Councilman Atkins, Quite Contrary, How Does Your District Grow?

Categories: Schutze

Thumbnail image for UNTDallas1.jpg
Stick a working toilet down next to this thing, seems like you'd have a pretty good incentive for development.
Can't let this pass without at least pointing out the irony. Last Sunday Dallas City Council member Tennell Atkins was all over The Dallas Morning News opinion pages with an essay on the importance of public incentives for private developers in under-served areas of the city. He wrote: "Evidence of tangible public support is critical to the process of obtaining viable development partners and leveraging other capital sources."

This happens to be exactly the same argument that the same city councilman has consistently rejected for the area in his own district around the new University of North Texas-Dallas campus. There, landholders have been begging Atkins to free up funding already authorized for a sanitary sewer system -- something they have never had before -- so they can lure serious investors to develop much-needed student housing.

I have to admit, I sometimes have found myself chicken-and-egg-bound in my conversations with Atkins about the need for sewers near the campus. He always says, "Bring me a developer." He is making the point that the city shouldn't be in the business of installing expensive infrastructure speculatively before anybody shows up with a credible plan to use it. Yeah. I get that.

But then I get egg-and-chicken-struck when I talk to the landholders. They say nobody is ever going to be interested in developing an area where there is no major city-owned sewer infrastructure within miles. It's also an under-served area with a history of hard-times, a place that could use a little extra help getting up and running.

If you were looking for something in southern Dallas on which to capitalize, it's hard to imagine a better bet than the glamorous new UNT campus that opened four years ago near the intersection of Interstate 35E and I-20. But Atkins has been adamant that he's not going to let the city risk bond money on a sewer system until the developers are already outside his office door with plans rolled up under their arms.

I asked him once about the mayor's "Grow South" initiative to spur economic development in the city's segregated southern hemisphere. He said, "That's the mayor's deal. Ask him."

That's a tough line to take about your own district. I figured him for one of those strict free market guys who really doesn't believe in public subsidies. But then here he is Sunday in the daily paper's What's-the-Point? section with a Robin Hood plan to siphon tax revenues out of a development way up in North Dallas and use the money to rebuild freeways and all kinds of major stuff to spur the redevelopment of Southwest Center Mall.

He was writing in response to an earlier editorial in the paper objecting to the scheme on a number of grounds but one in particular: For at least 20 years the marketplace has been sending strong signals that Southwest Center Mall is history. Malls don't last forever. This one has had one foot in the grave so long it's beginning to give off a whiff of gangrene.

Just outside the city line to the south, vast snazzy new malls have popped up in recent years to serve the burgeoning, upwardly mobile black and Latino middleclass -- along with tons of white families -- who have voted with their feet to move south out of the city. The city spending $30 million on new freeway ramps is not going to lure them back.

Due east at the other end of Atkins' district is UNT-Dallas surrounded by raw land with a great economic engine purring away in its midst, an area aching for development, and Atkins won't let them have sewers that are already paid for. So you tell me what's going on. Right now it hard to see how anybody's going to get any good out of any of this. Maybe we should cut our losses, turn the chicken loose and make an omelet.

My Voice Nation Help

I feel like this entire website is run by children.


How long until Atkins gets term limited out? Not that his hand picked heir apparent will be any different.

holmantx topcommenter

You find raw land speculators in every direction spoking out from downtown to the fringe of the metro area.

In fact, that'w why it's called fringe land.

The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M has tracked Rural Land Values in Texas since 1967.  They break it down by LMAs (Land Market Areas).  There are 33 markets.  They further categorize and survey annually, Land Values by use - cropland, improved pasture, and . . . urban fringe.

Appreciation is slow as molasses but it beats the stock market if you are any good at it.  You just have to be like the Chinese - go for the long pull.  And keep it in Ag. Exemption for God's sake!

But it's fairly simple - go study the TxDoT long range plan process, read the Long Range Development Plans all towns have on their websites (or just look at their Long Range Plan Map - Dallas has one).  See which way the wind blows.  Then hunt and peck for big chunks of acreage being sold by the acre.  Hopefully in the $4,000 to $8,000 price range.  You can cash out at $15,000 to $25,000 per acre or ride it up to the next slow step.

None of it has any utility infrastructure until it gets to the second step (typically for residential subdivision development which comes first).

Then wait until growth (hey! - it's Texas) rolls over you.  But it's called timing for a reason.  Your kids may get the benefit of your long range planning after you are dead and gone.  

But I don't know if Adkins is throwing a monkey wrench for personal gain.  He's got a point on extending utility infrastructure without a private sector plan.  We could waste a lot of borrowed public money that way.

In this case, the Chicken may very well be the Private side of the equation, and the hen ain't quite ready to poop.

So don't rush it.


Tennel is all about Tennel and Tenels' pockets.  He is definitely one of the chief flunkies for the 1% on the Dallas city council.  He lied to Paul Quinn students when they took action against the trash dump in their area.  He was one of the first if not the first Dallas council person(s) to publicly attack the "Occupy" movement.  He's been quoted as saying that he owes his political existence to T. Boone Pickens money (as opposed to the voters who elected him)...a politician like this only speaks the plain truth when he gets cold hard cash to do it...otherwise he speaketh with forked tongue until he sees where the money is...


The only real news here is the News' bending over for his line of crapola. Journalism, speak truth to power, my ass.


How about you sell your Swiss Ave house and move to his district? I heard it is in need of more diversity. 


Add into that Atkins' plans for Redbird Airport.

TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Moral of the story: If you don't have a pot to piss in, don't come to Atkins looking for one.


Did the UNT law school downtown ever get approval?

James080 topcommenter

Perhaps Atkins, or someone close to him (family, friend or donor), has a financial interest in Southwest Center Mall, or the surrounding area. It's likely that no one close to Atkins has a financial interest in the area near UNT-Dallas. When a politician holds conflicting positions on related issues, there is generally a financial aspect to the conflict.



Well folks, thats how Ole Tennell Atkins get another bite at the apple. They don't call him "Two Bites Atkins" for nothing..........

JimSX topcommenter


Without specific or personal reference to Mr. Atkins or his cousins,I would say you have the theoretical geometry of generally sketchy behavior about right.


@WhyDontYouJoinNAMBLA @sixandahalf ; if black politicians own the franchise for political corruption...nope, hate to disappoint but I think you'll have to look somewhere else to discover that one...

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