Owners hope the new convention center will boost the sleepy south side of downtown Dallas

Dallas wants to replace its aging convention center with a $1.5 billion next-generation meeting complex and surrounding mixed-use development. It would be the largest public investment ever made in the southern part of downtown Dallas.

Construction of the project could begin as early as 2024.

But first, voters will be asked to approve Proposition A on the Nov. 8 ballot, which would raise hotel taxes to fund convention center redevelopment and improvements to Fair Park.

Not surprisingly, major landowners in the area around the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center are supporters of this ambitious plan. And downtown boosters see the project as a way to revive this corner of the central business district.

Hunt Realty Investments is one of the largest landlords in the southwest corner of downtown.

Hunt Realty built Dallas’ iconic Reunion Tower and adjoining Hyatt Regency Hotel in the 1970s. At the time, it was one of the biggest investments ever made in downtown.

The company founded by Dallas businessman Ray Hunt still owns 20 acres in Reunion.

Chris Kleinert, CEO of Hunt Realty Investments, said he applauds the new convention center project. The company has big plans for the future for the development sites it has in Reunion.

We have owned this land for almost 50 years and today we are more excited about its potential than we have ever been,” said Kleinert. “Our plans include new office and hotel towers, mixed-income housing as well as retail, dining and entertainment options.

“We strongly support the passage of Proposal A, which will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue and create thousands of new jobs.”

Developer Matthews Southwest built the Omni Dallas Hotel next to the convention center in 2011. And Matthews Southwest has over 14 acres to develop on both sides of Interstate 30.

Part of the convention center redevelopment program being discussed would connect the freeway to new construction.

Developer Jack Matthews said the planned development will help unite neighborhoods on the south side of downtown with the downtown core.

The old convention center has long been an obstacle south of Dallas,” Matthews said. “This will be a great catalyst for the changes to come in Downtown and South Dallas.

“This new design respects the whole city, not just the north.”

Parts of the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas date from the 1950s.(Elias Valverde II / Personal photographer)

Matthews said the downtown area, which has seen a revival over the past 20 years, will benefit from the convention center project.

“All downtown neighborhoods will be positively affected by the increased number of people shopping, eating out, filling hotels, etc.,” he said.

The area around the current convention center has some of the largest remaining development areas downtown.

Demolishing the old convention center would free up even more blocks for new construction, say proponents of the plan. “Investing $1.5 billion in this downtown area and freeing up this acreage will transform downtown,” said Jennifer Scripps, president of Downtown Dallas Inc. “The opportunity to open new acreage for new developments is unprecedented.”

A rendering shows a proposed new downtown Dallas convention center being built on the west side of...
A rendering shows a proposed new Downtown Dallas Convention Center being built on the west side of Lamar Street/Botham Jean Boulevard. The city is considering options to revamp its current Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.(Landa, Reuben)

The largest landowner in the area south of Dallas City Hall is developer and investor Hoque Global. The Dallas-based company acquired half a dozen city blocks, mostly parking lots, just east of the old convention center.

Hoque Global is working on a 20-acre, over $400 million mixed-use project that would include offices, retail, residences, a hotel and educational facilities.

“I’ve owned all the land for almost a decade now,” said Hoque Global founder Mike Hoque. “This area has so much potential, located next to the farmers market and convention center.”

Hoque said the investment in the new convention center will bring new attention to the south side of downtown, which is often overlooked in favor of construction sites along the Woodall Rodgers Expressway and in Uptown.

“It’s all going north and north and north,” he said. “We should think about how we are growing down south and how we are creating more opportunities.

“If we get this convention center completed, we’ll have a meaningful look across the country.”

Dallas businessman Ray Washburne has completed his purchase of the former Dallas Morning News campus this year, which has approximately 5.5 acres of land adjacent to the Omni Hotel.

Charter Holdings of Washburne have been working on plans to use the old newspaper building as the centerpiece of a new mixed-use development. He said the construction of the new convention center will bring more activity to the whole region.

“It’s such a sleepy section of downtown,” Washburne said. “Everything happens on the north side.

“The convention center is going to be a flywheel for new business.”

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