Four years of negotiations over reuse of the former Braniff Airlines site at Dallas Love Field were tossed out the window Wednesday and former Braniff employees were thrilled.
The employees want a Braniff museum at the 1959 maintenance and operations building, and they said the rejected renovation plan did not provide it.
"For those of us in the Braniff family, we're all elated to see this kind of response from the city to preserve the heritage we think Braniff has in Dallas," former employee Rudy Bowling said.
It a sharply divided 8-7 vote, the Dallas City Council refused the plan from car dealer Randall Reed to renovate the building at no expense to the city with a Lincoln dealership in front. The deal called for a 39-year lease of the city property with three possible extensions of 10 years each. Tax abatements on Reed improvements to the property were also included.
Love Field Councilman Adam Medrano surprised some other members when he made the rejection motion after voting with others on the Economic Development Committee in favor of sending it to the full City Council vote.
Medrano said Lemmon Avenue neighbors do not want another car dealership on the city-owned land.
"I know we want to see development there, but we need to be sure it's the right development, something the community supports, something that's going to enhance the community," Medrano said.
Councilman Rickey Callahan said the Reed plan was thoroughly reviewed.
"I feel like we've been ambushed," Callahan said. "This motion, denial, has caught us flat-footed because we didn't expect that, because we didn't see or hear any opposition within committee."
Councilman Lee Kleinman said the rejection sets a bad precedent.
"Why should the developer even come to the city and ask for this stuff," Kleinman said. "And we'll just have more and more properties lay fallow, be unused, become an eyesore and be a blight in this city."
The plan was part of a city push to make better use of vacant airport property.
"This is by far and away the best proposal, best financial deal, the best reuse of the property," Aviation Director Mark Duebner said. "We've gone to the community. We think we have buy in from everyone. We think it's a good deal for the airport and the city and that's why we're recommending it."
With the rejection, council members instructed city staff to seek new proposals for the site. A competing developer is waiting in the wings.
Flying Crown Development publicly pushed renovation of the Braniff building before Reed Enterprises was involved. Flying Crown offers the museum Braniff employees want and additional aviation space the company says Dallas needs.
"There's a pressing need for aviation use, and a diversion to a car dealership is not the highest and best use and not the best use of the city's resources," said Stephen Birch with Flying Crown. "It's a new chapter. It's certainly the right move by the city. They made the right choice."
Michael Graves, a partner with Reed Enterprises, said his group will review options.
"I think it's kind of a dark day for the city of Dallas," Graves said. "We feel a little jilted, but we'll live with that and we'll regroup and come back and see what's going to be said of the project."
The city of Dallas has no money set aside for Braniff building renovation. The site is currently used for Love Field airport employee parking.