City Plan Commission Gives Go-Ahead to Zoning Plan for Saltillo Apartments on Cole While Tornado Sirens Screech

0509saltillorenderingThis was a surprise, because the developers, Provident, had it coming from two sides.

The town of Highland Park opposed re-zoning for the new 250-ish apartment development because they said a new, larger complex would negatively impact a tiny park called Abbott Park.

Um, from the looks of the existing apartments, which lease for $900 to $1200 a month, they had way more to worry about with the current structure.

Then the Friends of the Katy Trail opposed the new development. They said it was too tall, to0 dense, and the height and 90-foot building was too close to the Katy for comfort.

But the folks at the Oak Lawn Committee prevailed.

“There’s been lots of misinformation about this project, ” says Brenda Marks, president of the Oak Lawn Committee (OLC). “Most of it came from Highland Park.”

First of all, the Oak Lawn Committee is an action group formed back in 1985 the day after Trammell Crow tore down the Esquire Theater at 3415 Oak Lawn. If you walk into Eatzie’s, you are walking where the old Hoblitzelle-owned theater once stood. Oak Lawn was our first neighborhood in Dallas. I have always wondered why there were no movie theaters there — now I know.Esquire Theater

These guys are the original protectors of the Oak Lawn PD 193, which guides Oak Lawn development. The OLD fosters rows of trees,  small streets, maintains the personality of Oak Lawn. The OLC is likely one of the reasons why Oak lawn is still one of the hottest neighborhoods and tax revenue producing areas in Dallas.

Crunchy and green are they, but the OLC folks wanted this development to happen, had in fact been working for re-development of the sorry existing apartments since 2005.

The first plan was for a St. Regis Hotel and condominiums at the Katy Trail and Cedar Springs, which was way-laid when the “biggest recession since the Great depression” gripped the real estate market.

But the OLC liked Provident’s plan for 250 units even better than the St. Regis.

“This one has what we believe is good density development,” says Brenda. “It’s on the trail, near major transportation corridors, near the vibrant Knox Henderson retail, and very walkable.”

The 85 feet in height is not all of the building, says Brenda, but rather it stairsteps up from the trail. The tallest portion will be seven stories. There is a nice green space as buffer before the Trail.

So Thursday Brenda told the Dallas Plan Commission, whose staff had already decided against the new zoning, that there are a lot of misunderstandings about the OLC and its mission to protect PD 193.

She pointed out that Plan staff’s denial of the project, claiming it did NOT protect PD 193, were off target. OLC mission criteria (#3) “encourages placement of off-street parking underground or within buildings similar in appearance to non-parking buildings.”

“Strange,” said Brenda, “because Provident’s proposal puts all of the parking underground.  Something that is an enormous benefit for the community.”

Saltillo Apts on ColeThen she let the 800 pound gorilla out of the cage.

“It’s my belief that the denial is rooted in outside interests — those of the Town of Highland Park,” she said. ” I am not tone deaf to the feelings of our neighbors to the north.  But neither do I believe its opposition is rooted in anything other than NIMBY — Not in my Backyard and its fear that someone might look in its backyard. There’s a reason Highland Park is commonly referred to as the Bubble – it’s an enclave of the sheltered 1%.  It doesn’t have to confront the issues that Dallas does.  And it’s offended when Dallas’s issues encroach.  Yet it loves to take advantage of the pretty things it likes about Dallas – including the Katy Trail.”

Whoa. Then about this time the tornado sirens went off.

Highland Park’s main beef had been that nothing on the trail should be more than two stories tall. HP Mayor Joel Williams spoke, said the town isn’t opposed to development, but his council passed a resolution last fall saying the building would infringe upon residents’ privacy, especially at Abbott Park.

Then a rep from Friends of the Katy Trail also spoke, also against the project. Their beef: that running and biking path turns into a canyon lined with towers.

But Paul Ridley, a Dallas plan commissioner, delivered an eloquent statement as to why he was supporting the project despite his staff’s recommendations. He framed the vote as a choice between embracing the future of the city and high-density development or remaining “mired in the past with two- and three-story buildings” then losing people to the suburbs.

He said he favored the former.

Interestingly, the vote was near unanimous save for one nay, and that came from Lee Kleinman’s plan commission rep, Jaynie Schultz.  Which is interesting to note after all the ruckus Laura Miller and Mitchell Rasansky stirred up a few weeks ago over the Transwestern deal behind the Pink Wall. Next the zoning decision goes to the Dallas City Council. Fasten your seatbelts, folks, it’s going to be a bumpy spring and summer.

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