Battle Behind the Pink Wall: Traffic Concerns, Heavy-Hitter Signatures, No Help from District 13's Jennifer Staubach Gates

Landscape site plan Preston and Northwest HighwayThings are heating up in the battle behind The Pink Wall, where Transwestern wants to re-develop approximately 3 acres smack at the intersection of Preston and Northwest Highway. The Change.org petition the Preston Hollow East Home Owner’s Association drafted last weekend against the project already has 587 signatures, which the HOA hopes to top off at 1,000 by the weekend. The neighborhood of approximately 1100 homes will then take this petition to the Dallas Planning Commission and the Dallas City Council.

They are also planning a public rally at 2 o’clock p.m. on February 22,  at the Preston Hollow Park.

Property owners who live in single family homes directly behind this stretch of multi-family zoned living known as “Behind the Pink Wall” are extremely concerned over the increased density the $80 to $100 million Transwestern development will bring to their neighborhood.

“Traffic is like water – it takes the path of least resistance,” says Steve Collins, a leading real estate agent with Dave Perry Miller who has become the point man on this for the neighborhood.  “Traffic flowing out of that development will not be able to turn south onto Preston Road at most hours of the day. They will go north on Preston to find a straight shot to Hillcrest — paths of least resistance are Northwood and Deloache.”

Steve and his neighbors believe the increased density from the development will force more vehicles, some reckless, down their leafy, residential streets. This is something they know all too well.

“It’s already bad. One of my neighbors on DeLoach has picked up 2 dead dogs out of the street,” he says. “The traffic is a basic element of our opposition.”

But that’s not all: many of the residents here vigorously supported District 13 Dallas City Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates, who has recused herself from the entire re-development issue, because her husband, John Gates, is president of national real estate services for the company brokering the deal for Transwestern, Jones Lang LaSalle.

Residents tell me that while they understand Gates’ dilemma, it is disappointing to have their advocate on the Dallas City Council sitting this one out.

District 11 City Councilman Lee Kleinman is representing the homeowner’s interests in Gates’ place. Residents say they are having a tough time reading his take.

“They (the PHEHA) asked Lee Kleinman if he would support their position,  he would not give a straight answer,” says Ashley Parks, president of the PHEHA, who also lives on Del Norte at Preston Road, directly behind the proposed developed. Her pool is to the north of the proposed park. “He keeps saying, you have to find a middle ground. There is no middle ground. Show us plans within the current zoning, that’s middle ground. We will have one thousand signatures behind us.”

Among some of those heavy duty signatures: Howard Rachofsky, Gabrielle and Anne Barbier-Mueller, EyeMart Express founder H. Doug Barnes (who owns a 21,000 square foot mega mansion off Douglas) Baxter Brinkman (who owns two estates), John Houston, Roger Horchow and (moments ago) Fred Baron’s widow Lisa Blue. The PHEHA extends from Hillcrest all the way to the Dallas North Tollway, but homeowners from the ’50’s ranches on Northwood to the tree canopied and creek-lined estates of the Old Preston Hollow honeypot are concerned this development could open a Pandora’s box of multi-family or even mixed use development right behind their homes and mansions, if that zoning change goes through.

About the proposed development: Transwestern is a high end national real estate developer. They develop industrial, retail, multifamily and healthcare properties but do not develop or build condos. Other projects by the company include the Villa Rosa on Cedar Springs, and Vitruvian Park, a 120 acre apartment property in Addison north of Brookhaven Country Club. The company is also working on a vertical project in San Francisco’s Mission Bay.

“This is a collaborative process,” Mark M. Cullwell, Jr., Managing Director of  Development told me. “We want to learn what the neighborhood concerns are first.”

