Specifics of $101 million overhaul of Victory Park revealed

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by MATT GOODMAN

WFAA

Posted on October 7, 2013 at 10:42 AM

Updated Monday, Oct 7 at 4:15 PM

DALLAS –– On Monday, the Economic Development Committee learned of the nearly $101 million price tag the city manager’s office estimates it’ll take to revitalize the Victory Park development nestled between Uptown and Downtown.  

Back in May, the city wrapped commissioned studies on how to lure residents to the neon-tinged entertainment development when there isn’t the draw of a Mavericks or Stars game. 

Among the suggestions that emerged from that: changing traffic flow, parking and signage and find retailers and restaurants to fill those sleek empty storefronts littered throughout Victory Park. But that’s easier said than done and, if the study’s any indication, it’ll take time. 

Judging by this D Magazine piece penned by the chairman of the Fort Worth-based company that's helping the owners of Victory Park move forward, office space at Victory Park is 95 percent leased. The room for improvement lies within retail and restaurant options, further evidenced by the documents the city was briefed on today.  

"You can't have events drive the every day; we want to build a successful community in an urban environment and to do that you need life between buildings on a day in, day out basis," said Councilman Scott Griggs. 

To convince retailers to locate there, the study suggests transitioning Victory Ave. and Houston St. into two-way thoroughfares, thus broadening the street grid beyond its current focus of shepherding sports fans to and from the American Airlines Center. And even that process, the documents say, can be done better.

Olive Street, as anyone leaving a packed Mavericks game can attest, can be a mess. Quoting from the recommendations, the street is so wide that crossing makes it difficult for pedestrians. There’s no crosswalk at Victory Park Lane, nor is there anything corralling patrons to that street’s retail options. The proposed changes would take care of these complaints.

Ideally, the overhaul will kickoff in May 2014 with the Olive St. fix. That portion comes with a price of $825,100, which will be fronted by owners Victory Park UST. The city will reimburse the German real estate investors with funds from the Sports Arena Tax Increment Finance District “as they become available.” 

The study’s practitioners also want $1.2 million to widen Victory Park Lane and connect it better with the retail and residential development south of Olive St. That money would go toward removing raised medians and street lights; widening sidewalks; modifying the drainage system and improving street irrigation. Just like the Olive project, VPUST will pay up front and the city will reimburse with TIF funds.

The bulk of the $101 million comes from new construction projects, the costs of which will be covered by the private owners. Namely, they want to build out the unfinished Block D garage across from the W Hotel with a mixed-use building for retail, office and parking space (cost: $14 million). 

On Block G, an area located south of the D garage, investors are hoping for a building to be filled with retail, entertainment and housing (cost: $70 million). 

Now, in order for the owners to qualify for those TIF funds on the Olive and Victory Park Lane overhauls, they’ll have to accomplish three of five private improvements within the development: either secure restaurant space adjacent to Olive; build a temporary retail building on Block D; stuff at least $3.5 million into renovations at rooms inside the W Hotel; remove the ‘artistic light box’ in front of the hotel and replace it with seating or plants; or create and operate valet services for folks shopping and eating on Olive or Victory Park Lane. 

The designers also hope to tie in the nearby Katy Trail to improve bicycle traffic throughout the district and widen the sidewalks to seven feet with an additional three feet of space for landscaping.

And if the whole shebang works, the district could see grocery, cinema, service retail tenants as well as a an “entertainment anchor” and “unique food concepts and gourmet ‘dive’ restaurants.”  

Should the Economic Development Committee zip to an approval on it, the plan will go to the City Council for a vote on Oct. 23.

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