DALLAS - The Dallas City Council moved forward Wednesday on two big economic development projects that if completed in the next few years will greatly impact downtown and a portion of southern Dallas.
By a unanimous vote, the council approved authorizing City Manager Mary Suhm to negotiate a contract with a non-profit that will build and maintain a golf course at Interstate 45 and Loop 12 that could spur additional much needed development in southern Dallas.
AT&T, Southern Methodist University and the city have backed the idea of the golf course that would be PGA caliber. Suhm said the city won't agree to any deal unless at least $20 million is raised privately to begin and the course confirms it has landed the Byron Nelson Championship, played in Irving since 1983.
Under questioning by council member Angela Hunt, Suhm said the city will not build the course and it will not be in a flood plain. The location is in the Great Trinity Forest along the Trinity River.
The city will retain ownership of the 400 acres, an old landfill the city will clean up, and will receive $10,000 per year for a lease fee.
AT&T takes over sponsorship for the tournament in 2015 and is believed to be heavily influencing moving the Nelson. One knowledgeable source of what's ahead told WFAA moving the Nelson to the Dallas course is a "done deal."
The city manager's staff has previously told the council he hopes to get the deal done by early next year so work can start by summer.
Without debate, the council also passed a land swap deal in downtown in which the city will turn over the land where Reunion Arena once stood in exchange for property near the Dallas Convention Center owned by Woodbine.
Woodbine, which owns the Dallas Hyatt Hotel at Reunion next to the old arena site, hopes to develop the former arena site with prime office space and has indicated marketing for the site would begin this winter.
The city has yet to decide exactly what it will do with the land it acquires near the Convention Center, but staff has said it will likely be mixed use with office, residential and entertainment attractions.
In a proposal closely watched by cyclists, the council toughed city traffic laws on drivers passing those on "bicycles, hand cycles, unicycles and other human powered vehicles." The stricter law says drivers must vacate the lane when passing and reenter only after passing at a safe distance. The law also says drivers cannot turn right in front of a cyclist unless safely clear or throw items at the rider.
Violators could be fined as much as $500, although a defense sometimes used it the cyclist was not obeying laws on streets and highways.
The change in the traffic law is effective immediately and part of an effort by Mayor Mike Rawlings and the council to make Dallas more bike friendly.