Thursday, June 29, 2006

Oops. A few people are mad because they weren't invited to the "Love"-fest.

In my blog posted on June 28, 2006, I hinted that the agreement reached on Love Field and the Wright Amendment was not a done deal. You may recall that, among other things, Senator Hutchison admitted she wasn’t sure she could sell the agreement to Congress.

Well, yesterday the first signs that there are more than a few bumps in the road emerged. JetBlue and Northwest both chimed in, angry that they don’t see any gates for them in the agreement. The Air Carrier Association, which represents several smaller airlines, also turned up, saying it did not view the proposal favorably and might lobby against it.

Robert Land, JetBlue’s senior vice president for governmental affairs, went so far as to refer to it as a “collusive backroom deal.”

These complaints were brushed off by the parties who’ve agreed to the deal. However, if I were them I wouldn’t be so quick to blow the complaints off.

First, when you hear a word like “collusive,” start thinking “anti-trust violations.” Airlines have gotten in trouble before for even having the appearance of colluding with one another, most famously locally in the 1980s. That’s when now defunct-Braniff called American Airlines to suggest a scheme for raising airfares in such a way as to avoid the appearance of “collusion.”

Unfortunately, they got caught and had their hands slapped.

Last week, American came under the microscope for possibly colluding with other carriers to control airfares to-and-from London. The possibility of anti-trust violations may not be as remote as some might think.

Maybe cities couldn’t be accused of colluding under these circumstances, but the same can’t necessarily be said for the airlines. Especially when the agreement hands control of gates at Love Field to three airlines—American, Continental and Southwest.

Also, while I can’t be certain of what political clout JetBlue carries, Minneapolis-based Northwest is one of the nation’s oldest and most entrenched carriers. Trust me, they’ve got more than a few members of Congress who might feel beholden to them.

Let’s not forget Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee. Dr. Frist tried to add Tennessee to the list of States exempt from Wright last year, but failed. Northwest just happens to have a major hub in Memphis. Dr. Frist is on record as favoring repeal of the Wright Amendment, because he wants Tennessee to have direct access to Southwest via Love Field.

It’s not too much of a stretch to see Dr. Frist killing two birds with one stone by advocating for immediate repeal of Wright and opening Love to all comers. By doing so, he gives Tennesseans direct access to Southwest via Love and appeases a major employer in his State by making sure they have gates at Love if they want them.

He’s not the only member of the Senate or House who probably doesn’t like the current agreement being offered. Others also want immediate access to Southwest.

I think maybe local leaders are missing something here. For other States, the crown jewel in all this mess really isn’t Love Field, it’s getting direct access to Southwest via Dallas, and, presumably, lower ticket prices. That means that there are plenty of outside forces, forces with serious clout, who might oppose the Love Field accord being offered up as the answer.

Some members of Congress are already asking, “Why should my State wait eight years?” When you get down to it, they’re not asking why should they be denied direct access to Love, but why they are denied direct access to Southwest Airlines at its Dallas home.

If area leaders, particularly Dallas city leaders, really want to control the fate of Love and this mess, they’ve got one option that resolves it all.

Close Love Field.

Force Southwest to move to DFW, which was what started this whole mess 30-some-odd years ago anyway. That gives everyone direct access to Southwest and Dallas. It also forces out the phalanx of noisy corporate jets based at Love.

Southwest won’t be happy, but they’ll get over it and no doubt will thrive at DFW.

This would then free up the 1300 acres Love Field occupies for some major economic development, i.e., turning it into a premier living, working and entertainment district.

Investors are ready to develop it, they just need to know Love will be closed. I’ve put together a plan for this development. I call it “The Texas Riviera.”™ You can find out more about that plan by reading my June 28th blog.

Trust me. The agreement on Love Field is far from a done deal. There are way too many cooks in the kitchen wanting to add their own ingredients to the mix. If I were a betting man, I’d bet whatever Congress eventually decides will be a far different animal from what area officials have offered as a solution.

The best choice, the choice to end all the haranguing and fighting, is to simply close Love Field.

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Randall Turner is the CEO of Harvard Companies LLC. He has a passion for downtown Dallas and its development and his companies are a part of a number of projects in the Uptown and Downtown Dallas area.

You’re welcome to reprint this article, provided:

you don’t change the article in any way; and
you include the above byline, (including the link to my website).

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Love Field—With All the “Ifs” in the Deal, There Needs to Be a Good Alternative

June 28, 2006-- The announcement has come and all seems right in the world of Love Field. The Cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, together with Southwest and American Airlines, all stood on the stage and announced they had a deal. Problem solved, right?

