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Politics & Government

If VisitDallas Dies, What Happens to That New Building at Klyde Warren Park?

Jody Grant doesn't sound worried.

Earlier today, Shawn put up a post about the waterboarding that VisitDallas got at Council yesterday. The visitor’s bureau has a contract with the city that expires in September 2020. Councilman Omar Narvaez told the VisitDallas folks: “I think it’s time you realize who your boss is.” Councilwoman Cara Mendelsohn told city staff to get ready to find a new agency to market Dallas. So what if the Council kills VisitDallas?

My thinking: no way will that happen. Before the damning audit of VisitDallas, its Tumi-loving director, Phillip Jones, told the Klyde Warren folks that if they built a fancy new pavilion as part of their expansion project, VisitDallas would serve as the lead tenant. So VisitDallas will have the protection of every interest that is aligned with the park. Which means everyone who owns real estate near the north side of downtown and south end of Uptown. And then, of course, there’s Sheila and Jody Grant, the power couple responsible for making the park happen in the first place. Whatever their wish, it will be the Council’s command. They’ll want that tenant. VisitDallas has a forcefield. That’s what I was thinking.

So I called Jody Grant to test my theory.

Grant stressed that the “agreement” with VisitDallas to occupy the space with a visitors’ center was nothing more than an “understanding between two parties in good faith.” That understanding, he said, helped them raise money, both public and private. But if that other party doesn’t get its contract with the city renewed?

“From all the feedback we’re getting from third parties,” Grant said, “it’s going to be an iconic building in Dallas. That led us to believe there are many, many potential uses of the building if VisitDallas went away.”

In other words, I said,  you could line 10 tenants tomorrow if you had to.

“I don’t know what the number would be,” he said, “but I think there are multiple uses of the building. We think it’s still a great site for a visitor center type operation, somebody who’s going to step into the shoes of VisitDallas if it isn’t VisitDallas. So, you know, we would follow that to its ultimate conclusion. But in any event, if that doesn’t work out, we’ve got a number of years to find a suitable and terrific partner.” Grant said it wouldn’t be a law firm. It has to be something that serves the public.

“We’re just interested observers to the process [of evaluating VisitDallas],” Grant said. “You know, we don’t have an oar in the water. We’re not on anybody’s side. We’re Switzerland.”

So there you have it, folks. If VisitDallas dies, any number of businesses that aren’t a law firm could fill the space. I’m thinking a Panera. Or an iconic Gas Pipe.