They took over a large room in the Agape Methodist Church on Columbia Ave. in East Dallas, set up easels, graphs, and maps of the area to let the neighborhood come see Sam’s last Thursday evening. Water and cookies were served. About 12 location residents wandered in, if that many. There were so few residents, there was no need to speak to the group. So Scott Dyche, general counsel for Trammell Crow (CBRE), Joel Behrens and others spent a lot of time on their feet just talking one on one, or one per groups of three.
Actually, of the 12 ish people there, one was a newbie reporter from the Dallas Morning News, and some were Oak Lawn/Uptown residents who came over to examine the development.
As you know, Trammell Crow Co. is about ready to build a shopping center anchored by a bix bog retailer, Sam’s Wholesale Club, on 17 acres just north of the Cityplace tower off North Central Expressway at Haskell Avenue. In fact, City of Dallas insider Wylie Dallas says they’ve started. This is a photo he (she) snapped:
The location is the former site of Affiliated Computer Services. It’s an area that has begun to really redevelop with quality, affordable apartments, condos and townhomes. Homeowners who have bought are concerned about the effect of a Sam’s Club on property values; when they bought their condos, they say, they didn’t expect a warehouse store in the neighborhood. Urban planners want to know why TC isn’t building the area out with multi-family mixed use (“as promised”) when a Dart station is nearby, especially with the name East Village attached to it. There are also concerns over added traffic to the area coming from customers and delivery trucks. Rezoning for the project was completed a year ago, and some say the city really screwed the neighborhood on this case. Approval by the Dallas Plan Commission is the last hurdle for TC; approval was postponed after residents showed up at last month’s City hall meeting and protested.
Most attending were against the Sam’s, but not all were. Others said if the Sam’s Club is built, there are things the developer could do to mitigate damage to the neighborhood.
Scott Dyche, general council for Trammell Crow, said he was going to say a few words, but actually never did, as he got caught up in one-on-one talks. The room almost felt like a mini-convention, with print-outs plastered on the blackboard at the Agape Church, downloaded examples of large retail stores designed to blend in to dense urban settings, urban-friendly Walmarts, similar to what I have been finding. These were brought in by the Oak Lawn contingent. Folks gathered at these print-outs, then wandered over to TC’s large renderings of the future site.
Dyche said Trammell Crow was proud of the project, and thinks in a few years the neighborhood will like it better than now. There was talk that one of the problems had been lack of any sort of neighborhood association or an Oak Cliff Council-type structure where the developer could have communicated more effectively. Dyche even said he hoped the situation could “turn into a positive for East Dallas, perhaps prompting a residents association.” There was talk of getting Trammell Crow to create a gathering room for the neighborhood within the new Sam’s Club. I pointed out the wonderful community rooms Whole Foods has provided in many neighborhood stores.
In fact, Dyche even said, “This is a great opportunity for East Dallas to organize.”
“The Sam’s is needed, we need the tax base,” said Earl Rector. “But we really wanted an urban center to bring more people in.”
One of the more interesting locals there was Bill Arnquist, an architect, who turned out to be a fountain of information. A Dallas native, he has lived in east Dallas for 35 years.
‘Since the PD for this development was approved by the CPC and City Council last May, I am not in opposition the Sam’s Club,” he told me. “I do, however, feel very strongly that the city should require the developer to provide a pedestrian / bicycle access from Carroll to Haskell on the East side of the site. They must be required to do something to make a viable connection for access to the DART station at Cityplace. This is completely consistent with the urban development goals of the city.”
I learned from Bill that Raymond Nasher started his real estate empire building family homes in the area, across Capital and North of Carroll. Some of those homes still exist. A 1954 map of the area shows a public golf course just north of where Sam’s will (maybe) be.
Anthony Johnson, who moved east of Central two years ago from Uptown, said “Lots of us in East Dallas were hoping we made a good bet.” Meaning, a bet on the value of their property going up. He worries the store will set up a permanent divide between the West Village and the planned East Village. That’s not what residents were promised, he said.
“Highway 75 should not be the Berlin Wall of East and West Dallas,” he said.
Trammell Crow representatives said they knew this meeting was hastily scheduled, they hope to reach more residents at a meeting scheduled for this Thursday, June 12 at 6:30 p.m. Dyche said they are going to send postcards to everyone living within 500 feet of the project notifying them of the meeting.
Multi-family living may still be coming to the area: there was talk that when Xerox picks up and moves in 3 to 4 years, their property would be a good fit for apartments or condos. Trammell Crow has the right of first refusal on that dirt.
Still, others said those apartments are a big fat “maybe”, and what was approved by the City was a gross error.
“This is Frisco South, not East Village, ” said Rob Phillips, heavily opposed to the development. He lives off Carroll Avenue and believes the development cuts off access to Haskell. He questions truck loading and unloading, ingress and egress. He thinks this is a public safety issue, as well.
“It takes me ten minutes to get out of my house (with current traffic),” he said, “now you lop on megastore traffic?”
He also thinks TC did not communicate the first few hearings well: “I read news reports for a mixed-use product. If I had seen 100,000 square feet big box, I would have gone to the meeting to protest.”
So I asked, what will you do if it goes up as planned?
“It will be something I have to live with,” said Rob, “And it may affect my property values.
Rob told me he loves living in East Dallas. He has a 4 year old car with 15,000 miles on it. He moved here to walk and walk he does, across Central to West Village for just about everything.
“Will this big box affect my quality of life, make my neighborhood tacky and dirty?” he asks. “My city let me down. They could have asked more questions. They are not acting in the spirit of being a steward for the community.”