Cullwell believes there is a super strong market for luxury apartment living right at the intersection of Preston and Northwest Highway. The proposed Transwestern development will be about 300 units of high quality finish-out with condo-quality features including stone courtyards, granite countertops, 42-inch cabinets, stainless appliances, ceramic tile bathrooms, hardwood floors, high-end plumbing fixtures and free-standing showers. The rent for the smallest unit will start at $2,000 per month, upwards to $5,000 because the developer plans to make the units larger than the average apartment. All parking will be underground, which is expensive excavation, and each unit will get one parking space per bedroom. No parking on the street, says Culwell. The project closest to the single family homes will be of three-story height, which is within the current MF1 zoning. It will rise from three to four stories to eight right at the corner of Northwest Highway and Preston Road where a two story, 24-unit apartment building (of at least three different exterior surfaces) currently exists. That building has been a thorn to many  homeowners “Behind the Pink Wall” for years. The corner is where Transwestern wants to go up to 8 feet of vertical living. Luxury vertical living.

“The apartment world has changed in the last ten years,” says Culwell, “the economics simply demand a higher end finish.”

Conventional real estate wisdom is that when you rent, you throw away equity in a home. Culwell says the clients of his end product see it differently.

“They think we are throwing away freedom by owning.”

Now it’s the home owners surrounding the proposed Pink Wall development who are gearing for battle.

“We recognize it might be time for something else to appear on the landscape,” says Steve Collins. “But their desire for 296 units is wildly excessive, the height is wildly excessive, and the traffic they will create by adding 500 cars into our current traffic mix is completely exorbitant.”

As a result, the homeowners oppose the proposal on its face. They do not oppose a development that would adhere to or conform to current height and density restrictions as defined by MF1 zoning: three stories of multi-family living.

A fabulous product model for what could be done in the three Town House Row acres is The Edgemere on the Parkway, at the northwest corner of Edgemere and Northwest Highway, says Collins. In terms of market value, the units are at about $500,000 to $750,000. Edelman’s Drexel was built as owner-occupied condos, but filled up with tenants during the recession when they were tough to sell. Collins says they are now beginning to move and move quickly: a colleague recently sold one in a day.

“The Edgemere is an attractive owner-occupied building,” says Steve. “We also have grave concerns over the tenant aspect of the proposed development.”

More conventional real estate thinking: tenants do not have a vested interest in the greater neighborhood. Their desire for mobility makes them come and go, not care as much about the environment.

“We have families, children, pets and people who like to walk (and run) these quiet streets,” says Collins. “The influx of traffic generated by this proposed development will be completely unbearable.”

Pink Wall townhouse row1 (5)Does anyone think it’s bearable? Pamela Smith does, and thinks Transwestern has the best proposal. Someone else, she says, might build ugly. The owners of the 12 townhouses that make up the Town House Row Townhomes, valued at about $350,000, are definitely pro. Of the 12 units, three are rentals, the others owner-occupied. And I guess the owners of the 24-unit apartment building finally want to sell out. The townhomes rarely come on the market, but two sold about this time last year, one at 2306 square feet that closed February 5, 2013 for $325,000, another one at 2300 square feet sold for $ 348,500 on Jan 7, 2013. Could be some of the owners “Behind the Pink Wall” are motivated by the profit potential a re-zoning could bring. What if other complexes are bought up for multi-family high rises– as I have disclosed, I am an owner in one such complex. I’d love to sell a two bedroom condo that I inherited for a tidy sum, go invest in a second home beach condo. That’s the stuff that real estate dreams are made of!

Guess who owns property on Northwest Highway between Ebby Halliday Realtors and the Northwest Bible Church: Mark Cuban.

Homeowners tell me that Transwestern’s mission is to build the gorgeous new complex, lease it and then sell it off. For a profit. Ultimately it could end up in a REIT or as a pension fund asset in a portfolio, such as the Dallas Police and Fireman’s But the odds of the ownership remaining local like that are slim to none.

That, too, is the way the real estate game is played.

“We don’t want the view from our backyards to ultimately be high rise apartments,” said Ashley Parks. “This is not just about property values… and it’s not that we don’t want change. I have received more than 600 emails against this. You can’t build a McMansion in the M Streets — I see this as the very same principle here in Preston Hollow.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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