Dallas ISD squandered an opportunity to expand quality child care in southern Dallas because of shortsighted politics that maligned what could have been a great deal for Red Bird families.
Peter Brodsky, developer of the Reimagine RedBird mixed-use center, better known as the old Red Bird Mall, offered the district an opportunity to lease a 25,000-square-foot space for a child care center at no cost to taxpayers.
But DISD trustees repeatedly failed to meet to vote on the proposal, so Brodsky withdrew it.
Officials familiar with the matter told us that the school district could not afford to renovate the interiors of the space, so Brodsky proposed remodeling the 25,000 square feet on his own dime.
The deal was this: Whatever the district wanted to spend on remodeling, Brodsky’s company would pay up to a maximum of $9.8 million with the approval of the DISD board. Brodsky would then charge rent to recover the construction costs over time. The rental agreement would last 15 years with a renewal option.
Whether it was rent free, as Brodsky originally proposed, or whether the rental fee covered the cost of construction, there was no profit built into the deal.
The proposed center would have been on the second floor of the redeveloped mall on the site, with easy outside access for drop-offs and pick-ups. It included plans for a playground. Dallas ISD officials seriously considered this idea; staff went out to the development to select a space and spent time negotiating a lease for the agreement.
But trustee Joyce Foreman, who represents the area, repeatedly lobbied staff and outgoing Superintendent Michael Hinojosa to delay putting the lease on the Board of Trustees agenda, according to officials familiar with the matter.
Meanwhile, Foreman made public statements that distorted the proposed deal. She suggested it would hand millions of dollars to Brodsky’s company without clarifying that the cost the district would pay was in return for Brodsky fronting the construction expenses. In a Facebook post in May, Foreman said the district was handing Brodsky $9 million and that the result “could put some Black businesses out of business.”
“This is why I get angry with Dallas ISD,” she wrote. “Throwing away taxpayer money on their friends.”
We contacted Foreman, but she did not respond to a request for comment beyond asking about our sources.
In June, a discussion and vote about Brodsky’s deal was delayed for the sixth time, and his company withdrew the offer. In our view, the deal was dead long before that date.
The proposal may not have been perfect. But from the outside looking in, it was a good deal for the district and for Red Bird residents. It would have provided a large, newly renovated space with high-quality, low-cost child care and pre-kindergarten in a place that is becoming a jobs center for the area.
At the very least, it deserved to be considered by the full Dallas ISD Board of Trustees with debate in the light of day.
It didn’t get that. And from all we know, it appears it didn’t get that because one trustee decided that the deal wasn’t the one she wanted.
That’s not how governing should be done in Dallas. It won’t lead to the best outcomes for the people who most need government to work.
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