July 8, 2009
UNIVERSITY PARK — In a vote Tuesday evening, the City of University Park finalized Southern Methodist University’s purchase of Potomac Park, an undeveloped greenbelt located between Potomac Avenue and Park Cities Plaza, and a group of nearby streets, alleys and utility easements.
The purchase will enable the University to move forward with plans to build new student housing, a key academic building and facilities for student activities, while providing the City with funds for park improvements and future needs.
The agreement comes after one of the largest election turnouts in University Park history, when more than 80 percent of voters in May 2007 authorized the City to sell the three-quarters-acre park to SMU.
"Our almost 100-year partnership with the residents of University Park helped make this possible," said SMU President R. Gerald Turner. "This is another in a long history of mutually beneficial agreements between our City and our University."
UP Mayor James "Blackie" Holmes echoed those sentiments. "I commend SMU for working with the City to fashion what is a reasoned and equitable agreement that will positively impact both our residents and the campus community for years to come," he said.
Both President Turner and Mayor Holmes praised the process followed by the City and SMU to reach the price of $62.63 per square foot. The two entities had agreed to use an average of two independently obtained appraisals as the purchase price, which totaled about $2.2 million for the park land. In addition, SMU will pay the City about $15.9 million for portions of several streets, alleys and utility easements on the north and east sides of campus, all of which are surrounded by, or are adjacent to, existing University property.
The purchase of the additional land will provide SMU with much-needed contiguous property, allowing for future development and making more efficient use of campus land. For example, some of the acquired alleyways will facilitate construction of the new Annette Caldwell Simmons Hall, home of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development.
Mayor Holmes said the $2.2 million generated by the sale of Potomac Park would be used only for park improvements. The City Council has indicated the money will be allocated for improvements at Coffee Park, the swimming pool at Curtis Park and for a playground adjacent to the new booster pump station at Germany Park.
The $15.9 million proceeds from the sale of easements and rights-of-way will be held in a special reserve in the City’s General Fund. "Any future use of those funds will be subject to careful and prudent review," Holmes said.
The City Council’s approval involved a series of related ordinances and resolutions that include approval of the land sale, allocation of the Potomac Park proceeds and the guidelines for any future allocation of funds resulting from the sale of easements and rights-of-way, as well as previously agreed to in-lieu tax payments.
A private university located in the heart of Dallas, SMU is building on the vision of its founders, who imagined a distinguished center for learning emerging from the spirit of the city. Today, 11,000 students benefit from the national opportunities and international reach afforded by the quality of SMU’s seven degree-granting schools.
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