DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – On Monday, Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson and a White House official toured the former Naval Air Station Dallas, a massive site known as Hensley Field that the city hopes to redevelop.
Both the Mayor and the Executive Director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, Scott Turner viewed the 738 acre site, which fronts Mountain Creek Lake, as a blank slate.
“I see incredible potential. A large site like this where you could do some mixed use housing. You could do some work force development and training. You could partner with Dallas Baptist University and some of our educational institutions. You’ve got multi-modal transportation opportunities here. It could be absolutely catalytic for the city,” said Johnson.
“To see the type of potential as the mayor said that’s here is very encouraging,” said Turner.
The project got Turner’s attention, after he spoke to nearly 200 mayors at the White House Friday.
Mayor Johnson was there, and told Turner afterwards, he wanted to speak with him about Hensley Field. “I immediately said I want to come see it. I want to tour it. I want to see it for myself,” Turner said.
“He said I’ll come see it, I want to put my feet on the ground there and I want to come look at it to help me understand it better so I can communicate it to the people I need to help things get rolling. So I’m confident we’ll make some progress. I’m very confident.”
Turner, a Republican and Johnson, a Democrat both served as State Representatives in the Texas Legislature and have remained friends since they moved on.
Johnson said, “He (Turner) really in a very convincing and heartfelt way expressed on behalf of the administration he works for their desire to be partners and work with local government on a bipartisan basis to get stuff done.”
The city’s Director of Environmental Quality and Sustainability, James McGuire said developing a site like Hensley Field from the ground up is rare. The city said while the Navy agreed to fully clean-up the contaminated site nearly 20 years ago, progress has stalled in recent years.
Now a federal Opportunity Zone, the city of Dallas is in the process of selecting a Master Planner who will create the plan to guide the site’s redevelopment.
Also, investors in Opportunity Zones receive tax benefits.
Turner said, “Opportunity Zones are a huge priority for the President and for our administration. And the good thing about Opportunity Zones, is that they transcend anything political.”
The city should select a Master Planner for the project this spring, and McGuire said the winning firm will likely have up to 18 months to come up with a plan.
The Navy will still have to complete the clean-up at Hensley Field.
The mayor, council members and the public will have a chance to weigh in.