Someone's Gonna Get Decked in Fight Over Paying for Upkeep of Klyde Warren Park

Categories: Schutze

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Um, Mr. Grant? Moment of your time? I ask only one thing. If at all possible, can you get the kid out of this?

You are the justifiably proud leader of the effort that brought us our wonderful new deck park over Woodall Rodgers Freeway at the north end of downtown, named for a child whose identity I will not utter here because of my deep and abiding reverence for the innocence of children and my fear of collateral damage.

You -- Mr. Jody Grant, chairman of the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation -- are proposing a taxing district to get taxpayers to help you pay for operations of said park. Do you mind if we call it KWP? For the kid's sake.

Everything was happiness for a few months after you opened KWP, but now it seems things might be on the verge of going where everything else in the Arts District inevitably winds up -- you know, directors fired, people accusing each other of inflicting blindness and trying to melt each other and so on. I'm thinking if we're about to take the irresistible barrel-plunge over the lip of reality-TV Niagara again, maybe we should try to keep the kid out of it.

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Danny Hurley
You just told Robert Wilonsky, late of here, now a star reporter for The Dallas Morning News, that you never said you would never ask the taxpayers for help running the park. In a recent blog post, Wilonsky said: "More than anything, Grant wanted to clear up the 'misunderstanding' that folks who planted that playground never never ever said they wouldn't ask the public for a little more green to keep the park in the black.

"'We never said that,' says Grant. 'Somebody might have interpreted something we said, but we would not have boxed ourselves in like that. It's the uncertainty of the unknown.'"

Then Wilonsky adds the line, "He laughs."

Yeah, well, Mr. Grant. No laughing for a while, OK? The park is just wonderful. But you did say it. In fact you said it time and again. In fact you signed a contract saying it. In fact you bragged about the contract to the Morning News last year:

"The agreement was we would manage everything on top of the park and the city would manage everything under the park," said Jody Grant, chairman of park's foundation. "It's a great deal for the city. We have relieved them of the obligation to manage this park. That's off the city's budget."

You continue even now to say it 24/7 on your website under the headline, "Who pays for (KWP)?"

[KWP] is privately operated and managed by the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit. The park was built through a public, private partnership with the City of Dallas, but is entirely funded through private funding.

Here is what concerns me in the child welfare department. Last year you announced you had sold the naming rights to a wealthy person who wanted the park named for his child. In the same press release, you sort of dressed up that decision as evidence of your stellar fundraising abilities. You said, "The Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation will continue to privately fund, operate and program (KWP) when it is open in fall 2012."

You sort of linked the kid's name and loss of privacy to your ability to pay for operations of the park. In a way. Now it looks like you can't quite man up on the private funding deal. Does that put the kid's name in play somehow? Gosh, I hope not.

I will certainly try to avoid that. But I do sort of worry about the other people in your district down there. You have noticed, I'm sure, what kinds of things they're willing to say about each other just over reflected light. God knows what they might be willing to say if they think you're going to cost them tax money.

They could claim he's not a real kid. They might question his immigration status. Anything. You know how you people are in a major hissy. There's not a lot of self-control, is there?

The other thing is this: Your assurances have been the basis for some very explicit guarantees handed out by public officials over the last couple of years. I am not able to find any evidence that I wrote about this at the time, but I do recall going to Willis Winters, now head of parks and rec, and asking him about it.

You see, the whole business of operations cost is hugely important, difficult and crucial to the city right now. Back in the day, City Hall allowed rich people to saddle it with way too much operations cost for fancy-schmancy arts district stuff. Now in these straitened times, when the city can't afford to mow the parks in our neighborhoods, we humble taxpayers needed some assurances about your deal. We wanted to know this was not going to be another expensive toy that you guys bought, played with while it was still shiny and then told us to babysit while you left for Aruba.

I do recall that Winters told me that all operations costs were absolutely going to be covered by private funding. Totally. Forever. Ever ever ever.

Frankly, I was sort of amazed. My experience is that private people have little notion how expensive it is to operate something public. You know: They'll stick a $98 Home Depot picnic table out in front of their shop, not realizing that a table that can survive typical public use costs more like $1,000 not counting a whole lot for shipping and installation.

I was aware, of course, that you had done an absolutely fantaaaabulous job of furnishing KWP. I was worried, in fact, that the amount of extremely expensive stuff you had installed in KWP and the sheer fantabulosity of it was going to saddle you with some really fantabulus operating costs.

