Neighborhood Gathers Steam And Cash To Fight Reverchon Park Deal

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“Raise your hand if you support the Reverchon deal” None did.

Last night, The Mansion hosted a hastily called meeting to discuss the current state and next steps needed to fight the city council’s decision last week to enter into a partnership with Reverchon Park Sports and Entertainment LLC, a group led by Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson, to redevelop the Reverchon Park Ball Field.

If you’re the District 14 council representative and there are 160 angry constituents meeting at The Mansion on Turtle Creek, that ain’t good. If you’re the District 14 representative and you don’t attend said meeting, trust me, it really isn’t good. It’s simple math. Like Preston Hollow’s Districts 11 and 13, District 14 residents aren’t short on influence or cash.

Councilmember David Blewett (who led the charge with council), Reverchon applicant Donnie Nelson and Parks and Recreation Board President Calvert Collins-Bratton (Jennifer Gates’ District 13’s appointee) were all invited to listen to the group. None attended.

Leading the meeting was former Trammel Crow president Don Williams with help from Bruce Bowman — the Bowman in Godwin Bowman, one of the city’s largest law firms. The presidents of the Mansion Residences and Plaza condos were there, as were smatterings from Dallas’ most prestigious Turtle Creek and Uptown high-rises. There was more money in the room than a good-sized Powerball jackpot.

What’s With The Money Talk?

Why am I harping on money and influence?  There’s a lot on both sides. But a flush opposition means that if there’s a hair out of place on the deal or the process, they’ll find it. To that end, the group intends to raise $100,000 to do just that. Last night, the group raised $20,000 in a matter of minutes.

Before you think this is just a bunch of rich anti-development NIMBYs, consider that these same people recently negotiated with and ultimately supported Prescott’s three-building project next to The Mansion and the Mandarin Oriental a few doors down.

Outspoken against the plan, District 7 councilmember Adam Bazaldua attended to show his support and listen to the group’s concerns. His comments to the group were similar to what he said at the council session. Namely that this began as a refurbishment project and now it’s an event venue.

What Did They Say?

One of the more serious issues they reported was the lack of assistance from City Hall in gaining documents. For example, finding out exactly what was approved at last week’s council meeting. Open government also needs to act with speed when time is an issue. It was said Christopher Caso, the acting city attorney, is taking a hands-off approach to controversial rulings as he’s in the running to be the permanent city attorney.

They claim the 2019 RFP was “developed by the Parks Department in direct consultation with the entertainment developer” and that it was issued with less than 30 days given to respond. The only respondent was the one designing the deal with the Parks Department. If true, this was less RFP and more of a negotiated deal behind the veil of city process.

The group also said the number of acres the project will use increased to “+/- 6 acres” while the current ball field uses less than two. It was also said that they’re hearing the existing recreation center would be torn down for the project and relocated to the tennis courts.

They presented a briefing document given to city council says the events are planned each year. All totaled, the document claims there will be something going on in the park 350 days each year.

After hearing from multiple people in support of the plan claiming the adjacent Scottish Rite hospital is also in support, Williams said he’d reached out and their response was that they don’t take sides in these matters.

In addition to looking into the deal itself and its players, they’re also looking at those who supported it. The Friends of Reverchon Park has become a focus with claims that seemingly none of non-profit group’s monies were ever used to upkeep the park it’s named after (based on the group’s tax filings with the IRS). They’re also checking out financial and personnel ties between Friends of Reverchon Park and a group variously called the Trinity Nature Conservancy, Trinity Recreation Conservancy, or Trinity Coalition.

When the floor was opened for comments, it was said that there are many parts of the deal that constitute a “change of use” under Texas’ park statutes. Those use changes require their own meetings which never happened.

Others pointed to more inconsistencies.

In the end, time is of the essence for the group and they know it. Things like the “change of use” filings have to be done within 30 days and a week has already passed. But never underestimate how quickly money, and the will to use it, can speed things up.

