The groundbreaking ceremony. Office of Congressman Colin Allred / Public domain

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Uber Has Backed Out of Its Deal With Dallas

Uber's big plans for Deep Ellum have gotten much smaller, and the company will no longer get millions of dollars in tax breaks.

Dallas is ending its $9.3 million tax incentive deal with Uber after the rideshare company told the city it will come up short on its commitment to create more than 2,500 jobs based out of offices at The Epic development in Deep Ellum, according to a city memo obtained by D Magazine.

“Uber will maintain a Dallas office, but anticipates a smaller Dallas headcount of 400 to 500 people,” Dr. Eric Anthony Johnson, the city’s chief of economic development and neighborhood services, told City Council members in a memo Wednesday night. Uber blames the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and will end its incentive agreements with the city, Dallas County, and the state of Texas.

The city has already paid Uber about $25,000, but expects to get it back, according to Johnson’s memo. The City Council had previously approved about $9.3 million in incentives for the company. In total, the city, county, and state offered Uber about $36 million in incentives and grants for what was going to be a major corporate office in Deep Ellum.

The company says the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in the works. Last year Uber asked for (and received) a two-year extension to hold up its side of the bargain, which was to create more than 2,500 jobs. Further signs of trouble emerged later last year, when Uber said it was trying to sublease several floors of its Dallas office space at The Epic. Uber now has about 200 workers in Dallas, and plans to grow that number to about 500, according to Johnson’s memo.

That’s far short of the thousands of workers, each making an average six-figure salary, that Uber had originally promised.

Mayor Eric Johnson—no relation to the economic development chief—said in a statement that he was “disappointed but not surprised.”

“I am disappointed but not surprised by Uber’s decision, considering the significant economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the last year and a half, Uber has been an excellent partner to the city. We are heartened that Uber remains committed to Dallas and to employing hundreds of people in our city center. We expect to continue working together in the years ahead as we build for the future and make Dallas an internationally recognized hub for innovation and entrepreneurship.”

I’ve reached out to Uber and to Westdale, the company that owns and developed The Epic. I’ll update this if I hear back.

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