The Dallas City Council approved a 20-year plan for the redevelopment of Hensley Field during the last meeting of 2022.
Hensley Field is the site of the former Dallas Naval Air Station, a 738-acre property owned by the City of Dallas and located in Dallas’ southwestern quadrant adjacent to Grand Prairie.
The city bought Hensley Field in the 1920s and leased it to the military, which built the naval reserve air station in 1941 for training purposes. The station remained in operation up until 1998.
In a long-awaited move, Dallas City Council approved plans to redevelop Hensley Field into a new mixed-use walkable community. The roughly $390 million project will transform the former naval station into a community featuring more than 6,800 new homes, waterfront trails, new parks, and other amenities.
“The city wishes to leverage the value of its 738-acre property on Mountain Creek Lake to achieve community objectives related to economic recovery, social equity, and environmental sustainability; to serve as a catalyst for the reinvestment and resurgence of a part of the city that has not enjoyed the same levels of growth and prosperity as other parts of Dallas,” read the draft for Hensley Field.
The master plan was published in October and drafted in collaboration with Dallas’ planning and urban design office and McCann Adams Studio, an Austin-based design firm. Redeveloping the site will occur over multiple phases with a projected start date of 2025-2026.
“The Hensley Field Master Plan involved a two-year dialogue between stakeholders, policymakers, City staff, and partner agencies, and it is an important milestone in the realization of the community’s vision for this strategic site in Southern Dallas,” the plan explains.
Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson has heralded the site as being filled with untapped potential.
“What has been described up to now as a ‘hidden gem’ in this city will be hidden no more,” Johnson suggested.
Now that the Dallas City Council approved plans for the site, a developer will be chosen to oversee and manage the project and planning for zoning amendments, design standards, and other guidelines. Suggested tax increment financing has been proposed to help pay for the project’s public infrastructure, among other improvement costs.
If granted, tax increment financing will help raise an estimated $198 million to $243 million in property tax revenue over two decades.
“Now we have an opportunity to make something beautiful of this location,” said council member Casey Thomas, whose district includes Hensley Field. “It’s almost like a blank canvas.”
However, toxic spillage and contaminants still remain at the old Naval Air Station and could slow down the redevelopment process, as reported by The Dallas Express.
The $92 million cleanup effort has remained ongoing since 2002 with no set timeframe for completion. Once the cleanup is finished, state and federal regulators will need to sign off on the site.
Other council members celebrated the approval and lauded the economic benefits a mix-use community could bring to the area.
Council member Adam Bazaldua of District 7 emphasized the economic and business potential that a film studio could have on the site, mentioning Dallas-filmed productions like Queen of the South, which shot a large part of the series in Dallas.
“We have the ability to be a contender in a market that both coasts have been monopolizing,” Bazaldua said. “With our weather, with our lack of an income tax in our state, we have a lot that is very desirable here for film. But we don’t have a lot to market.”
However, any developer the city brings in to build the site will have to wrestle against the difficult and delayed permitting process afflicting Dallas. Mayor Johnson has urged the city to “get out of the way” and streamline the process, but the city manager, T.C. Broadnax, has seemingly been unable to do so, with builders having to wait months before they can begin projects, as reported by The Dallas Express.