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.