Stay tuned.


Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.

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Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is CandysDirt.com's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on SecondShelters.com. An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

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Comments

  1. Calvert Collins-Bratton says

    Jon, if you followed the actual presentation (and agreed-upon deal points) at Council, you would’ve seen RPSE plans to use the ballpark 118 days per year, the City gets use of the ballpark for 193 days, and the remaining days are for maintenance. Nothing has ever been said about 350 days of use. This ballpark is not Globe Life Park or Starplex, it is a small baseball park with less than half the number of seats of Dr. Pepper Park in Frisco.

    As was said at City Council, RPSE followed the City’s process for responding to the RFP. There was no substantial change between the first and second RFPs, and a response time of 30 days is normal for City projects. As has been stated repeatedly, there was no requirement of community meetings in the RFP, but RPSE has agreed to hold community meetings and create an Advisory Council comprised of nearby residents for design, traffic, and other concerns.

    Finally, after learning about the meeting on Monday morning, I contacted Mr. Williams and Mr. Bowman about having Councilman Blewett, RPSE representatives and myself attend the meeting since we had not been invited. They requested only Donnie Nelson, Councilman Blewett and I attend, no “representatives”. Due to the short notice, prior family commitments, and Mavericks travel schedule, we could not attend. But, you should clarify that we ASKED to attend, listen and answer questions… we were not organically invited. All that said, I am hopeful we can reschedule another community meeting so that the facts can be told. This does not need to be a community or legal fight, I am optimistic that with more thoughtfulness and understanding, we can all move forward.

    • mmJon Anderson says

      This story was reporting on what was said at the meeting…if you’d followed what I wrote.
      .
      And since when does a 46% increase in venue size represent “no substantial change” between the RFPs? I’m sure every developer in the city would love to know that 46% isn’t considered “substantial” by the city.

      • JD says

        Relative. 46% increase of a foot is less than half a foot. 46% increase in the size of Texas is 3.4444984 trillion feet. Jon, how much actual feet or acreage of the ballpark are you saying is ‘significant?’

        • mmJon Anderson says

          So you’re here just to disagree with everything, yes?
          .
          This is my last answer. Enjoy…
          .
          When a ballpark goes from 700 seats to 2.400 to 3,500 … wherever you are in that equation it’s significant. From today’s 700 to 3,500 is 500%. From 2,400 to 3,500 is 46%.
          .
          So yes, 1,100 additional seats at a stadium with virtually no parking currently and very limited access is “significant”. Especially with no plans filed on how to deal with it.
          .
          And to answer your pedantic “one foot” analogy, ask any carpenter about if 17″ is the same as 12″.

          • JD says

            so.. no actual reporting of feet of increase in the ballpark then? Ok then I’ll tell you: there is no increase in the footprint of the current ball park and only a 1/2 acre increase for the all-abilities field next to Scottish Rite. As far as parking goes, most people Uber or Lyft nowadays to events (especially if there is alchohol), or even DART (see the winter classic). Once more Reverchon is on the Katy Trail thus offering multimodal access to the park.

            And hey, its your page. Feel free to delete.

  2. JD says

    Wow. Just reading the head of the park board’s comments to the article just amazes me. This meeting follows the exact same tactic used during the election, probably by the same political consultant.

    Some ‘group’ would set up a sudden forum and invite the opposition at the very last minute. All the while, never confirming with anyone. Just letting the invite hang out there for 24 hours trying to make people scramble. When they invariably can’t rearrange the schedule, then they point the finger that they never cared or something like that. So chintzy. I would’ve gone to this meeting had there been any advertising of it, I mean, how did the district 7 Council person hear about it when it’s not even in his district?

    Actually saw this same technique used on Blewett before during the election as well as with the mayor. This is just pitiful.

