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Dallas to build a new convention center and hopes to increase South Dallas access to downtown

Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.
Keren Carrión
Dallas plans to replace the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas.

Dallas City Council approved a $2 billion plan for a new convention center on Wednesday with a 14-1 vote. The plan calls for replacing the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center with an entirely new building west of Lamar Street.

It would make room for new parks where residents and tourists can explore and increase access to downtown from South Dallas.

“We are able to open up Northern downtown to South Dallas with a new deck park, with new potential for economic development, with thousands of jobs that are people desperately need,” said Council Member Omar Narvaez, who led the committee that came up with the plan.

He said a new convention center will transform downtown Dallas and attract new visitors.

Council Member Cara Mendelsohn was the sole opponent of the plan. She said city officials didn't complete their homework.

“We really don't know what's going to happen in the future with conventions. COVID has changed travel and changed entertainment. Convention centers across America weren't growing before COVID,” Mendelsohn said.

Mendelsohn said city officials still don’t know the full cost of the project. She wanted more time to explore other options for the existing center and look at the new plan's financial cost.

Officials who head event services in Dallas said the current convention center doesn’t have enough meeting rooms or kitchens for large events. The center also has leaky ceilings and broken elevators.

“This is a huge step for us to invest in a tool that will support economic development in our city,” Mayor Pro Temp Chad West said.

City leaders said most of the project will be funded by hotel taxes and state money.

The new building could be ready in five years.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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Alejandra Martinez is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). She's covering the impact of COVID-19 on underserved communities and the city of Dallas.