Feds Want to Ditch "Excess Property," Including 75 Acres in Fort Worth. Will Dallas Follow Suit?

walnuthillibrary1.jpg
One of three vacant library branches, this one on Marsh Lane and Northwest Highway
Earlier this week, the White House announced that it's looking to sell off excess federal properties -- chief among them, the million-square-foot, 75-acre Fort Worth Federal Center. Says the Obama administration, "Billions of taxpayer dollars are wasted each year on government properties that are no longer needed." Which sounded familiar: Over the years, Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm and I have had this same conversation about vacant city-owned properties, chief among them libraries and fire stations that have been replaced by newer models.

So I shot Suhm an email, asking: Given the fact she's going to have to cut $60 million to $100 million from the coming fiscal year's budget, will she make a renewed effort to part with those properties?

"It's an ongoing thing," she says over the phone this afternoon. "It's not like I'll say, 'Give me any price any time.' We're not going to sell 'em for a quarter. The real estate group watches the market and sees if they have anybody interested. We don't want to be in the real estate business, but we don't want to just give them away. I'll be curious to see what price [the feds] set for theirs."

She says there are currently three empty libraries: Casa View, Walnut Hill and Lancaster-Kiest; she's not sure how many old fire stations there are, but I know of at least one. "Some of them, off and on, have been leased," Suhm says of the firehouses. "We'll eventually sell 'em, certainly not when we think the price is too low."

As for the budget, council will get its first look at real numbers a week from Wednesday, following the general election. "That's the first time we'll get feedback," Suhm says. I asked how it's going. She says: "I don't like the uncertainty of the state and federal situation. The state's especially worrisome, as they're looking at taking locally generated revenue." A better look will come in mid-June -- "so the council isn't surprised when it comes back from the July break."
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Jay Hawk
Jay Hawk

Given that there's redevelopment planned for the shopping center adjacent to the Walnut Hill Library, there can't be a better time to sell.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

As recently as 10 years ago, the City of Dallas didn't even have a definitive list of park land that it was responsible for maintaining. Not sure if that ever got fixed.

Judd D. Bradbury
Judd D. Bradbury

Robert this is a great post and it is one of the best kept secrets at City Hall. We love to keep land and we do not sell it. Selling surplus property is one of the most intractable@font-face { font-family: "MS 明朝";}@font-face { font-family: "MS 明朝";}@font-face { font-family: "Cambria";}p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 12pt; font-family: Cambria; }.MsoChpDefault { font-family: Cambria; }div.WordSection1 { page: WordS problems at City Hall. The deeper you dig the more layers you find. Surplus, what is surplus? Oh we save some land for projects we are planning? What projects? Oh we have to have a proper survey? But that department is too busy to do a survey? And the other department has to request the survey first? And on and on it goes year after year. Through the Looking Glass over and over again. Auction - a funny word that is used to clear property by everyone on the planet including the federal government, EXCEPT the municipal corporation known as the City of Dallas.

3rd Wheel Marketing
3rd Wheel Marketing

I normally don't take people seriously who use the font-face cambria, but you make good points. Property speculators like that jack ass with the parking lots all over downtown and the people squatting on those old buildings are what is jacking up the city. The city government pretty much acting like property speculators, without even having to pay the pittance commercial property owners pay.

It would be very interesting to see a comprehensive list of all the nooks and cranny's the city owns around this town.

heyheymama
heyheymama

Walnut Hill Library is in my neck-o-the-woods, also, along with the vacant fire station on Walnut Hill. The city is a poor absentee landowner. It's embarrassing. Sell or demolish, if you refuse to maintain the properties.

Am concerned about what will happen to the current Preston Royal and Park Forest branches when they are replaced. Am hoping that because these are in Councilmember Margolin's district, she will insist the old properties be utilitzed/maintained or sold. Of course, this is a long way out, pending a bond to build the replacements.

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I love how Queen Mary Suhm evidently is trying to "market time" the real estate market; it's not that she's opposed to selling the properties, it's just that she is smarter than the real estate market in terms of knowing the values of each of these properties and is waiting for the perfect time.

Good luck with that, Ms. Suhm. Meanwhile, they sit there and decay, acting as a blight on their respective neighborhoods and a drain on tax coffers (ongoing maintenance expense, plus they stay off the tax rolls).

Phelps
Phelps

There should be a way to reverse eminent domain them -- show in court that an individual could use them better than the city letting them sit empty, and then give the city whatever the going ED rate is that they are giving people when they take land.

Hell, for that matter, we should be able to do it with occupied city buildings.

scottindallas
scottindallas

The ED rate is aka Fair Market Value. If you accept a lower deal, that's on you. Everyone's entitled to negotiate for fair market value, if you need an atty, they will do these on contingency fee basis. In my mind, the abuse of eminent domain is where the gov't uses it's powers for private gain.

Grapevine voted for and built the Gaylord, which was probably a good deal for the 50K citizens of Grapevine, though often these are problematic at best.

Guest
Guest

DCAD's commercial property valuations are also supposed to be fair market value.

scottindallas
scottindallas

No, they are not. They are based on fair market value, but they are assessors and not appraisers. There is a difference, mainly being that assessed value is discounted. But, in the appraisal biz, these have different terms and are derived differently, assessed value, versus appraised value.

Phelps
Phelps

Not really. It is SUPPOSED to be fair market value, but what the courts generally find is less than the real rate.

LaceyB
LaceyB

Why not make them into bar-staurants like the public craves? Perhaps another Applebees, or an Idle Rich outpost (they knock off all our cool bars anyway up North).If there's a tax incentive to be had, it'll be done in Dallas, if FW can get it done.

Jane Smith
Jane Smith

Plus, DCAD collects NO TAXES on City-owned properties (think City-owned Convention Center Hotel). So, at least selling the property gets it back on the tax rolls.

Guest
Guest

just sell them already by the time value gets them they will have cost 2x to 3x in mowing and minor repairs (paint from tagging) fire sell them all we the taxpayers should cry out.......

Bob
Bob

This morning DART advertised for sale several surplus properties. Must be a trend.

Bill Holston
Bill Holston

It's not just the value of the Real Estate. These empty properties are not a neutral. The casa view library has been tagged multiple times and is an eyesore. I'd rather it be used then empty.

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