    As far as the recreation center getting torn down, Jesse Moreno, the actual park board rep for Reverchon has been advocating for that since it at least October 2018 as well as this project in one form or the other: https://dallasvoice.com/reverchon-ballpark-re-do-not-set-in-stone-yet/

    • mmJon Anderson says

      In the group’s defense, the city council meeting was just 7 days prior, not a lot of time to get things together for a meeting for anyone. I found out about it 3 hours before it began. Luckily, I have no life and could go.

        • mmJon Anderson says

          I’m saying that this meeting was called in response to the council vote the week before – agree or disagree, a week isn’t a lot of time. I will also say this didn’t pass in December and was only publicly known to be returning to council when The Observer reported it on January 3.
          .
          As for the other announcements, all I can say is that I write a lot about Oak Lawn development and I’d never heard of it until recently.
          .
          I do wonder why anyone seeking a commercial zoning change elicits the city to mail ballots to those in the immediate area and yet a change like this (a 5x increase in size and capacity for a commercial venue on public land) doesn’t.

          • JD says

            Wait… So you are saying nobody knew about the December vote either? So that was definitely not a fair vote when it didn’t pass then. I mean only 6 people spoke on it. BUT when there was WIDE PUBLICITY for the January vote and hundreds of people spoke, that was even less of a fair vote?
            AND
            How is it a change? Its not changing away from anything. Nobody is building a Walmart or something. The city retains ownership of the land and the free $10mil facility and the public still gets to use it. That big law firm should read the Texas Parks and Wildlife Code:

            Title 3. Parks

            Chapter 26. Protection of Public Parks and RECREATIONAL Lands

            Sec. 26.001. PROTECTED LAND; NOTICE OF TAKING. (a) A department, agency, political subdivision, county, or municipality of this state may not approve any program or project that requires the use or taking of any public land designated and used prior to the arrangement of the program or project as a park, RECREATION area,…

            The ballpark is RECREATION……. No change in use.

          • mmJon Anderson says

            I’m not speaking for what people knew and when. But when something fails, you think it’s dead. Not that a council member who voted against it would file for reconsideration 2 days later and it would only be known days before the next vote.
            .
            And if widespread publicity is what it took to get people involved, I don’t see a problem. Reaching people isn’t a one-mode thing anymore.
            .
            And these people aren’t NIMBYs who want to kill everything. Were Medrano’s 30-day delay to have happened, much of this protest might have been solved.
            .
            RE: Change of use. For example, it was said (by someone who knows the regulation) that changing from unlit to lit constituted a change.

          • JD says

            Whoa whoa. It sailed through the Parks Board TWICE. Overwhelmingly. The city council is supposed to take that as a recommendation. As far as a city councilman changing his mind, tell me this Jon, why did D2 Adam Medrano even make the motion to pass the resolution if he wanted a 30 day delay, and speak glowingly that it was a better deal than the 1st RFP because he worked with the group for better revenue sharing (19:32 https://dallastx.swagit.com/play/12112019-817/23 ) ….THEN change his mind in the MIDDLE of the meeting. And just before he entered the motion to pass it, HIS OWN park board rep spoke out against it! WTH? You don’t think that is fishy at all when the park board voted on it 4 months earlier? Does the D2 CM and D2 Park board rep communicate within a 4 month span? No wonder Blewett asked for the reconsideration in January!

  3. Fred says

    Presumably none of these people have children at North Dallas High School. Shame on them for trying to deny those kids a decent ballpark.

    • mmJon Anderson says

      No one is trying to deny kids a ballpark, that’s a complete red herring. And will we cry in the future about their lack of land after they consume their backyard to build their latest addition too?
      .
      And as I pointed out earlier, if DISD is so concerned about it’s students, why weren’t they pitching in to the ball field’s maintenance?

