Is the Walt Humann Fair Park Deal Being Rethought? (Or Dumped?)

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Most Endangered Historic Places in Dallas
Fair Park’s Hall of State (Photo: Michael Cagle)

My tip came in last week, this is what I was told by an anonymous source:

“The city attorney’s office is now telling Mayor Rawlings that the Humann plan won’t fly, that they were wrong, and they do need to open the bid up to RFPs.”

As a blogger, I guess I could have published that last week. Instead, I made a few phone calls to the Dallas City Attorney’s office. No response. Then I made a few phone calls Monday. No one has yet to return my call. I sent an email to Paul Simms yesterday, he responded nearly immediately that he had not heard anything.

Then today, Jim Schutze writes in the Dallas Observer — good Lord he posted at 4 a.m., my kind of hours — that the rumors are flying around City Hall that the Fair Park privatization plan is on its deathbed:

 …close observers around town are beginning to place bets on strong rumors that the Walt Humann Fair Park deal will fall apart soon. The ostensible reason – the one for public consumption — would be that a new adverse city attorney opinion says it wasn’t done right.

Hmmmmm.

I heard the City Attorney’s office made a mistake. That you could not count Walt Humann’s contribution of time as the “significant value” state law requires:

Kingston thinks all the stuff Humann did was for his own benefit, not the park’s, and can’t be counted toward the exemption in the law: “The language under which Walt’s foundation could be exempted from the general requirement says you do not have to bid it out if you are assigning a management contract to a nonprofit management company that has provided — and that’s key language, ‘has provided’ — significant value to the park or asset to be managed.” Humann’s group, if there really is such a thing, is brand new and has never raised a nickel. Humann has said he will raise money to match the city’s contribution after the city makes the contribution, which is a little bit backward from what the law seems to anticipate, kind of like agreeing to help the poor if the poor will agree to get rich first.

I guess you could spend millions of dollars in legal fees arguing what “significant value” is in court for five years.

It is all centered on the very first question our Jon Anderson posed back in August when we hosted the panel discussion that almost didn’t happen: why were there no RFPs as required by state law? The very same question Phillip Kingston asked at the City Council briefing on Fair Park August 29.

Schutze says the new legal opinion might be a way for Rawlings to ask Walt Humann, a very nice gentleman, to gracefully bow out of his last three years of work trying to make this happen.

The more people look at it, the more the Humann plan to turn over a 277-acre city property to a self-created and self-appointed board without any competitive proposal process looks like a good-old-geezer deal. The big entrepreneurial idea – the genius insight at the center – is to fix up the buildings. The question then would be: And?

Radio silence.

That’s the thing, the plan as it was presented is not a good plan and doesn’t hold one iota of real estate sense or principle to help create a sustainable community in and around Fair Park that can benefit the neighborhood, uplift the neighborhood, and ultimately make it fly with it’s own wings, not continuously suck taxpayer money from the coffers. Why didn’t they put the park first and work with private foundations and/or businesses to create a pathway to self-sufficiency for this areas with more community engagement?

We noticed that right away. 

CD Fair Park 244
CandysDirt.com publisher Candy Evans hosted a panel featuring Don Williams, Eric Johnson, Byron Carlock, Angela Hunt, and Jon Anderson in August. (Photo: Lisa Stewart Photography)

Schutze says:

In what looks now more and more like it was an attempt to head off other proposals, Mayor Mike Rawlings personally appointed or anointed retired oil executive Walt Humann to come up with a Fair Park plan. Humann did. His plan is to leave the State Fair entirely alone – not touch its deal – and tax the citizens of Dallas hundreds of millions of dollars to fix up the buildings.

This is a real estate story. You have a tenant living in your property 23 days of the year. You have, essentially, a bad lease. Is that tenant living up to their responsibility to maintain the property? I have heard yes from some City Council members, no from others. But Dallas has come to a point where I think those paying the bills, i.e. the taxpayers north of I-30, are sick and tired of seeing such little return on their taxes.

Let me cut this short, because I’m off to hear the debate on the Humann plan over at Midway Hills Christian Church … see ‘ya later with a report.

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Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for Forbes.com, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature CandysDirt.com, and SecondShelters.com, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

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Comments

  1. Margaret Manser says

    Good job, Candace. We’re all staying tuned. I have no dog in this fight, but the whole deal smelled “off” to me from the beginning. Like the days deals were done at City Hall 30+_ years ago when the good ole boys tried to run Dallas as a private fiefdom. Let’s bring everybody to the table and open up the process to all qualified and interested players.

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