The 2001 selection by aircraft maker Boeing of Chicago instead of Dallas as a new corporate headquarters helped spark changes that make North Texas more competitive today for Amazon’s HQ2.
North Texas is one of 20 finalist regions under consideration by Seattle based Amazon for a second headquarters that could include up to 50,000 well paid employees.
The Dallas Arts District now has several venues that did not exist in 2001 when Boeing cited a lack of cultural facilities as a mark against North Texas.
The Arts District was an attraction for spring break families taking photos Monday, including Tina Sheckel visiting from Allen with her daughters.
“It definitely has turned around,” she said. “Everything is growing down here and it’s getting a lot more exciting to find things to do and explore.”
Photographer Jerry Walker selected the garden outside the Winspear Opera House as a venue for senior photos of student Cori Yancy. Walker said he would never have considered the area in 2001.
“No absolutely not. None of this was even here about 10 years ago, but it is very beautiful and it’s grown so much,” Walker said.
AT&T Performing Arts Center executive Chris Heinbaugh arrived in Dallas as a TV reporter in 2000. He served as Chief of Staff in the Dallas Mayor’s office from 2007 to 2011.
“Losing Boeing was a wake-up call for Dallas because we realized, if we didn’t turn our Downtown around, we were going the way of Detroit,” Heinbaugh said. “That lit a fire under our fundraisers and under the community to get this done.”
Other Downtown Dallas improvements include Klyde Warren Park and the Perot Museum.
Thousands more residents now live downtown in new residential units constructed since 2001.
A potential Boeing headquarters site mentioned in 2001 was in Irving’s Las Colinas. It was passed over for a high rise in downtown Chicago on the Chicago River. Boeing at the time said it preferred the vibrancy and public transportation in Chicago.
In Irving, the Toyota Music Factory project recently opened with restaurants and office space. A new Las Colinas development called Water Street features new stores and apartments. Many large apartment complexes have been constructed in Las Colinas in recent years beside a DART Rail line that connects Downtown Dallas with DFW Airport.
Despite turning away from North Texas for a headquarters in 2001, Boeing opened a smaller office in Plano last year at the Legacy West development near Toyota’s North American headquarters. The Plano development is another of the newer North Texas neighborhoods offering live, work and play options.
“We’ve had tons of businesses move here, not only to Dallas but to North Texas, because of that,” Heinbaugh said.
Some taxpayers are concerned that enthusiasm for attracting Amazon will lead to excessive incentives that compromise services for existing residents.
An online petition had more than 15,000 signatures Monday asking finalist cities to accept a “non-aggression” pact that rejects egregious tax giveaways.
The petition was started by Richard Florida, a University of Toronto professor who recently led a Dallas City Council planning retreat.
Downtown Dallas City Councilman Philip Kingston has signed the petition.
“It’s always a matter of doing it the right way,” Kingston said. “Dallas could be a wonderful partner for Amazon if Amazon will be a wonderful partner for Dallas.”
Amazon has confirmed that company representatives are visiting all 20 finalist regions. It has not provided further details about when and how a selection will be made.
"I think they would do very well here," Photographer Jerry Walker said.