At a gathering of local business owners in Deep Ellum, the president of the Deep Ellum Foundation expressed opposition to a dubious development proposal connected to a state senator’s son.

Recently, Texas Scorecard reported on the proposal involving I-345, a stretch of highway constructed in 1973 that has been blamed for the decades-long economic downturn of the Deep Ellum area. Coalition for a New Dallas, a political and social think-tank led by former D Magazine publisher Wick Allison, has proposed tearing down the miles of expressway entirely, replacing it with boulevards, and transforming the area for mixed-use development.

Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate and Texas State Sen. Royce West (D–DeSoto), who has recently become mired in allegations of becoming wealthy through government contracts, has publicly opposed this proposal.

Roddrick West, his son, has proposed building soccer fields beneath I-345 instead.

“As far as I understand, they would still like to do the soccer field,” replied Deep Ellum Foundation President Jonathon Hetzel to a question from a local business owner at a gathering of other local owners on Tuesday. “We prefer that they do another parking lot for the neighborhood, which has generally been our position.”

DEF is a nonprofit whose stated mission is “to enhance, improve, and market the neighborhood as a whole.”

“We also want to make sure that soccer fields don’t include any [obstacles] to 345 potentially coming down in the future,” Hetzel added.

When questioned about the concerns with West’s proposal, Hetzel reiterated the need for parking and expressed concerns he’s heard from others.

“You can’t do neighborhood parking there if there are soccer fields there,” he said.  “Some people are worried about environmental concerns, breathing in the fumes from the cars as they’re exercising.”

Hetzel also voiced the neighborhood’s opinion on the long-term nature of the soccer field proposal.

“I don’t love that it’s being talked about as a 25-year lease agreement, when a lot of people in the neighborhood would like to see that highway go away in less time than that.”

Texas Scorecard has reached out to Roddrick West, who originally agreed to an interview but has since not responded to numerous follow-up attempts. Hetzel confirmed that West did meet with DEF to discuss his controversial plan.

For now, the project appears to be “stuck in attorney land,” according to DEF Executive Director Stephanie Keller Hudiburg.

Information in this article has been updated since publication. 

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.