I was also concerned, as I have mentioned, that everything shiny, new and wonderful in the Arts District always seems to wind up in a big squabble, like, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous meets The Jerry Springer Show. And here we go, I guess.

You've got all the other institutions down there bad-mouthing you, and in today's story you're already bad-mouthing them back. How far can we be from another Nasher/Museum Tower flying-gobs-of-caviar food-fight? First it's spraying people with Champagne bottles. Then it's whacking with them.

Just get the kid out, OK? Can you call it KWP without having to pay the rich guy back for the naming rights? Maybe temporarily? Do they have counseling for people like you?

OK, I've done my duty here. Now I go get my bag of popcorn, my folding chair and my laptop. I sit back. I watch the show. Rich people are God's clowns.


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52 comments
RTGreen
RTGreen

Upkeep? Decked?  It used to be called the Deck Park- There had to be some way to fit "upper- decker" into that story.

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

Politicians are great at the grand gesture with no concern for future costs.   Let the dopes elected next (or the next generation) deal with it.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

I'm not a fan of the park.  That's not surprising or important, I don't like downtown, uptown or most places with high population density.  My friends who run about downtown and uptown love the new park.

It is interesting to note that this boondoggle seems to bring our city right in line with the 'world class cities' we try so hard to emulate; NYC is going through the exact same struggle with the Hudson River Park and their proposed NID (neighborhood improvement district) to pay the operating costs.


http://www.thevillager.com/2013/03/28/nid-critics-poke-holes-in-unfair-tax-plan-for-park/

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

I prefer Lajitas, Tx.  Kelcy Warren bought the town in 2007 (Lajitas Resort) for $13.5 million, developed by Mischer for $100 million.

OnTop
OnTop

Let all those high-rise buildings who wanted suites with a view, starting with Texas Capital Bank, pay for a PID and leave homeowners out of it. 

John1073
John1073

Public private partnerships are just dandy until the private part realizes shit costs money.

anon
anon

Is this the same guy who called Bin Laden's Pakistan fortification "surprisingly permanent and surpassingly Urban"?

Sotiredofitall
Sotiredofitall topcommenter

How many years before Klyde Warren Park begins to look like Fair Park?

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

I'm going to stick my neck out on this Jim and say the City will never be looked to for the maintenance money.

I know, it looks like things are headed that way, but the people behind this project aren't going to let that happen.

It's really simple economics. The operational costs are estimated at $3 Million/yr. They are projecting the restaurant rents will be around $600K, and supporters ("Friends of the Park") should put in about another $500K. so they need a bit less than $2 Million....

The Board is made up of enough wealth they could solicit and reach an endowment sufficient to produce this yearly amount. Heck, let me suggest that by namimg the park after his son, Kelcy Warren put himself in the position of either figuring out how to make this happen or he will see his son's name associated with a PR mess/embarassment of huge proportions. And really, this is pocket change for this group.

bigdan312
bigdan312

It hardly matters what was said in the past because clearly the city council has no problem with allowing people to go back on their word and then rubber stamping the new "deal" when it comes across their agenda.


If the City Manager lying about drilling on park land doesn't raise the hackles of the majority of the council, how will paying for park upkeep make them care?

OakParkStudio
OakParkStudio

In all this, nothing has been mentioned about Klyde Warren Park President Mark Banta's sudden resignation after less than a year on the job (with no explanation given) earlier this year.

The effective date of his resignation was March 1st. Curiously, this was when the whole discussion of needing more funding started.

Hmm. I'm curious.

oakclifftownie
oakclifftownie

Forgiveness vs Permission 

Rather than the Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation having to  Ask for their  Permission to assess them for the cash before the job got underway.

What we now  have is a case of  the  Woodall Rodgers Park Foundation in the position of Asking for Forgiveness for having to issue demands that the locals now assume the upkeep bills now that the park is finished  the job is done and the after parties are over.

I do think had they asked first  the opening weekend festivities Guest list and VIP seating arrangement would have looked a lot different !

I do like the idea being put forth that   just because we said we had this under control and could do it didn't really mean we had that kind of cash it would take to do it !


G_David
G_David

"Then it's whacking with them."