        • mmJon Anderson says

          Dallas Parks does a crappy job maintaining its public spaces. It’s no secret.
          .
          So it’s better to have the kids not have a playing field than chip into its maintenance (even though it was someone else’s job)?
          .
          And if this meeting’s organizer’s research is to be believed, why weren’t the Friends of Reverchon Park chipping into it’s upkeep? And all those teams who spoke at council… where were they in fundraising for the ball park they regularly use? Parks may have dropped the ball, but the ball park’s users didn’t lift a finger it seems either.

          • JD says

            Because it is NOT their responsibility. It is the City’s. Period. It is a PUBLIC PARK (still will be after a $10million free makeover by Donnie Nelson.) Once more, the city is supposed to match funds with a friends group even if they do raise the money. But the city kept diverting even basic funds to other parks/projects. So much so that Cara Mendelsohn went out and did her research before the January vote and came back exclaiming that the place needed an immediate risk assessment because the bleachers were dangerous. What non-profits do with their own money is their own business. At least now with the Pub/Priv agreement the money can be audited. Revenue will now actually be going for upkeep of Reverchon itself and not just the ballpark.

  4. Dr. Timothy B. Jones says

    I sympathize, and even agree with most of the thoughts and frustrations of process this RFP has yielded. But that seems to be with anything touch by city council! Our strong-city manager model breeds low accountability and vision. These processes are no better than the structure of city government itself!

    Having said that, this project deserves consideration on its merits without regard to our highly inefficient and under-effective city government, not least of which the council itself! This proposal will bring Reverchon back to life by restoring it to first class condition and far greater utilization! To do so takes money (a lot of it) and public/private partnerships are a way to get things done….something normally a challenge with our city government.
    Is it perfect? It’s not. But is it a good proposal that will get this done as opposed to continuing to do nothing and accepting the status quo? Not in my opinion! The city needs to hold firm or a larger take of the revenue (the use of the land is the greatest asset), assure the plan is responsible, and do due diligence that the company can in fact be the partner they are agreeing to be and then move forward. I’ve been an Oak Law resident since 2004…..Reverchon needs this and isn’t going to be maximized without help from a private partner. Donnie Nelson is a long-termer in Dallas and probably a much better partner than someone who is not. Look at all the benefit and beneficiaries this proposal brings to Oak Lawn. For me, they far outweigh any downside.

    • mmJon Anderson says

      So why couldn’t council pass Medrano’s 30-day delay to hold meetings with the neighborhood? It’s a pretty low-stakes ask that is almost reflexively approved for the council member whose district the deal is in. Why was the Pied Piper in this the council member who’s district only begins on the other side of Maple Ave?

      • Dr. Timothy B. Jones says

        Fair point…..the delay could have eased the concerns of many perhaps and makes sense. Our Mr. Blewett seems to value smoke and mirrors over transparent and reasonable. Given we elected him to boot Phillip Kingston who was so ethically challenged, that’s really disappointing!

      • JD says

        Why did Medrano even bring it to council for approval Dec 11 if he still needed a 30 day delay. Smoke and mirrors indeed!

  5. Dr. Timothy B. Jones says

    Fair point…..the delay could have eased the concerns of many perhaps and makes sense. Our Mr. Blewett seems to value smoke and mirrors over transparent and reasonable. Given we elected him to boot Phillip Kingston who was so ethically challenged, that’s really disappointing!

    • JD says

      The irony is that with Mr. Blewett’s reconsideration, HE is the one who effected a 30 day delay from Dec 11 to Jan 10, thus creating time to ease the concerns of many… or stir them up.

      • mmJon Anderson says

        And you keep forgetting no one knew of the filing until January 3rd. Blewett only said anything about it after the Observer reported it.
        .
        There was no “30 days” since everyone thought the issue died December 11th.

        • JD says

          Yet…there were hundreds lined up to speak…for both sides….that were not there for the Dec 11 vote. Its kinda your fault for assuming it “died” when every news outlet Dec stated it could come back if a voting councilman reconsidered it (except Candysdirt…curious there is nothing online on this page about the initial Dec 11 vote or anything else regarding Reverchon rfp’s. Why now are you jumping in, Jon?)

