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Will That Giant Ferris Wheel on the Trinity Ever Get Built?

Dream no small dreams and all that.
By Tim Rogers |
A conceptual rendering of the not-Ferris wheel

Yesterday the Dallas City Council approved a zoning change that will allow a company to build a 500-foot-tall Ferris wheel just south of downtown. The people behind The Odyssey don’t want us to call it a Ferris wheel. They want us to call it an observation wheel because its gondolas would be climate controlled and the ride would take nearly 40 minutes and so on and so forth. But it would be a Ferris wheel, albeit a very fancy one. The development would include retail, restaurants, and a 1,000-car parking garage.

Before the vote yesterday, Councilwoman Sandy Greyson said, “For the life of me, I don’t know why we want to do this.” Councilman Philip Kingston called the project “foolhardy.” The zoning change passed with an 8-4 vote.

Here are the three points I’d like you to bear in mind about this project. First, they don’t have the money. Not yet. Naturally, it makes sense to get your zoning change before you get your investors all lined up. But that still has to happen.

Second, even if they find someone to pony up the millions to build the not-Ferris wheel, the whole project could still go to hell. The day before the Council voted on the zoning change, news broke in New York that a similar project, a 630-foot-tall wheel, was being scotched. A waterfront site on Staten Island is now littered with the base of the planned wheel and a 950-car parking garage. Different folks screwed up in New York. They’re not related to the Odyssey group. But still. Here’s the lead of the Times story:

The boldest plan to draw people to Staten Island since the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge — a giant Ferris wheel that could be seen from Manhattan and Brooklyn — met an unceremonious end on Tuesday.

The developers of the New York Wheel, which was supposed to take more than 1,400 riders at a time for a spin high above New York Harbor, surprised city officials with a letter that pronounced the project dead. That surrender ended the brightest of hopes for an attraction that could draw tourists and cast a new light on the least famous of the five boroughs.

“After years of planning, the developers of the New York Wheel announce, with great disappointment, that the dream of building a world-class attraction in Staten Island will unfortunately not come to fruition,” Cristyne Nicholas, a spokeswoman for the project, said in a statement.

World class. Yes, indeed. We hear that phrase a lot around here. It’s comforting to learn that we’re not the only moths drawn to that flame.

Which brings me to the third point I’d like you to consider. It’s the press release on the zoning change from the Odyssey folks. I’ve pasted the full thing below, but here’s how it begins: “The Dallas City Council has approved a zoning change for The Odyssey that will make way for a transformational, world-class development in Cedars West.” Not only does the release light the “world class” wick in its first sentence, but it also invents a new neighborhood.

If this big momma gets built, I’ll be the first one in line to ride it. Till then, I’m filing this along with the solar-powered water taxis and the juggler under the overpass.

Planning phase for project underway

October 24, 2018 (Dallas, Texas) The Dallas City Council has approved a zoning change for The Odyssey that will make way for a transformational, world-class development in Cedars West. The project will be an iconic, dynamic, year-round entertainment destination, anchored by a giant observation wheel, and will fill a void in the Dallas market to help meet the demand of the city’s rapidly growing population, visitors, and conventioneers.

“We are grateful to the City of Dallas, both the Plan Commission and the City Council, for their support and confidence, as well as the dozens of community groups and citizens we have met with over the last few months,” said David Taggart, project manager of The Odyssey.

“We will take this approval and begin the process of building this new, world-class destination attraction for Dallas. Our goal is for this to be an iconic development for residents and visitors of Dallas.”

The Odyssey development will be a fresh and totally unique public/pedestrian-friendly space. A space where all of Dallas can come together and that will act as a gateway to and from the Trinity River Corridor. The entertainment district is set to provide a boost to downtown and southern Dallas pedestrian traffic. The multi-venue entertainment destination will feature state-of-the-art experiential technology, indoor and outdoor culinary venues, event space, a year-round rooftop entertainment area, a STEAM education center and a parking structure to accommodate approximately 1,000 cars.

“I’m excited for the residents of District 2 and everyone that will experience this yearround attraction,” said Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Adam Medrano. “This will be a great compliment to the years of revitalization and investments in the Cedars Neighborhood. This project, along with the upcoming high-speed rail station, which will open directly adjacent to The Odyssey and the Dallas Water Gardens, will be tremendous assets to the city of Dallas.”

The Odyssey will be part of the Cedars West neighborhood and serve as a gateway to the Trinity River, allowing for greater public access to the river and the future Dallas Water Gardens planned along Riverfront Boulevard. Visitors will be able to access and experience the Trinity via pathways and walk-throughs for pedestrians, as well as public spaces on and around the wheel development site.

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