So a few people have misunderstood my post last week, “How To Fight Growth in Your City, Start a Petition Drive”. I was being sarcastic, folks. What I was trying to say was that we have to stop fighting growth and development in our “in-circle” neighborhoods — to borrow a Neiman Marcus term, IF we want Dallas to grow as a city, improve infrastructure, and quit leaning on homeowners so dang much for revenue. Why are we even wasting time, money and energy trying to drum up newcomers to Texas when we won’t house them? No one in Dallas, it seems, wants any change in their neighborhood!
We have become NEUROTIC NIMBYS!
I was at the Swiss Avenue Historic District Mother’s Day Home Tour this past weekend, what a fabulous home tour — so well organized, such amazing properties. We are fortunate to have these homes, some of the finest examples of early 20th Century architecture in the country. They are beautifully maintained, regal and proportioned. We know that in the 1960’s, Dallas made some huge zoning boo boo’s when it allowed the homes on Gaston, etc., to be razed and replaced with apartments. Hate to say it, but crappy apartments. Stick apartment buildings. Those apartments are what still scare some people from buying on Swiss Avenue to this day. You know what I think?
I think Dallas has apartment phobia!
Case in point: last week, Provident Realty got the go-ahead from the City Plan Commission to proceed (pending City Council approval) with building a 250-ish high end apartment development on Cole Street, on the Katy trail, that was vehemently opposed by the town of Highland Park because, they said, a new, larger complex would negatively impact a tiny park called Abbott Park, and by the Friends of the Katy Trail. The Friends had apartment phobia: they said the seven story complex would be too tall, to0 dense, and the height and 90-foot building was too close to the Katy for comfort.
But there’s the deal: it seems like the only part of town interested in the city’s master vision of a denser, more urban Dallas, is Uptown. Uptown is also sending more tax revenue to City Hall than the CBD. Developers try to get some high density development in other areas, the neighborhoods slaughter it.
People, this is different. Have you never seen Beacon Hill in Boston, Georgetown in D.C., the Upper East Side of New York City? How about Park Avenue across from Central Park?
Recall when the M Street neighborhoods opposed the DART rail line, initially petitioning for a DART station after its completion. That same neighborhood opposes the rezoning of a 7 acre site north of Glencoe Park where a developer hoped to deliver a $50 million luxury urban apartment project. The ugly (sorry) apartments there now, bordering Central Expressway, are on the tax roles now at $5 million. $5 million versus $50 million? What is wrong with people?
“Every time a developer wants to deliver that vision requiring an up zoning, residents from parts unknown come out of the woodwork to oppose, and immediately the rezone loses support of the district council member,” a major Dallas developer tells me. “It effectively kills the deal.”
We continue to think, in Dallas, that density equals destruction. And that developers are the bad guys. Again, let’s look at Swiss Avenue while it is fresh on my mind: Munger Place was developed by a DEVELOPER who had vision, like so many do today. He believed in quality construction, some ground rules, zoning, building restrictions. In other words, planning. And he must have believed in public transportation because at one time, there was a trolley to downtown.
Look at that photo above. That is Preston Center. Does that look like a residential neighborhood? Preston Center is a depot of Dallas, a hitching post that evolved into a few stores — remember Sanger Harris? –then two story strip malls then a few office towers and then more. There was no plan, not really. There is one luxury high rise, the Shelton, only one and that is ridiculous. There’s definitely room for more and Highland House won’t overcrowd the area with people or traffic. In fact, it will have LESS impact than an office building under current zoning would. It won’t add a slew of kids to the HPISD. At the most, it would be 4 children per grade class. 79% of Park Cities’ school enrollment comes from the sale of single family homes. If a family is leasing at Highland House because, say, they are building a home or perhaps a divorce is pending and they want the child in the same school, that child is already enrolled in the district.
The fact is, people are coming here. And we have to stop this NIMBY behavior before we shoot ourselves in the foot. Preston Center needs help. Our infrastructure needs help. Streets so bumpy your car needs alignment? Might be nice to have some tax revenue to repair them. Highland House will deliver $2.43 million in real estate taxes A YEAR. The current medical office building structure at 8215 Westchester was built in 1956. It feeds $68,000 in property taxes. The new Highland House will feed approximately $1.8 million. So if you don’t like traffic, pitted-out streets, and poor drainage, guess how you fix that? With money. If it doesn’t come from new development, it’s going to come from the homeowners. I support Highland House.