Clarification: I SUPPORT Highland House in Preston Center Because Dang It, Dallas Needs to Grow Up

HH Aerial Preston CenterSo 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.

 

Highland House

 

13 Comment

  • Great perspective!

    Also, West Dallas welcomes higher density too. About 2,000 apartment units under construction or announced to start within the next year.

    • mm

      That’s a smart point, Cooper. A lot of underdeveloped neighborhoods could stand a luxury project like this one.

  • Can someone bulldoze all of Preston Center west while they are at it. There is never parking available at noon. Does anyone know the deficit the City of Dallas is currently holding? It is still like $75 million? Every dollar counts and this will be a good thing. I simply hope the Developer and contractors will stay OUT of the way of traffic along Northwest Highway and Preston Road and have ample retail and visitor parking.

    • John, Dallas has no budget deficit. Budget has to balance every year. What you are thinking of is what’s called the “Dallas Needs List.” It’s a gargantuan item-by-item, topic-by-topic, list organized by council district of every basic infrastructure item that has already been determined should be done but for which no money exists. We’re talking streets, sewers, flood control, sidewalks, fire stations, police stations, libraries, etc. Total is now well north of $3 billion. You can find it on the City of Dallas website.

  • Well said!!!

  • I’m not sure I completely agree. The problem with high-density buildings is that best case they are good for the first 10-15 years or so. After that they most often become dilapidated and lose pride of ownership. Take the Athena for example or as you mentioned the apartments around Swiss Avenue. The developers take their money and run, and the neighbors are left with what’s remaining.

    Specifically to Highland House, it’s not about the money or stifling development for UP residents. The the ripple effects from an already overcrowded of school system would be incredibly burdensome. Plus high end luxury apartments in HPISD have historically been failures (Highland gates at Katy Trail, The Shelton).

    Dallas, and Texas more broadly, I believe embrace development. The problem with these specific projects is the developers are trying to pour a gallon of water into a pint glass leaving the neighbors to deal with the overflow. All the neighbors want is for developers to develop within the zoning that is already in place. If they do, this we would welcome them with open arms.

    — read you blog everyday…. Keep up the good work.

    • Not exactly sure if you noticed but since Preston Center is so stagnant, no developer will develop “within the zoning that is already in place”.

      They are trying to build a high-density residential building, not a commercial medical building as it is currently zoned. And simply put, 9 stories doesn’t scream Dallas luxury, it will turn into another Shelton quickly because it doesn’t have its own presence. Also, 9 stories isn’t economically feasible for a developer in that area. With dirt that is so expensive plus the required upgrading of municipal hook-ups (water, gas, electric, sewer, etc), it just isn’t worth it unless you go up.

      If you want growth, don’t petition against the building; petition so they are required to set up a TIF District for Preston Center. That would force additional improvements be made in the area and would set up Preston Center for future upgrades.

  • Uh, I’ve lived in HP and Upper East Side NYC for years and there is no comparison. Who wants to pay $600/month to park their car in a garage 3 blocks away and $36k/yr to send one kid to decent school. Density is not as romantic as you think. At the meeting about this last night it was estimated this apartment complex will add over 600 kids to HPISD (more than 400 alone to Hyer elementary). Developers claimed no families want to move to HPISD and that no families will move into apartment. Yea, because we all know families hate to get into HP school distric. HPISD estimates the cost of a new elementary school at over $25 million, so maybe these developers will donated the 5-7 acres and $25 mil? Doubtful. The devlopers also claimed that the medical office has currently has 1,400 cars a day visiting and that apartment will only add 200 more cars/day. 1,400 cars is alot for building that holds one dentist. Independent study said dentist bldg gets roughly 140 cars/day and that apartment would add over 1,500 cars/day to Preston center. If everyone in Dallas gave up their car and sent their kids to private school, your Boston and NYC comparisons might make some sense. But I just don’t see it and I like Dallas much better than Boston/NYC.

    • mm

      You have struck a chord, Phillip: we sorely lack public transportation!

    • Your numbers are a little off.

      The “independent study” that was conducted was by a HP/UP mom who sat in the building and counted people entering at the front door. That study is a foot-traffic study, not a cars/day study.

      The number of children added to the school district by the building is estimated less that 250. This was stated by HPISD board members at the meeting last Tuesday.

      If you want the traffic in the area to improve, you need a larger taxable source to increase revenue to the area for improvements.

  • We live at the Shelton, and after reading your article last night, were talking about how most of the kids in the building have another parent that also lives in the district or the parents are looking for or building a house. It is a very transitory residence for people with children.

    You certainly know of what you speak. Oh, and If I could work on the roads around here myself, I would! Thanks for the clarification.

  • Candy – what a great persective and article.

    I knwo for some people it’s a strecth to imagine Dallas being like NYC, Boston, ect – but if we dont get more density we’ll never be liek those cities.

    And I for one would love to see most of the low rise parts of Preston Center razed and rebuilt with better parking, density, and residences.

    Id alos like to see hi-rise living and a hotel at Northpark, while were discussing,