More than 20 years after the U.S. Navy pulled out, the Dallas City Council Wednesday approved a plan to bring new life to the former Naval Air Station Dallas, also known as Hensley Field.
According to records in the Library of Congress, Hensley Field first opened in 1928 as a U.S. Army Air Field. In 1943, it became Naval Air Station Dallas. It provided military aviation training through World War II, the Cold War and Vietnam War era. Adjacent factories once produced military aircraft.
More recently, the site on the far west side along Jefferson Boulevard has mostly been used for storage. It was returned to the City of Dallas in 1998.
Wednesday, the Dallas City Council unanimously approved a $2 million contract with a firm selected to plan a waterfront development on the shores of Mountain Creek Lake.
“This is a historical opportunity. I’m glad to see so many of my colleagues see the value,” Councilman Casey Thomas said.
The former military basis is in his district. But all the City Council members see dollar signs in the new frontier for homes, offices, stores and restaurants.
“This is going to be an area of Dallas that’s brand new, like a small town inside the city of Dallas. And we have an example of that already. It’s called Cypress Waters, which has been a huge success for the city,” Councilman Omar Narvaez said.
The latest news from around North Texas.
Along the shores of North Lake in a remote section of Dallas between Irving and Coppell, Cypress Waters is a new combination of corporate headquarters, fine new apartments and waterfront restaurants.
Pollution left behind by 70 years of military use has made Hensley Field a far more challenging place for new development.
But Mayor Eric Johnson secured a new commitment from the federal government after a visit to Washington D.C. in March.
“There is an obligation from the Navy to help with the clean-up of this area, so I ask that we keep that pressure on,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Gates.
City officials promise to push that clean up as they pursue the planning they paid for Wednesday.
“This is going to spur our tax value, with employees, with jobs. But we've got to make sure we stay focused,” Councilman Tennell Atkins said.
A DART Rail extension to the site is also being considered to connect this future development to the rest of the city.