Has the Irving Entertainment Center project reached a turning point?

Speaker during the Town Hall Meeting at Irving City Hall on August 2, 2012

By Ruth Ferguson, NDG Editor

Although Irving residents arrived expecting to participate in a Special Meeting of the Irving City Council on Thursday, August 2, the evening’s event was essentially a Town Hall meeting. The Special Meeting was announced to discuss plans for the Irving Entertainment Center. The developer, Las Colinas Group (LCG) and TDI, a company they have chosen to assume management of the project was slated to present their new proposal to the council and the public.

However, last night only four members of the city council were present so the quorum requirements were not met. As a result, the meeting was not broadcasted, no official minutes were taken and no vote was taken by the City Council. The city staff was present but they were asked to sit in the audience to avoid the appearance that it was an official meeting.

The North Dallas Gazette has learned that a Special Meeting has now been called for Monday, August 6 at 7 p.m. where it is expected the City Council will have enough members present for a quorum.

The fact the meeting was not broadcast disappointed the developers who were seeking to share information regarding their new proposal with the citizens of Irving. On Friday

David Margulies’, spokesperson for the developers, announced the availability of the new proposal online in light of the fact, the Town Hall was not broadcast via the local access cable channel.

In a statement Margulies indicated, “Because the City of Irving shut down coverage of the Town Hall meeting on their cable system many residents missed the opportunity to hear about the new proposal for the Irving Entertainment Center.  The proposal PowerPoint has now been posted on our web site forirvingsfuture.com.  Obviously, we were disappointed in the city’s decision and are aware that council members Webb and Gallaway argued against it. The decision was a slap in the face to Irving residents and another clear example of bad faith by whoever made the decision. Transparency means letting the public have all the information and not just the information you want them to have to support your side of an issue.”

After waiting for 30 minutes, Councilman Michael Gallaway for Place 1 announced they would host a town hall meeting instead of a Special Meeting of the City Council. He led the events of the evening, because Mayor Beth Van Duyne, Mayor Pro Tem Gerald Farris, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Thomas Spink, Councilmen Brad M. LaMorgese, and Joe Putnam did not attend. In addition to Gallaway, Dennis Webb, Roy Santoscoy, and Rose Cannaday were the only council members in attendance.

Charles Cotton, a long-time Irving resident and real estate developer in Irving, shared a presentation outlining the widespread support within the business community for moving forward on the Irving Entertainment Center project.

He spotlighted support from the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce, cited economic forecasts from an expert at Southern Methodist University and comments from the Irving Hotel Association. The economic impact of the Entertainment Center would include over 2,000 jobs during the construction phase and more than 4,000 jobs annually.  The hotel association indicated they are in support of the program because currently there is no reason for business travelers to stay in Irving.

In fact, these are common themes throughout the evening when citizens spoke. They frequently mentioned the fact they must leave the Irving community to find something of interest to do with family, friends, and out-of-town guests.  This not only negatively impacts the residents seeking entertainment, but also has resulted in the business district losing corporate relocation opportunities. Employers seek areas their employees will not only enjoy working in, but playing as well.

Bobby Page the Managing Partner of TDI was a presenter and was encouraged by the reaction of the audience to the new proposal. He indicated the TDI team, “Will invest our integrity and money to earn the confidence throughout the City.”  The slides he spoke from last night are now available online and the one which captured the most interest was:

“Can the other major concerns that have been expressed by some be eliminated? Yes

• Eliminates double pledge of HOT revenues

• Reduces City’s future investment to $17M

• Eliminates development risk for the City

• Protects the City’s current $37Mproject

• Gets the project started and completed in a timely manner and without further controversy

• Replaces LCG with a new development team”

During the town hall meeting, several of the opponents to the plan appeared to be cautiously hopeful that their concerns have been addressed with the new proposal. The new deal on the table would reduce the City’s total investment from $170 million to $40 million which includes an estimated future spend of only $17 million.

The majority of the citizens who spoke during the evening were supportive of moving forward with the Irving Entertainment Center. The speakers ranged in age from a 17 year-old male who shared that to do anything with his friends he must always leave Irving and go to Dallas, Frisco, Addison or other popular areas in the Metroplex to a 72 year-old gardener who welcomed the idea of a Farmer’s Market which she could possibly sell her vegetables or buy fresh produce daily.

Friday Page issued a statement, “I was very encouraged by the overwhelming support of Irving residents desire to promptly build the Irving Entertainment Center, which will create some 4,000 permanent jobs and reduce home owner taxes 10-15%. I believe the Council did the right thing by allowing people to come together and speak their heart and mind.”
“Council members Webb, Gallaway, Santoscoy and Cannady are to be commended. I understand they are calling a special meeting on Monday nite at 7:00 to extend the contract and work in good faith to finalize terms and conditions that would be acceptable to the City. I urge all the residents and Council to attend and I appreciate everyone’s comments. Let’s all work together to do the right thing for Irving and avoid further controversy,” Page concluded.

To encourage community involvement, concerned citizens are planning a telephone campaign to the members of the Irving City Council over the weekend to encourage the Irving citizens to call the City Council members at their publicly available phone numbers (listed below). They plan to ask the council members to vote to extend the contract with LCG and negotiate the new agreement with TDI.

Any Irving resident interested in calling members of the council can reach them at:

Mayor Beth Van Duyne – 972-721-2410

Councilman Michael Gallaway – 214-629-9567

Councilman Roy Santoscoy – 214-629-9596

Councilman Dennis Webb – 214-490-9749

Councilman Joe Putnam – 972-259-2626

Councilwoman Rose Cannaday – 972-871-0019

Councilman Brad LaMorgese – 214-460-1990

Mayor Pro Tem Gerald Farris – 972-523-0784

Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Councilman Tom Spink – 972-554-1300

 

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