- The Washington Times - Monday, August 22, 2005

DALLAS — A coalition of downtown business owners and developers said a proposed multimillion-dollar homeless center would be located too close to the city’s center and would hurt the ongoing efforts to revitalize the downtown.

The site is located just a few blocks south of downtown.

A study commissioned by the coalition said the heavy homeless population slowed the revitalization process and that a close-in facility would do considerable further harm.

“Dallas has been economically stagnant for more than a decade,” wrote Bernard Weinstein and Terry Clower, professors at the University of North Texas and authors of the study. They pointed out that Dallas had added 700 jobs in the past year, compared with more than 13,000 in neighboring Fort Worth.

“Downtown revitalization is the key to making Dallas attractive again to residents and businesses, not to mention expanding its tax base,” they said.

Businesspeople who oppose the shelter said special tax abatements, rental subsidies, an urban-parks initiative and plans for more than $500 million in new and refurbished properties downtown will keep the revitalization ball rolling, but not if thousands of homeless people clog the area.

The city of Dallas estimates that it has about 6,000 homeless, mostly throughout the inner city. Until recently, the biggest concentration was under a series of highway overpasses just south of downtown.

In recent days, city crews have leveled that area and driven out hundreds, but by the weekend, many had returned.

To disperse such communities, the city recently passed an ordinance that allows benefactors to deliver food to the homeless only at designated centers.

Last week, the downtown businesspeople’s group made an ultimatum to the City Council:

If the city considers a site farther from the heart of downtown, the group would ensure that at least $1 million in private donations be made available to help purchase the land. If the city persists with the original site, the group will fight an upcoming bond issue to raise money for the project.

Tom Dunning, who led the search committee that recommended the site, said the offer of an alternative site was commendable, but added, “We still believe the site we have selected makes the most sense.”

The City Council is expected to vote Wednesday on whether to put the homeless-center project on the November ballot. The bond issue, specialists said, will be between $15 million and $16 million. About $3 million has been approved by voters.

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