Not exactly. You see, Even as the announcement was coming out, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson was having doubts about her ability to sell this deal to the rest of Congress. The deal calls for a phase out of the Wright Amendment in eight years. That’s a long time in political years. A very long time.

There are plenty of members of Congress from other States chomping at the bit to reverse Wright. These members want to go back to their constituents right now, not in eight years, and say, “I got ya’ Southwest Airlines, now how’s about filling the campaign coffers?”

What many are missing in this picture is that so long as there are States who see Southwest being free to fly wherever they want from Love as a form of economic salvation for them (mostly seen in reduced airfares), it’s not likely the rest of Congress will go along.

Make no mistake, Congress may have deferred to the locals and given the mayors a chance to sort things out, but Congress is still the 800 pound gorilla here and if they don’t like the deal, it’s dead in the water.

Most people probably even missed the fact that if Congress doesn’t approve the deal by the end of the year, it’s back to square one. The agreement has no binding effect in that instance.

What we need is an alternative plan. One that gives the City control of the fate of Love, rather than continuing a running battle over the Wright Amendment.

The City of Dallas should be deciding its own fate here, and it can’t so long as there are so many interests tied to Love Field. The City should have the authority to decide to close it, without any interference from Congress. So close it.

Do this and, really, it turns into a winner for everyone.

You see, we’ve got a problem in Dallas. There’s really not a big draw for residents outside the City and tourists to travel into Dallas evenings and weekends. With the closing of the West End Marketplace and the malaise surrounding Deep Ellum, what little we have is dwindling.

At their heights, neither was a major draw, particularly not for the average middle income family.

We can end all the wailing and gnashing of teeth by shutting Love Field down and then redeveloping it. And we don’t just do any old redevelopment.

I’ve got a plan. Close Love Field. And everyone wins in the end.

Love Field comprises some 1300 acres. That’s a lot of space to fill up. We need a comprehensive plan to turn all that acreage into economically viable land. Bear with me and I’ll lay everything out for you.

Now, naturally, Southwest won’t be too happy about this because it means they move their flight operations to DFW, something they are resisting tooth-and-nail.
If any airline has proved resilient in the face of adversity, it’s Southwest. I believe they can not only survive, but thrive, at DFW and area air travelers will benefit

Move them, and the positives outweigh the negatives.

With Love closed, Southwest no longer has to groan under the weight of Wright. They’d be able to fly anywhere they want. While Southwest tickets will rise slightly (it will ultimately pay higher gate fees and such at DFW), it will still offer lower airfares than normally seen out of DFW.

That in turn forces American, the 800 pound gorilla at DFW, to lower its fares. This seems like a bad scenario for American, but, apparently, they believe they can compete with Southwest’s fares if the two fly out of DFW. Why not give them what they want and let the fares fall where they may?

Perhaps then we won’t have to keep reading about the DFW area has to pay the highest average prices per tickets in the nation.

Moving flight operations helps eliminate the noise problems associated with Love Field. Not because Southwest has moved out, their 737s are relatively quiet thanks to “hush” kits, but because it forces corporate jets based at Love out of the area as well. It just so happens, corporate jets do not have to comply with the same noise regulations as the airlines do. Generally, if you’re in the Love Field area, if you hear a shrieking jet taking off, it’s probably a corporate jet.

No airport. No corporate jets. No noise.

There’s a bonus in this plan for Southwest, because a major piece of the redevelopment I’m proposing includes creating a corporate park, with Southwest as the centerpiece.

We’ve got 1300 acres to work with, with Bachman Lake bordering the north end. What I’m suggesting, and the project I’ve been developing, is to create what amounts to a “City within a City,”™ a large multiuse development that includes the aforementioned corporate park, apartments, condos and homes, retail outlets and what I think will become the premier entertainment facility not only in Texas, but perhaps the entire country. The entire project would be known as “The Texas Riviera.”™

This would be a 20-phase development, created over 10-15 years. It would include a Galleria/North Park quality mall, several world class boutique hotels and restaurants. A state-of-the-art skateboard park and teen/young adult entertainment area would be situated near a daycare center staffed by registered childcare providers.

In the middle of it all would be “The Riviera Center,”™ which would consist of a multi-level entertainment complex. One level would feature the “Showtime Venue,”™ a 5,000 seat concert arena.

Other entertainment components, situated on different levels in the Center would be an R&B bar, karaoke bar, piano bar, C&W bar and sports bar. Restaurants offering Mexican food, steaks, BBQ, seafood, burgers and pizza. It would also include a 60-lane bowling alley.

Outside The Riviera Center™ would be the “Plaza at Riviera,”™ a huge outdoor festival area, capable of accommodating up to 25,000 people and featuring four stage areas. An outdoor arena would be home to rodeos, cutting horse competitions, dressage and equestrian events. A minor league ball field would offer affordable, competitive baseball in Dallas, not the suburbs.

