City Council Committee Endorses Financing Plan for New Convention Center

Highest ranked option would remove and replace the existing Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center

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A Dallas City Council committee Monday endorsed a financing plan that could raise up to $4 billion to demolish and replace the Dallas Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.

Officials said plans for use of the money have been narrowed from 13 options to four, which will be reviewed by the council in December.

The briefing presented Monday showed an option that would replace the existing building with a new one west of Lamar Street as substantially meeting every goal for the project. No other goal was ranked as highly in the document.

But the city council economic development committee only took action on the financing plan, which was endorsed and sent to the full city council for an Oct. 13 vote.

“It is not costing the city of Dallas taxpayers any money to fund this trust,” committee chairman Tennell Atkins said.

The financing plan would provide up to $2.2 billion from a state law that allows Dallas to collect a larger portion of state hotel taxes levied on 71 downtown hotels existing or under construction within a three-mile radius of the convention center.

The city is also considering a public referendum to impose additional city hotel taxes on visitors for the project.

“This is money we wouldn't have otherwise. It's not costing the taxpayers anything,” councilman Chad West said.

With 1 million square feet of exhibit space, the existing Dallas Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center is one of the nation’s largest.

But it was mostly empty during the COVID-19 pandemic, with space available to house migrant children and a pop-up hospital that was not used.

An August convention of 3,000 hotel managers from around the nation was a sample of how things used to be.

In normal times, the briefing said the convention center generated 800,000 annual visitors, most of them from outside Dallas, for 330,000 hotel room nights, $300,000 in spending and 5,000 permanent jobs.

The briefing said the Dallas convention center falls short compared with other cities on ballroom and meeting space.

The convention center master plan is crafted to provide benefits to the downtown area around the city building, as well.

“This renovation and master plan, it is designed to create more walkability, in downtown, to generate more jobs, to generate more activity for people who live in downtown. It's super exciting and this is a big step in the right direction,” Councilman Chad West said.

The briefing Monday said the existing convention center is disconnected from surrounding neighborhoods, is small, outdated and has one-third the number of walkable hotel rooms compared to competitive cities.

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