? How long does it take to get to the hottest night spot?
A hotel built on the north side of the convention center would have to start from scratch to create a place for conventioneers to go after hours. The alternative is to find a way to connect with revitalization efforts on Main Street downtown.
But an entertainment district already exists just south of the convention center, and that area continues to blossom. Anchored by the South Side on Lamar lofts, Lamar Street offers plenty to do for visitors in search of post-meeting fare.
Hotel occupants leaving a southern location would spill across Interstate 30 into Gilley's Dallas and The Palladium Ballroom. Brooklyn Jazz Cafe is about a quarter-mile from this proposed site.
Couple these businesses and others in the area with the diverse residency of the South Side lofts and The Beat condos, currently under construction, and you have the makings of a round-the-clock destination. There is plenty of space along Lamar to add to the mix of retail, residential, office and entertainment that are already in place.
The City Council and city staff have a strong desire to connect the convention center with Dallas' downtown core. But urban planners have long encouraged the city to expand its definition of downtown. Woodall Rogers is scheduled to be decked in order to bridge the Arts District with Uptown. Why not do the same with I-30 and connect the convention center with the Cedars?
A hotel on the convention center's south side would have convenient highway access and sit only yards away from the DART's Convention Center station. Another advantage is that the site is near the middle of the convention center, so visitors would never have to trek the full length of the building to get to and from their rooms.
The cost for climate-controlled connectivity between the hotel and the center would likely be less than other proposed locations because of the site's proximity to the main building.
Speaking of cost, land acquisition on the south side of the center should carry a lower price tag than the leading sites on the north side.
It makes perfect business and logistical sense.
But there is another benefit that is unique to this location. When developers in the area look at a map, they draw a line at I-30, and many still refuse to look at anything south of that point. Progress on South Lamar shows us that this school of thought is changing.
Here is an opportunity for the city to continue to push development toward South Dallas with more than an auto parts store or a fast-food stand. The taxpayer-funded American Airlines Center has created a vibrant new entertainment district at Victory Park. Money that the city invested in redeveloping the Mercantile Building will pay big dividends for Main Street and Dallas' downtown core.
Now it's time for the Cedars – with a little help from City Hall – to realize its full potential.
The convention center hotel should be built on the southern side of the Dallas Convention Center. Politicians who have pledged to support economic development in southern Dallas have a chance to prove that their words are more than hollow campaign-season promises.