Thursday, June 11, 2009

Re:Vision Dallas FAQ 6/4/09, Part I

Recently I was asked to answer a series of basic questions about the Re:Vision Dallas project—to create a Re:Vision FAQ. I thought readers might find this information interesting, so I’ve decided to print it here in easily digestible pieces over the next three days:

1. How is the Dallas block being funded? Who will build it?

The Central Dallas Community Development Corporation (Central Dallas CDC) is building and funding the development. Central Dallas CDC is a non-profit corporation with CHDO (Community Housing Development Organization) status from the City of Dallas. Its mission is to increase the supply of affordable housing as part of the diverse, economically-mixed neighborhoods of inner city Dallas. They may partner with a for-profit organization in the building of the block, but that is not confirmed yet. The Re:Vision Dallas project is not much bigger than the City Walk project that the Central Dallas CDC is about to complete so it is not out of the question that the Central Dallas CDC would build the entire project.

Funding will be handled in a three parts, overseen by the CENTRAL DALLAS CDC:

1. Energy-producing components: The cost is estimated between $5 and $10 million. The CENTRAL DALLAS CDC will finance this by creating a limited liability company (LLC), financed by New Market Tax Credits and by wrapping up renewable energy tax credits and subsidies available from energy providers that will own the energy producing capacity of the project. If necessary the CENTRAL DALLAS CDC will obtain grants or investments from foundations, but current calculations show that the CENTRAL DALLAS CDC can pay the capital (outside of the credits, which don't get paid back) back within three years by the sale of the energy produced, which is much better than most investments.

2. Affordable housing: Funding here will be provided by Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), estimated amount is $20 million which could net up to $15 million after sale. Loans and grants will make up any gaps in funding – much like City Walk, which is now being completed.

3. Market-rate housing: Funding will be provided by a combination of Tax Increment District Financing (expected amount is $10 million), loans, city funding and probably a program related investment from a local foundation. The CENTRAL DALLAS CDC is currently in conversation with some foundations about that possibility.

Total cost is estimated at $60 million ($10m for energy; $20m for affordable; $30m for market)

2. What does this project mean to the city of Dallas and what impact will it have, once built?

I think Re:Vision Dallas is going to change the way people look at Dallas. Dallas--like most sunbelt cities--has more to gain than any other area of the United States from sustainable technology. Our period of greatest energy usage coincides with the best period to produce solar energy, the summer when we need air conditioning, so we have the possibility of vastly reducing the needs for new power plants by employing renewable energy sources. Peak power and peak loads come at the same time. Texas already leads the nation in wind production. It's possible that Re:Vision Dallas, along with other initiatives already in place, will help make Texas a leader in solar power as well, and maybe even geothermal energy.

That's just part of what the project will do. The winning designs are so striking--both beautiful and unusual--that we think the project will be a must see destination. The urban farming incorporated in the designs will bring attention to the Slow Food movement and help accelerate the growth of Dallas's Farmer's Market, which is only a short distance away. In the end, I think the project will have more impact than we can even imagine now.


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