This would be entertainment designed for, and available to, everyone. The American Airlines Center is great, but it’s really a meeting place for the wealthy. The Texas Riviera™ would be a playground for the rest of us.

Using Bachman Lake as a starting point, a river would trail throughout the area, giving Dallas its own “Riviera Walk.” Couples could stroll, joggers jog and families wander along the two mile river. Lining it would be restaurants, hotels, retail outlets, apartments, condos and homes.

It’s a big project. It would probably cost $5-6 Billion to complete the entire 1300 acre site. But compare that to the roughly $3 Billion 75 acre Victory Plaza development and you’ll see you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.

Tens of thousands, of jobs would be brought into Dallas. Property and sales taxes generated would be in the billions. Far more then are currently generated by Love Field.

Best of all, it would make Dallas the undisputed “destination” city in Texas.

It’s a big project, but I know there are investors excited and ready to be a part of it. However, this proposal really can’t be explored until Love Field is closed. Once Love Field is officially shut down, The Texas Riviera, and Dallas’ place as the premier entertainment destination in the Southwest can be set in motion.

But first, someone has to pull the trigger on Love.

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Randall Turner is the CEO of Harvard Companies LLC. He has a passion for downtown Dallas and its development and his companies are a part of a number of projects in the Uptown and Downtown Dallas area.

You’re welcome to reprint this article, provided:

you don’t change the article in any way; and
you include the above byline, (including the link to my website).

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Demise of the West End Marketplace: It's About Time for Change

The Demise of the West End Marketplace: It's About Time for Change

On June 30, the West End Marketplace bites the dust. The 240,000 square foot building first opened its doors in 1986. It's pretty much been on a downhill slide ever since.

With the exception of an occasional splash with the arrival of a big name tenant, like Planet Hollywood (which also died a slow death), it never has caught on as expected. Many area natives came to view it as a tourist stop to be avoided and nothing else. As a result, it consistently failed to attract the people it needed most to survive-- local patrons.

What should have been a "must visit" venue, turned into a "must avoid" setting.

That's not to say it was a total failure. Some merchants did well there. Wild Bill's Western Wear survived and apparently will relocate in the downtown area. But for some reason, the concept never really worked. The West End just never has caught on as Dallas' answer to Fort Worth's Sundance Square.

Why? Why, at a time when much of downtown is thriving and there seem to be new projects on every corner, couldn't the West End become a hot spot?

For starters, throughout much of the nineties and early 2000s, it had to contend with the savvier and hipper Deep Ellum. For over a decade, Deep Ellum had a lock on the local music scene, drawing the much coveted 21-34 year old bracket to the Elm Street area. Of course, Deep Ellum is currently caught up in malaise also, although their problems have more to do with concerns about crime, more so than other factors.

And while it is some 30 miles away, Sundance Square has always been a bigger draw. Better marketed, plenty of parking (including some free parking areas in the evening) and seen as a destination for tourists, young people and families alike.

Many Dallasites would probably prefer hopping into their car and making the drive to Fort Worth, rather than simply riding Dart to the West End.

The biggest problems? It simply was never a big enough venue, nor was it in an open enough area. The West End Marketplace seems boxed in and small. Sundance Square and Deep Ellum are spread over a number of blocks.

And it was never really properly marketed. Even today, can the average person living in the area tell you what the West End Marketplace actually is? I sure can’t. Heck, the area never even managed to take advantage of its proximity to American Airlines Center and the Victory project.

Someone did a terrible job of marketing it over the years. What marketing there was seemed dependent on the arrival of tenants like Planet Hollywood and movie theatres. I can’t ever recall seeing an organized marketing campaign for the area.

The West End has been on a slow roll to the graveyard almost from its inception. And the demise of the West End Marketplace is probably the final nail in the coffin. It’s about time.

With the West End Marketplace gone, the possibility of a well planned, well-marketed multipurpose entertainment venue in Dallas becomes more viable. With such a venue, Dallas might finally be able to compete with Sundance Square and other entertainment destinations in the area.

I’m currently in the process of developing such a project to be called “The Texas Riviera™.” For a number of months we’ve been working on the creation of a multi-purpose, mixed use entertainment district that would become the standard for such areas. Stay tuned for more details.
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Randall Turner is the CEO of Harvard Companies LLC. He has a passion for downtown Dallas and its development and his companies are a part of a number of projects in the Uptown and Downtown Dallas area.

You’re welcome to reprint this article, provided:

you don’t change the article in any way; and
you include the above byline, (including the link to my website).