Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Close Dallas Love Field and redevelop it, real estate broker Randall Turner proposes

Channel 8 News Report on The Texas Riviera June 23 - 6 pm:
Click on the Link Here to View Video

Dallas real estate broker Randall Turner has a $26 billion dream. He calls it the Texas Riviera.

In it, he envisions thousands of reasonably-priced housing units, office parks, a golf course, minor league baseball park, 100-lane bowling alley and entertainment complex -- all in the heart of Dallas surrounding a massive San Antonio-style Riverwalk. A 1,300-acre Midtown Manhattan for Dallas, he posits.

And Turner wants to shut down city-owned Dallas Love Field to do it.

Love Field, as in, the headquarters airport of Southwest Airlines. The nation's 47th busiest airport in terms of passenger traffic. The recipient of hundreds of millions of dollars of public bond funds for a massive remodeling effort now underway.

"The Texas Riviera could be one of the greatest projects in Texas of all time," says Turner, chief executive of Dallas-based Harvard Companies, Inc. "I see no negatives whatsoever. Sure, it would be painful to move Southwest Airlines. But in the long term, it'd benefit everybody."

Turner has no funding, no master developer of record, no discernable public support.

But in recent days, Turner, who says he's been planning details of the Texas Riviera for several years, has aggressively attempted to curry the favor of city officials and area businesspeople, toting colorful schematics and attractive conceptual designs. Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and Forest City Enterprise Vice President of Development Jim Truitt rank among those on Turner's list.

Turner's written correspondence to Leppert includes suggestions that he's secured "significant interest" from Forest City to develop the Texas Riviera, and is pursuing a partnership with the Walt Disney company. The Texas Riviera, Turner wrote Leppert earlier this month, would create up to $26 billion in new development in northern Dallas and represent more than $100 million in annual property tax revenue to the city.

(Download a copy of the project concept here.)

In essence, Turner suggests Dallas Love Field's entire operation could be shuttered, then transferred to Dallas Executive Airport in southern Dallas. No matter that Dallas Executive has but one main runway whereas Love Field has two -- Dallas could build a new one using bond money now earmarked for Love Field reconstruction.

Leppert, Truitt and a Southwest Airlines official stopped short of saying Turner is, well, delusional. But they offered him little hope that the Texas Riviera concept will ever become reality so long as they're around.

"[Turner] brought his idea by and showed it to me, and I told him that if the city is interested in closing Love Field, then we'll be interested in discussing it," Truitt said.

Is the city interested in closing Love Field?

"No," said District 14 council member Angela Hunt, whose district includes the airport. "I don't see this riviera idea as viable. The city is investing too much money in Love Field. We're too far down the road."

Said Leppert: "Clearly, there would be many challenges to overcome. It would be difficult to do."

And is Southwest Airlines interested in moving its Love Field operations?

"No. We would not want to move from here or support any such plan. Love Field is our home, and we want to be here," airline spokeswoman Ashley Rogers said.

Where does this leave Turner?


"Every issue can be overcome. We need to be willing to work together. And we're looking for the support of the public in doing this," Turner said. "It's a process. But we're envisioning this as a project for the masses, which is why we're appealing to the masses to get behind us."
Dave Levinthal/Reporter