Guest post by Claire Stanard
At the Town Hall meeting hosted by Jennifer Gates last week, I tried to explain in three minutes why I support Crosland Development’s Highland House project to the large group of neighbors gathered at Northway Christian Church. I was brief , out of respect for the imposed time limits, unlike former Mayor Laura Miller. I am an equally concerned neighbor who lives in the immediate area and have carefully researched the pros and cons of this proposed development.
I support Highland House because if we don’t let this project progress, the alternative will be far worse for Preston Center West traffic and congestion.
The alternative, which is readily available to any developer without any hearings by the zoning commission or any zoning variance, is a 66,000 sq. ft. office building of TEN stories – it can be built tomorrow and Laura Miller and the City Council cannot do one thing about it. They do not have that power. I believe too many people left that meeting with the assumption that the alternative was to deny Highland House and enjoy the same size structure as is presently on the property. That will not happen.
A 66,000 square foot new office building uses the calculation of one person/one car per 175 sq. feet in an office building. – that is 360 cars just for the workers driving in every morning and leaving every day. Then you add to that the clients, patients, deliveries, couriers going in and out of an office building every day — 66,000 square feet, not the size of the office building there now, with no loading dock provided for truck deliveries and no valet parking. You have a mess! But that is what we will, in my opinion, get if Crosland’s re-zoning is denied and the next buyer swoops in. If you think I’m wrong, consider the 180,000 square foot office park currently under construction down the street at the Chase Bank drive-through. We are potentially looking towards a total of 250,000 sq. feet of office space within one city block, with a total of 1,300 cars just for the people who work there. This will turn Preston Center into an ‘office park’ instead of the family friendly, multi-use center we desire.
An office is different than a luxury residence – they rely on clients and patients coming and going all day and NEVER seem to provide enough parking in their garages for visitors. In my opinion, we will have more traffic with a 66,000 square foot office building than 20 floors of apartment residences (five of the 26 floors are for screened parking, one floor for the lobby, with two more floors of parking underground). For each 1400 square feet of living space, you have one or two people and one or two cars.
The developer on this project, Luke Crosland, will likely NOT continue with development if he is required to lower the number of floors more than three stories less, which would make it equal to the other high rises already in Preston Center. Crosland cannot make the income stream work with too few apartments for investment return. The residences would make it a “living community” and attract a grocery store, perhaps delis, and make the western side of Preston center more like Preston Center East, where there are NO office buildings, only retail. That area is much easier to navigate. Apartments will lease for $4000 -$5000 per month, quite different from Transwestern’s model Behind the Pink Wall. These truly are luxury apartments; most owners will likely have second residences, will truly be empty nesters, and won’t be taking the cars out because the point of living in Preston Center is to walk to many amenities.
Also, Luke Crosland has owned the Berkshire Court building at the corner of Preston Road and Northwest Highway for 27 years, so he has a vested interest in the area. Preston Center is already a Planned Development and cannot and will not be re-zoned by the City Council. Other than the center parking deck owned by the City of Dallas, the remainder of Preston Center is privately owned. Trammel Crow recently acquired the entire block from Chipotle to Marshalls’, and will commence remodeling to their preference, as long as they are within the proximal slope requirements away from single family residences. The City of Dallas can do nothing.
I like Laura Miller, but I think she mislead citizens and neighbors by insinuating the Dallas City Council has control for the overall Preston Center plan. They do not have that power in a Planned Development with land titled in individual owners and family trusts names. They cannot re-zone it now. They must review each project on its own merit (“piecemeal”). No one seemed to understand that reality at the meeting the other night. I would have provided this information had I not been trying to respect the three-minute time limit, which Laura Miller did not.
In my opinion, a tall apartment residence in the center of Preston Center will create less traffic and congestion than another office building. Highland House will not be conducive to families with children, so the Highland Park School system need not worry. The only potential children who might live in this project would be children ALREADY in the system, living at Highland House during the year of renovation.
I think we need to realize this property is going to be sold and developed. I would far prefer a local developer with strong ties to the neighborhood who has a reputation for quality projects, who understands luxury real estate, and who has thought out a design that will keep as much traffic as possible off the streets, rather than adding to the congestion. I also think that Preston Center needs to be a mixed use development which will attract quality neighborhood retail properties, instead of just being one big office park with a booming lunch business.
Claire Wright Stanard