I think perhaps you left out a word.  I find this to be a rather solitary pursuit, generally.

tracy.curts
tracy.curts

You may accuse Grant of being misleading, but it's equally misleading to equate Public Improvement District revenue with General Fund revenue.  A PID is an extra tax created by voluntary petition of owners.  The City is only a pass-through.  It's not like KWP Park PID money takes anything away from police patrols in South Dallas.  PID money simply doesn't exist unless the tax is levied to use it for a specific purpose.  That doesn't make it noble, mind you.  Property owners ante up because it improves their values.  It just doesn't cost anyone outside the PID boundaries.  Who's hurt?

Edward
Edward

Similar to the shiny incredible HOT things that were put into another new Dallas park, I sometimes (many times) wander what the big wigs are thinking when they spend all our money. They throw millions at supposed experts on park design (or...um....architecture) and then the result turns out to be some mishmash of stuff that either A: doesn't belong in Texas, or B: doesn't belong in a public park.

It's as if doing something like this is the first time they've ever done it. 

Grant just seems awfully shifty at this point. But I'm sure someone at City Hall will figure out a reason taxpayers need to pay for all this, in order to be a 'world class city' and all BIG and everything.

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

Don't forget that they still want to add an ice rink.  Probably for a low, low cost (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).  Oh, and I love that last line  It reminds me of a Voltaire quote "God is a comedian playing to an audience that is afraid to laugh".

Americano
Americano

Regardless of what was said or promised.  If you thought the park was going to be free, and never cost the taxpayers any money, you might be an idiot.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

Jim, please don't overlook the Dallas bond funds that went into this project.  I don't remember the exact number, but ~$50 million comes to mind.  The balance came from TxDOT.  It is as if the taxpayers baked the cake; the richie rich guys come in and put on the frosting; and, then claim that they gave us this wonderful cake with no tax payer expense.


The money that the City of Dallas put in would have been better spent in upgrading our existing parks.


The so called "Uptown" Area was paved over with development and now the developers want the City to provide the green space.

AmyS
AmyS

Restaurant rents for a 5200 square foot restaurant plus kiosk will be around $600K? Good luck with that. In the meantime, all the landlords surrounding the park are busily converting their first floor spaces to restaurants, because it makes $50 psf look cheap. The restaurant is looking at rent of $90-$100 psf - before paying back any investments to the dude who is on the park board who got the restaurant contract. The question really is, does the "investor" get paid before the park does?

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@mavdog Simple economics would put the amount of escrow needed to generate a $2 million annual income up around $100 million. I think that's real money. I think that's why these guys always come back to their real sugar daddy and sugar mama -- you and me and the tax collector.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bigdan312 Splendid Idea!  We can let Trinity East drill on KWP, for a $2 mil annual lease.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@OakParkStudio 

Have you ever noticed how many arts district CEOs quit after a year to spend more time with their families? You have to wonder what in the hell all that damn art's doing to those people.

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@tracy.curts

Sorry, Tracy, but I really do reject your argument. If what the park wants is a private association that will collect dues to benefit them, then by all means they should go ahead and form one. What they propose instead is a public entity that will collect taxes under force of law, adding to the overall sense of tax burden in the district, which I take it is exactly what is behind the resistance. Taxes are taxes, no matter what entity collects them. Who gets hurt? The 40 percent who vote against it plus everybody else  who buys or develops there in the future. They wouldn't have to join a voluntary association, but this is involuntary once it's voted in, which is why these are called taxes. Generally speaking, if I am already paying a PID tax, it may be that much harder a sell to get my vote next time you come to me for a streets and sewers bond issue. If you want private money, go for it. But this is a bid for tax money, which they said they would not go for.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@tracy.curts well considering the PID got a NO from the neighbors, where are they going to go now?  You guessed it, the city

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@MaxNoDifference the maintenance/operating cost on an outdoor icerink in TX is CHEAP.  We have fracking you know, and windmills

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@MaxNoDifference 

How about an area where under-served children can be introduced to the sport of Polo? 

JimSX
JimSX topcommenter

@Americano 

I don't think that's going to get it, Americano, any more than the shocked-shocked trope above. The guy said it. The guy advertised it. The guy signed a contract. Anybody who thinks you can just whistle and walk away from that level of commitment is ..uh, well I like your word. An idiot.   

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul 

if you want to argue that the money the City spent would have been better used on existing parks, fine, but your assertions are not accurate.

The City of Dallas contributed around $20 Million, TxDOT put in about $20 Million, the DOT put in about $17 Million and private contributions were about $50 Million.

