Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Brain Transplant

The project we were working on for 1011 S. Akard survived the hearing today at City Council—sort of. In order to get thirty days more to get the approval of the neighborhood association, we agreed to give the project over to Larry and Ted Hamilton, a father and son team who are probably the best developers in Dallas at turning old buildings into new residential housing. Larry and Ted were willing to step in because they are the current owners of the building and they didn’t want to either leave the building vacant or sell it to somebody who would use it as a “flea-bag hotel”, almost the only other choices available to them. In short, the patient lived but only because we put a new brain in.

I have mixed feelings. Central Dallas CDC worked hard on this project, so it isn’t easy to give it up. I am skeptical that the Hamiltons will be able to include any permanent supportive housing in the development. On the other hand, Larry and Ted do quality work, mostly at the higher end of the market, and if they can create affordable housing with anything approaching the panache of their market-rate housing, then it will be an enormous benefit to the City of Dallas and to the people we want to help. In addition, Larry and Ted are extremely honorable people and I have a fair amount of confidence that if the development goes forward in any form, one way or another they will make sure that Central Dallas CDC recovers the thousands of dollars this project has already cost us.

On the third hand (what! you don’t have a third hand? it’s very useful), this means our work isn’t over. We have to thread the labyrinthine rules of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in order to put the development effectively under the control of Larry and Ted Hamilton without violating any of its rules related to the scoring of tax credit applications. That task is doable, but difficult and time consuming.

In other words, it means a lot more work without any pay and without prospect of developing a project at the end of it. I guess it must be community service.

Finally, this change probably means no additional housing for our homeless neighbors and providing that housing was the reason we started this effort in the first place. I only hope the effort of the Hamiltons is successful so at least some good comes out of all this work.

It will be another disappointment if the result is only another vacant building. It’s already a blow that the neighborhood apparently prefers a vacant, razor-wire surrounded building to permanent supportive housing.

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