Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sigh...Another Study


"The Dallas Logistics Hub ("The Hub") is the largest new logistics park under development in North America, with over 6,000 acres master-planned for the development of 60 million square feet of distribution, manufacturing, office and retail uses. Given its unmatched intermodal rail and highway access, The Hub positions Dallas as the premier trade hub in the Southwestern United States and will serve as the primary gateway for the distribution of goods to the major population centers throughout the Central and Eastern United States." so reads an article on the grand opening of the Dallas Logistics Hub.

"...over 6,000 acres master-planned for the development of 60 million square feet of distribution, manufacturing, office and retail uses."

In 2006, the Urban Land Institute produced what apparently was a report commissioned by the city of Dallas, "The city of Dallas asked the ULI Advisory Services panel to clarify and explore the city’s options as it moves forward with participating municipalities in developing an “inland port” to exploit the influx of trade. The panel was asked to review progress to date and provide direction for future development."

In my conversation with Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, who helped bring the Allen Group to Dallas, said, "I've really thought that this was the best thing to happen to southern Dallas in history...the potential of this is that it will be the largest business in the entire North Texas area."

Political hyperbole?

Read one of the conclusions of the ULI in its report, "...the panel believes that southern Dallas County is a highly desirable location for expansion of the metroplex’s inland port capabilities. The entire metroplex has both a strong, established logistics industry sector and exceptional potential for sustained future growth. Southern Dallas County is unique in the metoplex because of its abundance of large greenfield development sites which, the panel notes, already have been targeted by private development firms...Southern Dallas County is poised to benefit from a major influx of trade stemming from container shipments emanating from Asia. The Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is a terminus for a southern road and rail corridor leading from the major cargo terminal in Los Angeles/Long Beach, California, which is the entry port for an estimated 70 percent of containers entering the United States from Asia."

The Master Plan that the county wanted at one point, and that the City still wants, would take an additional year and a half to two years to complete, according to the Allen Group and Congresswoman Johnson.

Throwing in it's support for a Master Plan study, after the majority of Dallas County commissioners voted against funding its share of the costs, the Dallas Morning News editorialized, "If planned and executed properly, this public-private partnership should swell the tax base for a part of the county that sorely needs swelling. It only makes sense that something this complex — in effect, an international “port” at the nexus of rail lines, highways and, importantly, developable land — should have a comprehensive plan for the needed infrastructure, specifically roads, water and sewer."

But the ULI, commissioned by the city of Dallas, calls for 'ample, affordable water sources', 'the creation of wastewater and stormwater management systems', 'cooperation on overarching jurisdictional issues', arterial and local road systems' and 'environmental precautions.' So what else needs to be studied? Obviously cost projections, minority participation, etc. have to be a part of any work on this scale. The ULI's report, as well as the Allen Group's own study must be examined to determine validity. How the pie is divided between all jurisdictions and municipalities, all must be worked out, but does that call for a new, longer 'master plan'?

"Our economy, in the Dallas area", says Congresswoman Johnson, "depends on trade."

This harmonizes with other conclusions of the Urban Land Institute stud:"The southern Dallas County trade hub must be viewed as an extension of regional leadership that will further enhance the region’s competitive advantage. Although recognized as a national trade hub, the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex is also part of a national system of trade centers."

Now to be fair, the ULI calls for a Master Plan. The report is dated June 25-30, 2006. The Dallas City Council was briefed on results of its study in September 2007. 'Next steps' (presumably to get started) recommended a 6 month timeline. It is now 2009, there is no Master Plan, the incoming Obama Administration is suggesting a stimulus package of nearly 1 trillion dollars and the infrastructure work qualifies according to Congresswoman Johnson. The Representative sits on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee which will make recommendations on the economic recovery expenditures. Former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk has been tapped as the United States Trade Representative. And so far, she's received no recommendations from her hometown.
So exactly what are we doing?

The Morning News editorial rightly concludes, "It would make no sense now to injure a major private investor and blow that investment." I agree. So again, what's to gain from an additional study? What's changed since the Allen Group did it's homework before making the investment?
If the City of Dallas is really in favor of a master plan, based on the ULI report, then the Council should pay strict attention to another portion of the almost 3 year old report: "Preparation of the master plan must begin as soon as possible and should be completed as expeditiously as possible. Development already is occurring in the impact area, and the opportunity to adequately plan for this development is slipping away."

By the way, the Allen Group is making an even deeper financial investment: they're moving they're headquarters from San Diego to Dallas. I'm no expert, but that doesn't sound like a move made by someone who hasn't studied whether or not this inland port thing is or isn't a good idea.
More tomorrow...

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