The "uptown" area developers are for the most part long gone with their profits, which were huge. The taxing jurisdictions (the City of Dallas, DISD, Dallas county etc) have all realized a tremendous amount of money from the redevelopment of the area by way of the increased property valuations these new projects produced.

It is resonable to say these additional tax monies paid by the "uptown" properties are much greater than the $20 Million the City put into the deck park, and with this amenity it is reasonable to expect the $20 Million will be repaid many times over.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@JimSX

Jim, tell me you are getting more than a 2% return on your investments! It's pretty easy to get 6%, even 8%, without much risk.

An endowment of $25-$30 Million would likely work.

anon
anon

@JimSX @mavdog $100 million is way too high. I'd guess it's half that, at most. That's still lots and lots of real money. It's just not as daunting as $100 million. When you're talking hundreds of thousands, that's a "pass the collection plate" effort. But people donating this kind of money want naming rights. And those naming rights have mostly already been sold. 

Scruffygeist
Scruffygeist

@RTGolden1 Watch out for that pipe embedded in the center lane on Woodall below? That does sound like a Dallas-esque solution.

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@JimSX That whole larger area might be wisely put into a PID, if we can get a streetcar network out of it.  It would be an interesting proposition for the inner city folk

scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@JimSX @Americano Jim, what actual liability can be conveyed to him?  Huh?  


That's right, and that's what it's worth, nothing

Americano
Americano

@JimSX

Jim, that is so sweet!  You actually believe all that promise and contract stuff.  We're talking government here.  They sprayed poison on us, against our wishes last summer and they are going to do it again.  They allow South Dallas to be run like a Middle Age's Fiefdom, when the WHOLE City would benefit from a well run and open policy south of the muddy ditch.  They will do it on the sly or force it down your throat, but they will do it.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@mavdog @ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul  

Thank you for the information, but no matter what the numbers are $57 million taxpayer dollars have already been put into this project.

I still contend that there are better places for the City of Dallas to have spent the $20 million than on this boondoggle.

The City of Dallas tax rate is $0.797/$100.  For the sake of simplicity, lets assume that it takes $1.1 million per year to pay back a $20M / 20 year bond.

An estimated additional $138,017,566 in property value is required to generate enough tax revenue to retire the bond for KWP.  This is about 0.1%% of the City of Dallas ad valorem tax base.

If we want to include the O&M cost estimated at $3M coming from the City of Dallas,  then an additional $376,411,543 in property value is needed at the current tax rate.

So if we are to create a PID to pay for Dallas's share, the district will need to contain about half a billion dollars worth of property with no exemptions and the PID ad valorem rate will have to equal the City's rate.  These property owners will see this portion of their taxes double.

Somehow I don't think that they will buy into this.


So now the estimated ad valorem tax base needed to support only Dallas's share of the costs is now just a bit over half a billion dollars in property value


What about the HUGE bond program to pay for improving the drainage in the Uptown area due to the fact that the runoff rate was increased by paving over and building over all of the green space?  Where is that money coming from?

And then there is the additional $37M in other government funds that have to come from somewhere.  If it is from USDOT then it is your income tax and other federal taxes.  If it is from TxDOT then it came from the state sales tax and the motor fuels tax.


The general taxpayer has already coughed up a lot of money for something that was billed as being "nearly free of charge".

timdickey
timdickey

@mavdog Energy Transfer Partners stock is paying a dividend of 7.2%. A million-share endowment would just about take care of that maintenance. Not that Mr. Warren hasn't donated enough already.

Subnx
Subnx

@scottindallas @JimSX Streetcars are a waste of money

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

@theposterformerlyknownaspaul

the numbers support the investment by taxpayers in the project.

uptown and the arts district collectively have over a $Billion in property value, and there is more investment coming.

The uptown properties are the one's paying off the bonds for their flood control infrastructure.

You assert it is a "boondoggle', and so far that is not accurate. There are more people journeying to KWP than almost any other park in Dallas. It bridges the Uptown area with the CBD where a barrier used to be. If you believe it is important to the community to have a vibrant, successful CBD the park is helping achieve that goal.

Don't get me wrong, I am opposed to the operational costs of KWP being dumped on the City, that was not how the project was presented, and the original framework should be adhered to.

However, the project itself is a positive addition to the City, it was and is a good investment, and will continue to be such in the future IMHO.

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