By The Dallas Morning News
Too often, efforts to reduce homelessness run into not-in-my-backyard opposition, making it difficult for our community to address a major problem. That’s why it is important to find ways to produce outcomes that make the city a better place.
Case in point is the Salvation Army’s plan to build a $95 million, 20-acre campus for homeless services in an industrial area along the Stemmons Freeway frontage road at Viceroy Drive. Despite the need for a comprehensive center like this, some owners of nearby warehouses and office buildings have expressed valid concerns that the center would erode their property values.
Without a doubt, the center is needed to provide vital services for the homeless, and the Salvation Army’s promise to pay for it entirely through private donations is a major step toward making it happen. And, as this editorial board has indicated previously, if a major effort to help the homeless can’t be developed at this location, where can we ever build it?
But we are pleased that the city also is seizing this opportunity to explore ways to jumpstart economic redevelopment in this area of western Dallas with a plan to encourage property owners to reinvest in and provide jobs in exchange for tax relief and other incentives. The goal is to help address the concerns of property owners as well as to attract new commercial and industrial projects that would contribute to economic growth.
The city’s pilot plan, called a Neighborhood Empowerment Zone, would create a 390-acre, pizza-slice shaped investment zone between State Highway 183, the Stemmons frontage road and Round Table Drive. The Salvation Army site and about 180 industrial and commercial sites would fall within the borders.
The idea is a potential win for an area that hasn’t seen development in decades. Many buildings in the proposed empowerment zone are about 50 years old, in disrepair or at the end of their useful life.
The plan would create opportunities for affordable housing, and support workforce development and job training programs. Nonresidential uses would include data centers, warehouses and new retail. Each proposal would be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and would be open to companies that create or retain at least 10 jobs and provide at least $250,000 in private investment. Property tax abatements could be as high as 90 percent for 10 years and business personal property tax abatements up to 50 percent for five years.
The Salvation Army’s proposal would dovetail nicely into this revitalization effort, especially with the possibility that businesses within the zone could hire people who successfully complete the Salvation Army’s workforce training program.
The neighborhood empowerment zone is a smart way to help to promote redevelopment that otherwise would not have taken place. The City Council is expected to consider the Salvation Army’s plan on May 8. We urge the council to approve the homeless center and take a serious look at the recommendation for an empowerment zone.