A plan to remove a downtown Dallas halfway house that resides in a shabby old hotel pleases neighbors, but raises new concerns about the replacement location.
The Decker halfway house at 899 Stemmons Freeway was once a glamorous hotel where The Beatles are among the former guests.
Now, the building - on the edge of the Dallas Design District - has beds for 225 sex offenders and other state inmates who are not yet free to live on their own, but do come and go for work or school.
“I would love to see them gone,” said Charlotte Manheim with Renaissance Collection Rugs, a business near the halfway house. “There’s many, many times we see a lot of homeless, a lot of people walking up and down the street.”
Manheim said she has worked in the Design District for decades and she believes the halfway house is a nuisance.
“When I tell clients how to get to our showroom, they drive by and say, ‘Oh, I see what you’ve got down the street,'" Manheim said. "And it’s not the best thing to market for the Dallas Design District.”
A plan already approved by Dallas County Commissioners will lease a tract of county land just outside the Hutchins city limits to a private company that will build a new halfway house for more than twice as many offenders.
Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price said the remote site is far from neighbors who might object.
The location is also far from public transportation, jobs and job training programs that offenders are expected to connect with during the day.
“The zoning doesn’t allow us in most cities to do it," Price said. "Schools, churches, they don’t want it in the neighborhood."
The site is adjacent to the Hutchins State Jail, but also adjacent to a juvenile detention center.
Up to 500 sex offenders and other convicts would be housed 500 feet away from kids.
Price said the new halfway house and the juvenile detention center will both be strictly supervised.
He said the new halfway house will provide transportation for offenders so they will not be walking around outside the new location as they do in downtown Dallas.
Price said the state sends Dallas County about 500 inmates each month and the new halfway house - expected to be built by a private company - will cost the county nothing.
“They will build and provide transportation for these individuals. It’s kind of a no-brainer and a benefit to the taxpayers of Dallas County,” Price said. “You’ve got to manage public safety and you’ve got to manage criminal justice. The individuals are going to go somewhere.”
Hutchins Mayor Artis Johnson said he has not learned enough about the new halfway house to oppose it and the existing state jail and juvenile detention facilities have not caused problems for his town.
When the new halfway house opens, Price said the old halfway house building, which is also owned by Dallas County, will be offered to private owners for redevelopment or new construction on the prime downtown site.
“It does not make financial sense or otherwise for that property not to be on the tax-roll,” he said.
“I would like it,” said Manheim. “As you can see all of the construction going on, this has become an area where there are a lot more lofty type apartments.”
A schedule of completion for the halfway house near Hutchins has not been finalized.