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Two minority-led firms to oversee major Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center renovations

The Dallas skyline as seen from city hall Wednesday, Aug 16, 2023, in Dallas.
Yfat Yossifor
The council voted unanimously to grant the contracts to two women of color led construction firms. The firms will oversee renovations of the Dallas Memorial Arena and The Black Academy of Arts and Letters.

The Dallas City Council unanimously voted to grant two large contracts for work on the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center to two Black or women led construction firms.

The decision came after a cast of supporters showed up to City Hall to advocate for the two companies — including Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

Washington D.C. based firm McKissack and McKissack was awarded a nearly $8 million dollar contract to manage the renovations to the Dallas Memorial Arena. The firm is led by President and Chief Executive Officer Deryl McKissack.

“My lineage traces back five generations to my great-great grandfather who was brought to this country as a slave,” McKissack said during Wednesday’s meeting. “And in 1912 my great uncle…opened his doors here in Dallas as an architect. So today, I am a testament to the American dream.”

The arena is within the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and houses the Dallas Memorial Auditorium.

Dallas-based Dikita Enterprises Inc. will manage the renovation and reconstruction of The Black Academy of Arts and Letters. Dikita was founded by Lucious Williams — who now serves as chairman of the company’s board — and has been in Dallas since 1983. The company is run by Eveleyn Williams now.

“Dikita is a local firm and we have a tremendous amount of experience in project management,” Williams said during the meeting. “We are passionate, especially, about this project because of the impact that it has had on the community.”

The Black Academy of Arts and Letters has existed in some form — and by other names — since the late 1800s. The mission of the organization has been the empowerment of the Black community through access to art, theater and other culturally important history.

The current iteration of the academy was founded by Curtis King in 1977 and has been a pivotal cultural icon in Dallas.

A 1979 pamphlet about the center describes its primary goals and objects as “to stimulate the awareness of Black accomplishment” and to “honor those who have made significant and continuing contributions in the arts and letters of the past and present.”

“Curtis King and his work deserves all of our efforts because he has had to stand and fight many, many years for that program,” Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold said during the meeting. "To showcase talent that is very deserving to be showcased in this city.”

Both contracts were approved unanimously by the council. Members took turns addressing the significance of having two minority led firms lead some of the renovations at the convention center.

“I am more than honored that we have an opportunity for this story to be shared with the public…shared within the halls of City Hall,” Arnold said. “We have always been in the space, but we have never had the opportunity as we have had now…to be a major player in major projects.”

Arnold represents parts of southern Dallas in District 4.

“Dallas we should be very proud today of this story,” Arnold said. “Its saying that we are not just talking about equity, we are walking it.”

District 7 Council Member Adam Bazaldua said at a time when state legislators are trying to remove diversity protections — its crucial that Dallas stays true to it’s equity pledge.

“I think it’s important to highlight its even more of a milestone to be a city that stands on something,” Bazaldua said. “These values that we stand on is promoting inclusivity.”

The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center project is estimated to cost around $2 billion dollars in total. Dallas voters approved a bond to fund parts of the project in 2022.

Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at You can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathannotforyou.

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Nathan Collins is the Dallas Accountability Reporter for KERA. Collins joined the station after receiving his master’s degree in Investigative Journalism from Arizona State University. Prior to becoming a journalist, he was a professional musician.