Council Members Balk at Theater Restoration


Kalita Humphreys Theater | Image by Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation

Some members of the Dallas City Council are hesitating at the proposed $308 million plan to restore the Kalita Humphreys Theater and are looking for cheaper options.

During a Tuesday meeting, some members said that while a significant amount of money is necessary for restorations, the estimated cost released by the Dallas Theater Center appears to be excessive, especially compared to other arts projects in the city.

The plan to restore the 64-year-old theater is coupled with plans to redevelop some 10 acres of the park where the theater stands.

Currently, the master plan for the park and theater is to use $52 million for restoration work, $168 million for four additional buildings, $22 million for infrastructure to accommodate a 380-space underground parking garage, $10 million for a pedestrian bridge connecting Turtle Creek and Katy Trail, and another $56 million in other land and nearby trail improvements.

But not all council members are convinced.

Councilmember Omar Narvaez, in particular, said the redevelopment map felt like a “bait and switch,” reported The Dallas Morning News.

“We’ve had enough of these where folks come and say, ‘oh, city, put your skin in the game and we’re going to raise the rest privately,’ and then the rest doesn’t get raised,” Narvaez said. “And so, then who’s left holding the bag? The taxpayer.”

He further noted that there is competition from other arts-related projects looking for spending from the city, including a $75 million plan to restore South Dallas’ Forest Theater.

Councilmember Carolyn King Arnold pointed out that there was another struggling project trying to get off the ground in her district. Southern Gateway Park, a new park near the Dallas Zoo, requires $172 million in funding.

“There’s no way in good faith that we can sit here and support all these millions of dollars coming on bond packages that are bypassing us on the deck park,” Arnold said, referring to the Southern Gateway Park.

Some of the deterioration associated with the Kalita Humphreys Theater stems from disrepair brought on by neglect and lack of investment.

Before the city council approved a $525,000 contract to repair things such as roofing as a result of water damage in 2020, no significant repairs to the theater had been made since 1989.

The theater was originally designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

City Councilmember Paula Blackmon expressed a reluctance to tear it down on Tuesday, and instead proposed to restore it through plans that aligned with Wright’s original design. She suggested that a master plan for the restoration could cost $52 million with a reduced amount of upgrades.

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Max Frisson
Max Frisson
6 days ago

The fact that this is a Frank Lloyd Wright building should put it at the head of the list of projects.
But somebody has packed the proposal with unrelated wishes like the additional buildings and walking trail enhancements.
Do one thing at a time! I’ve been to a couple of shows at that theater years ago. It was rundown then but the building is worth saving.

Julianne Thorne
Julianne Thorne
5 days ago

This is WAY excessive! Who bid on these? Who won the bids on these if already in. The fix is in, and the taxpayers lose.

Susan Weiss
Susan Weiss
5 days ago

Sheesh. Just repair the building and maybe add the parking element. How did this get so out of control?

Gary Bauer
Gary Bauer
5 days ago

It would be criminal to lose the Humphreys Theater.
if this project is too expensive, we should lose the multi million dollar parking garage, and walkways.

just restore the theatre.

5 days ago

Sorry, but I could care less that this is a Frank Lloyd Wright building! In a time of fiscal austerity, this is way too much public money to spend on restoring a crumbling theater. If the building is so very “architecturally significant” to be allowed to fall into a further state of disrepair, then let the AIA or other private groups raise the money.