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City-Owned Nuisance Properties: Jesse Moreno Wants Answers

Gateway Center Building aerial view
Building at 711 South St. Paul St. in Dallas | Image by Council Member Jesse Moreno/memo

A Dallas official has asked interim City Manager Kimberly Tolbert for answers as to why the now-vacant Annette G. Strauss Family Gateway Center has fallen into disrepair.

In a memo dated May 30, Council Member Jesse Moreno (District 2) expressed exasperation over the condition of the City-owned building at 711 South St. Paul St., saying he was “gravely concerned” about what was found during a staff assessment of the interior and exterior of the property.

“This location is a city-owned facility in our stewardship and care,” Moreno wrote. “As work was done to mitigate the impact of homelessness on South St. Paul St. for an unrelated project, there were concerns that the Old Family Gateway Building was insecure[d] and being accessed by unauthorized inhabitants.”

The memo includes dozens of images produced by staff that show clogged toilets full of human waste, animal feces on floors, broken glass panels, insects, removed ceiling tiles, broken fixtures, empty liquor bottles, food, and trash.

toilet from Gateway Center

“Today, May 30th, City Staff conducted an internal walkthrough and investigation of the facility following a Dallas Police Department canvassing,” Moreno wrote. “In that canvassing, it was represented to my office by officers at the time that 20 individuals were found, some with animals, and they were removed from the premises. It was noted that access was gained through the playground door leading into the building, which was evidently not secured.”

Squatter vacating Gateway Center building

 

He noted, “… it was represented to my office that the building was ‘secure’ and that there were no points of access other than an accessible gate leading to an outdoor playground.”

Polling conducted by The Dallas Express shows that roughly 75% of Dallas residents believe homelessness, vagrancy, and aggressive panhandling are “major” problems in the city. Respondents also appeared to generally support the “one-stop-shop” homeless services model utilized by Haven for Hope in San Antonio. The model has been credited with a 77% reduction in unsheltered homelessness in the city’s downtown neighborhood.

Some local stakeholders want to try the model out in Dallas. However, it is unclear whether City officials will support such an initiative.

Moreno is chair of the Housing & Homelessness Solutions Committee and serves on the Government Performance & Financial Management Committee, the latter of which received a briefing from Assistant City Manager Robert Perez on May 21 about the possible sale or redevelopment of the Gateway Center property.

“Signs of long-term living conditions were seen, including a makeshift iron, an air conditioning unit, and various clothes and sundries,” Moreno continued in the memo. “The bathroom toilets were clogged and nearly overflowing with feces and urine. There were windows broken in the interior, and staff had to forcefully access the roof by means of a crowbar because the handle had been broken on the door leading to the roof. Evidently, there were signs of living conditions on the roof, including a workout bar, chairs, and toys.”

roof of Gateway Center

Tolbert’s office did not return a message seeking comment about the City’s plans for the property and how it intends to secure it — if at all. Officials with Dallas’ real estate division of the Office of Public Works did not return a message seeking clarification on how many properties the City owns and, of those, how many are vacant.

However, during the May 21 Government Performance & Financial Management Committee meeting, Perez said the old Family Gateway building was among several properties under review.

“The 10 properties that we’ve identified as potential opportunities to either sell and/or redevelop … are listed in the memorandum,” he said. “… Those appraisals are underway. We do believe that we will have all 10 properties appraised and ready for discussion by the middle of next month.”

The other nine were listed as such:

  • Executive Airport
  • Canton Street Service Center
  • Dallas Water Utilities in Hutchins
  • Vilbig Auto Pound
  • Oak Cliff Municipal Center
  • North Oak Cliff Library
  • Park Forest Library
  • Downtown Courts Building, 5th floor
  • 606 Good Latimer

Six of those — Vilbig Auto Pound, Oak Cliff Municipal Center, North Oak Cliff Library, Park Forest Library, Family Gateway Building, and 606 Good Latimer — may be recommended by staff for redevelopment.

But “that would be based upon city council’s direction to either sell and/or redevelop them,” Perez said. “… Please note that two of those properties … are libraries that are included in the 2024 bond program.”

Staff expects to receive appraisals by mid-June, Perez said.

In his memo to Tolbert, Moreno asked her to complete several tasks involving the former Family Gateway building, including:

  • Securing, cleaning, and sanitizing it before routine monitoring and maintenance of the property begins for as long as the City owns it
  • Seeking a third-party review regarding security
  • Seeking a third-party review to determine the viability of selling the building on the market
  • Posting “no trespassing” signs at entry points
  • Drafting a report from staff “on the measures … taken to secure the facility up to May 30 and whether City staff accessed the facility to conduct any work before then
  • Weekly engagement by the Office of Homeless Solutions with the homeless population in the area
  • Follow up with Code Compliance on the “illegal posting of advertisements on a city facility”
  • Removing graffiti

“Various bags of trash, litter, and broken furniture were strewn about the facility’s interior,” Moreno said in the memo. “A fire door was opened, and an alarm did not sound, indicating that the alarm system may be deactivated. Fire panels were open at the time of accessing the facility. … It was also represented to my office that the cameras by the previous tenants were removed, yet there is one prominently at the front door of the building, albeit inactive,” Moreno wrote.

As previously reported by DX, polling indicates residents have been displeased with “the amount of trash, litter, or junk” found strewn about their neighborhoods and “elsewhere in the City of Dallas.”

Family Gateway opened its new location at a former Candlewood Suites in North Dallas in January 2021. The organization serves families with children experiencing homelessness.

In addition to the former Family Gateway building and the nine other properties Dallas officials are considering selling or redeveloping, the City also owns multiple sites the Dallas City Council has considered redeveloping for transitional or permanent housing for people experiencing homelessness, DX has reported.

DX also reported on Thursday that Dallas officials continue to ignore the news outlet’s request for police data on another City-owned property in disrepair at 9999 Technology Blvd. Despite repeated complaints from a worker whose office is near the building, the former Teleperformance call center continues to be a magnet for burglars, vandals, vagrants, and refuse.

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