Toll Brothers Returns to Oak Lawn Committee Bringing a High-Rise and Controversy

Exterior 1

Toll Brothers’ Latest Plan for 2728 Welborn

Before even entering last night’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting I knew it was gonna be spark-able.  See, I parked in back of the off-duty Dallas policewoman hired to keep the peace. We walked in together … my first armed escort (check that off the bucket list).

A typically packed agenda really revolved around a single issue … Toll Brothers’ plans for 2728 Welborn (yes, yes, two minutes were also spent on Reverchon Park’s baseball field turning 100). The site, south-ish and west-ish of Welborn and Congress, is just north of the Plaza high-rise condos.  The Toll Brothers project is slated for rental units.

About a year ago, this project, destined to be a high-rise, was knocked down by neighborhood pearl-clutching to a squatty, lump of a building. Well, destiny won.  A 21-story high-rise is now penned for the site that will include 271 units whose average size will be 938 square feet (63 larger than required).  It will contain a mix of one- and two-bedroom units with a smattering of penthouses and nine street-level townhomes.  Nearly a third will be two-bedroom units.  So far, there are four penthouses, but that may increase as the interior floor plates are fleshed out and if the market tells them the larger units would be leasable.

Nine Street-Level Walk-up Townhomes on Welborn Mask Garage from View

Nine Street-Level Walk-up Townhomes on Welborn Mask Garage from View

A hair more than required by zoning, the project will have 410 parking spaces for its 271 units. That should be enough interior parking to minimize guests and delivery/moving vans hogging up the streets.  While not completely underground, parking will be a three-above, two-below configuration.  They’ve also brought back their concept of tacking three-story walk-up units across the front to better match the existing residential streetscape (and cover up the parking).

Latest 2728 Welborn Site Plan

Latest 2728 Welborn Site Plan

The OLC had formed a sub-committee to work with Toll Brothers and Masterplan to devise a plan that addressed the neighborhood’s big-bucket problems and issues … which they appear to have done.  Additionally, there is street-widening space set aside and increased setbacks on all sides.  They’ve also shuffled the building near the center of the lot to keep its bulk equally away from the neighbors. They’re even burying the power lines.

Is it as tall as the neighboring Plaza?  They’re so close in height that it sounds like you’d need a carpenter’s level to call a winner.

Traffic was (of course) brought up.  Yes, 271 apartments will generate more traffic than the few condos that are there now. But the building is well-positioned between Maple, Oak Lawn, Cedar Springs, and Turtle Creek, which will quickly bleed off rush hour traffic. It won’t be the same, but the difference between what’s possible within zoning (216 units) and what’s being proposed (271 units) is relatively minor in the grand scheme.  The problem comes from people who don’t understand that there will be a new building on that land. The quibble is between “as-zoned” and “as-desired.”  It’s not between today’s traffic and developed traffic.  That ship has sailed.

At the end of Masterplan’s presentation, they went around the table taking questions.  Most were seeking clarification on some specific point, nothing terribly major.

Until the end…

After Masterplan had left and Mr. Reverchon spoke his piece about baseball fields, the lid blew off.

Two of the OLC members sitting at the table and who live within 200 feet of the Toll Brothers’ proposed development, launched into an attack on the plan and the OLC. They felt that the blob building returning to a high-rise was a betrayal.

One wanted to know why he wasn’t asked to be on the sub-committee (the sub-committee had two members who lived equally near and he was reminded that he wasn’t a member in good standing until he’d paid his dues that night).

They then wanted to know why Toll Brothers couldn’t wait for the Plan Commission and City Council to rule on their attempts to down-zone the area … not expected for at least a year.

Well, duh. First of all, the OLC has nothing to do with zoning, all they do is thumbs-up or thumbs-down proposals based on what’s best for the neighborhood balanced by current regulations. Secondly, coulda-woulda-shoulda … no one makes decisions on what may happen in the future.  Especially if it surrounds government.  You move forward based on what’s on the table today.

One sputtered that the protesters now had money to fight Toll Brothers. Certainly protesters have been aware of the high-rise’s return for a little while as it’s reported a spate of emails between chief protester and the OLC have been circulated. Expect rowdy Plan Commission and City Council meetings when this project goes on the docket.

Apparently those against the proposal also wanted Angela Hunt to speak to the OLC (Hunt was part of the group that got Plan Commission to study the down-zone potential of the area).  OLC said “no” because if they let Hunt in, they’d have to let everyone else in.

In the end, once the tirades were quelled, a vote was taken. The majority of OLC members present voted to support the current iteration of the Toll Brothers’ plan.

What do I think?

Tall buildings aren’t foreign to the area.  In my opinion, tall is preferable to short, hulking mass-type apartment blocks. Setbacks and street frontage matter because that’s what neighbors and passersby will mostly be looking at. Traffic will be worse, but realize there’s only so much one building can do to effect traffic improvements neighborhood-wide.

I like the new design better than the Plaza. It’s certainly more generous with glass.

Toll Brothers' Original "Chair" Design

Toll Brothers’ Original “Chair” Design

The current design is markedly better than the original “chair” design and the squatty, dense, blob.  Without seeing the individual unit plans, my biggest quibble is the balconies.  I know, I know, I’m a lone crusader for outdoor space in high-rises.  But I think they’re small, and worse, I don’t like the way they’re incorporated into the building versus cantilevered off the side.  Looking at the “chair” design, it appears to be a backtrack of that design’s more generous end-unit balconies.

Non-Penthouse Floor Plate

Non-Penthouse Floor Plate

You see, were I in one of those units (which are not voluminously spacious), I’d be constantly thinking, “If only the room in back of the balcony could be pushed out to “square” the unit, it would be so much better in here.”  I prefer the gracious high-rises with balconies that run the length of the unit. All I see for these balconies are a Dollar Store white plastic chair and a frozen basil plant studded with visitors’ cigarette butts.

Penthouse Level Floor Plate

Penthouse Level Floor Plate

The penthouse level will get those generous full-length balconies.  Why not the rest of the building?

Critically, I think neighbors within PD-193 should be taking a cold, hard look at their futures. If the down-zoners win, property will be worth less. If those owners ever entertained selling to a developer, now … right this second … is the time.  Not next week … not next month.  It takes time to get a deal together and it’ll likely be contingent on an approved plan. If your parcel is too small, start canvassing the immediate neighbors to assemble a build-able package.  Tick-tock. The value is yours to lose.

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a CandysDirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com.

3 Comment

  • The most frightening aspect of all of this in the extent to which the downzoners’ efforts rely on the person of Angela Hunt and her influence at city hall. She was asleep at the switch for eight years on the city council
    while the police and fire pension scandal metastasized and now seeks to burnish her financial Typhoid
    Mary credentials by wrecking property values in Oak Lawn. Mayor Rawlings seems genuinely chagrined by
    the financial mess the city is in and is trying to do the right thing under difficult circumstances. Others, apparently, have no conscience.

  • Last paragraph says it ALL…the times is a changin’
    It is sad but none of us live forever, take pride (and the cash payout) that you did it first! You lived the life back in the day….and really eventually there gets to be so many damn people the joys of yesteryear are already gone…the walks in the hood, the cool cafes and stores…all packed now

  • Thanks to the last paragraph, a lot of us are finally realizing the full impact of the plan commission’s seemingly innocuous decision to approve a future hearing. With no decision for two years at the earliest and the downzone threat depressing property prices generally, our properties have effectively been condemned without any recourse to a pricing mechanism to make ourselves whole. Great for the developers and downzoners while the individual property own faces a nightmare scenario.