Braniff, Love Field and why a guy seems so impatient to sell out

Over the past few years, there have been competing attempts to make use of the old Braniff Operations property at Love Field Airport in Dallas.  Watching this unfold has, at the least, provided some amusement and at other times, an education in how a city can truly work against its citizens interests.

At the forefront of this mess is an Aviation Director at Love Field Airport named Mark Deubner.

Deubner started off wanting to destroy the Braniff building in favor of letting car lots take over the remaining portion of Lemmon Avenue.  If you detect sarcasm, you would be right.  However, the more disturbing part of this statement is that it is far closer to the truth than anyone would like.

As a citizen of the Greater Dallas Area, I can assure you that the last thing Lemmon Avenue needs is another car lot.

When Deubner began his merry march of mayhem, along came another group who decided to put together a comprehensive plan for the property that included reuse of the original structure and a purpose that didn’t include a car lot.   This group was the Flying Crown Land Group.

That plan kind of attracted me and they actually got me to write in favor of the idea by, oddly enough, convincing me of a few things:

  • They appeared to actually understand the building.
  • They appeared to actually understand the neighborhood and airport.
  • They were interested in both preserving the building as well as putting it in use for something other than a car lot.
  • Their plan contained a hell of a lot of more proposed detail than most.

It was that last part that, I thought, was kind of important.

But Mr. Deubner thought that it would be better to have a Car  Mogul involved if he didn’t get his way in simply destroying the property.  Enter Randall Reed, Car Mogul.  Mr. Reed wanted to build

. . . wait for it . . .

A car lot.  And a plane lot too, if we’re to be honest.

Mr. Deubner has ever since rode the Reed Train and rather blatantly, I think.  Reed’s proposal wasn’t without merit and certainly with two competing ideas for the property, there was the basis of a sound discussion on what might most appropriately fit the needs of the city.

Now, I would like to point out that what’s good for the City of Dallas, isn’t necessarily good for Randall Reed (or even Flying Crown Land Group) and that means we (the Greater Area) should engage in a discussion about what to do about a stretch of land along Lemmon Avenue that can either A) be a nice place or B) a giant car dealership.

In the process of examining what to do with this building, folks went out and got it designated a historical landmark due to its exceptionally well preserved architecture and architectural provenance.  Turns out the FAA and the Texas Historical Commission liked the building so much, it really wasn’t hard to turn it into a landmark at all.  Frankly, the whole designation went down so fast that I was a bit shocked.

So now we have a worthy landmark that can be renovated into a new purpose which will offer a building that is consistent with an airport, a purpose that might not be a car lot and which can be an asset to the neighborhood.

At one point, Reed and Flying Crown even got together and worked on a plan that was going to include a car lot but it was also going to provide a lot more.  That wasn’t the most desirable outcome from my perspective but . . . it was a worthy compromise.

But Mr. Reed pulled out, appears to have wrapped up all the great parts of the Flying Crown Land Group Proposal and went to work on doing this on their own.  At least that’s the accusation and there is a lawsuit going on over this.  That’s important and we’ll tell you why in a moment.

Now Mr. Deubner is working over time to get this on a City Council agenda to approve rent abatement for the Reed Plan as the only viable plan to look at.

I have a big problem with that.  First, there have been several viable plans offered over the past few years now.  These nominally viable plans indicate that there is a conversation worth having.  Indeed, there might be some competition to re-develop this property and I am told that competition is good.

Second, there is too much desire to just “push this through”.  When someone just wants to make something happen like Mr. Deubner does, I do wonder what he gets from this.  As many would ask . . . “What’s the incredible hurry?”

Third, why is it necessary to support neighborhood meetings for Mr. Reed that go without notice being made to stakeholders who are supposed to be notified of such things?  That feels manipulative  to me, at the least.

City government is supposed to be to the benefit of the city.  The city is more than 1 million residents.  The greater Dallas area is closer to 3 million residents.

It just flat out bothers me that Mr. Reed’s current offering intends a $17 million investment (this screams “car lot” to me) in return for $11 million in rent abatement.

Say what?  That doesn’t feel like a very good deal for the city.  It doesn’t feel like a great opportunity for citizens.

Flying Crown Land Group has a pretty interesting plan as well that involves greater investment in the property, more adaptive reuse of the property “as is” and appears to be as viable if not more viable than the Reed Plan in that it offers more detail and less “if come” promise.

Wouldn’t you like to see that discussed as an option before the city gives up $11.5 million in rent for a promise?

What should you do?  Shout.

Go to the City of Dallas Council meeting on August 26th at 9:00am and protest a rubber stamp of a plan that is fundamentally based on promise and what could be “copied” from another group.  Ask for an open competition that is based on facts and numbers rather than promises.  The city and even Mr. Deubner have a fiduciary responsibility to act in the interests of the city rather than a car lot.

And save a nice building.  That building is attractive and that property could certainly serve greater and more appropriate uses than a “car lot”.

For more information, visit these websites:

Save Braniff

Flying Crown Land Group


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