  6. altuve says

    People are vastly underestimating the benefit a facility of this kind can provide for young people playing baseball here in Dallas. My city growing up made a commitment to youth baseball including a facility that allowed my team to host an age group state tournament that concluded with our beating in a doubleheader on the last day of play one pitcher who had thrown a one-hitter in the Little League World Series and another who would go on to win the next two high school state championship games. No way possible without the facility along with the commitment that it represented.

    Blewett, Nelson and Clayton Kershaw have to understand this kind of effect because of their backgrounds in sports. The Mansion crowd not so much.

  7. Calvert Collins-Bratton says

    Jon, I take serious issue with your reporting. You have a clear one-sided agenda and are not interested in facts or merits of this project, but rather proliferating lies to scare people any reasonable person.

    I’ve heard the complaints about the City’s process, but RPSE followed the process to the letter. The City Attorneys have backed that up repeatedly and reiterated it to Council. Could the process be improved moving forward? Yes, which I have already begun working with Park staff to improve. But, that doesn’t negate the quality of this project: a new $15 million ballpark at NO taxpayer expense that will revitalize an under-utilized ballpark and park, and generate over $90,000+ (just in the first few years, and increasing into the hundreds of thousands in 10 years). It is contractually-written that all movies from the revenue share go into a beautification fund for Reverchon Park. That means a renovated or new Recreation center, new basketball courts, even more playground equipment, benches, dog waste stations, water fountains, improving the WPA steps, etc. Most important, it gives young athletes from all backgrounds more opportunities to play baseball, lacrosse, rugby, and soccer year-round (since the field will be turf and not grass).

    Also, Friends of Reverchon Park has put money into the park and volunteered hundreds of hours cleaning up syringes, condoms, and other trash from the area surrounding the ballpark. And, North Texas Amateur Baseball Association, the biggest user of the ballpark, has paid $200,000 to maintain the fields, buy bases, and improve some of the facilities the Park Department couldn’t afford. Both groups, along with ALL of the current users of the ballpark, supported this plan. Yet, none of that has been mentioned in your reporting.

    • mmJon Anderson says

      First, you and others seem to be confusing this piece with investigative reporting. I attended a meeting and reported on what was said. The same way I write about CPC and council meetings. One would think those of you who couldn’t attend would find what was said useful.
      .
      And the minute you tout the money to be made with the deal, I’m out. Park land should never be for sale/rent. If you don’t have the budget, your job should be to raise the money privately through donations, not leases. the exception might be Fair Park which seems built for commercial purposes. And speaking of Fair Park, in the council meeting, Mendelsohn said the city only generates $126,000 in revenues from it’s 8 parks partnerships – I do hope she forgot about State Fair.
      .
      With all that maintenance, why is the ball field in such bad shape? And if you read the story I posted on the city council meeting you will see that I did mention their support. And my question remains, where was the outreach and support from resident groups? Why couldn’t you present this deal at a monthly meeting of the Oak Lawn Committee, who oversee PD-193 that pretty much surrounds the park?
      .
      If you want to give me access to any document on this deal and then sit for an interview to answer my resulting questions, I’m happy to write that piece.

      • Calvert Collins-Bratton says

        All of the documents are public since they were presented to Council. Twice. I am happy to sit down and give you the facts anytime. I’m sure RPSE would also like to set the record straight and explain the upcoming community meetings and Advisory Council they have planned.

    • JD says

      When you’re talking about the public/private partnerships the city does, let’s not leave out the zoo, the Arboretum, the Audubon Center and many others. Heck city streets are not actually maintain and repaired by the city but contracted out to private contractors so…

  8. Robert says

    They aren’t spending $15m to make $90,000 . Dallas should get a cut of the gross. This is ridiculous. Over 300 events. The repairs to streets and light poles will be 10x that.

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