Like I told you yesterday, it was showtime down at City Hall for Provident Realty Advisors’ $80 million re-development of the Saltillo Apartments on Cole Ave. on the Katy Trail. City Council Chambers were packed for this rare Highland Park defeat — I barely found a seat coming in just before the item hit the agenda, having been moved up (thank you, Jesus) by Mayor Mike Rawlings. I just had to sit through a debate over a Beer Barn drive-through. My Lord, Dallas wants to be a WALKABLE city and then we have drive-ins for folks who cannot even walk to get their beer! Actually, there was a Beer Barn in North Dallas years ago; the first time I saw the place I marvelled. In San Antonio, my son once took me to a drive-in Margarita place. They seal plastic bags over the margies so you cannot sip them, unless, of course, you do the unthinkable and OPEN THE PLASTIC SEAL IN THE CAR! I was thinking about that place today, and the old Beer Barn, and how hard it was to walk in heels in the heat, because I just knew we’d be hearing WALKABLE so darn much today my feet would hurt. What happened at City Hall Wednesday was a barometer of what we can expect going forward when it comes to re-development. I think Philip Kingston really summed up the nut graph best at the very end, when he said the question to ask is, is this REALLY good for the neighborhood? The city councilman has worked on the Saltillo for more than a year, and talked to residents exhaustively trying to do what was “best for the residents”. Or “best for the neighborhood.” He said he disagreed with those who feel that property values would be ruined by the new development — pay attention here, we may hear this argument again in the future. In his opinion (and research), they were wrong. Clearly, this is a turning point in Dallas’ attitude towards re-development. Philip Kingston comes from a strong neighborhood preservation background, his district being the one with probably the most preservation districts in town. But as Rudy Bush pointed out so well,
“But the instinct for preservation can become a dangerous one when it comes to growing a city. What do we preserve? What do we need to replace?”
Same can be said about houses: do we let builders have their way with every home with low ceilings? Everything built before 1950? 4307 Armstrong did not deserve to die. Later, I challenged Bush on a tweet:
The 3:1 proximity slope that is used as the gold standard of city planning in Dallas actually needs to be scrapped. — Rudolph Bush (@DallasPolitics) August 13, 2014
Kingston made it clear that preservation is not a blanket just because someone steps up to the microphone and says “tearing down those apartments will destroy this neighborhood’s quality of life,” as those who opposed did. I think I heard it almost as much as I heard WALKABLE. Or that “this development will overshadow the park (and destroy the neighborhood).” A woman who lives across the street from the Saltillo was at least realistic — she said the new development would overshadow the park and — again — destroy the neighborhood. But give her credit: hearing about a Beer Barn (in the earlier case) put things in perspective: if it passes, she said, they will survive. Then her daughter spoke and I think the poor child was terrified of addressing the entire Dallas City Council — she burst into tears. My fave was the random lady who just wanted us to know that “parks are what people need for solace.” Thanks very much. This development is not razing a park. As expected, the Mayor of Highland Park spoke first against the proposed development and suggested sending it back to the table because the tiered down plan did not include the elements they “were led to believe they’d have.” The town of Highland Park had hired Michael Jung, the same attorney battling Transwestern on behalf of the Preston Hollow neighborhood fighting that battle. He tried to push for the 3 to 1 proximity slope. Despite what all the Highland Park guys said, I think their biggest fear is density and overcrowding.
Mayor Mike said at some point that 1000 people are moving to Dallas every week. I feel it every time I’m out driving. I did feel most sorry for the lady who lives at The Saltillo currently, who said it was old but clean, updated, with an eclectic mix of neighbors. What she didn’t say was it’s also probably affordable — and there is my concern: 78 residents are going to move to make way for the new (up to) $5,000 a month apartments — $5,000 a month is a damn big lease payment. In fact, you could almost live in Highland Park! I agree with today’s decision, but down the road we are going to have to deal with affordable housing for people like her.
Provident’s showtime went smoothly. We met Leon Backes, (who turns out to be a neighbor of mine), who said the Saltillo is a smart move for a WALKABLE community, it will increase the city’s tax base, it was 43 feet away from the Katy Trail and the maximum height of the structure was actually 64 feet from the Trail. And it fits right in the neighborhood of mid-rise apartments and offices. Next up was Franck Stitch from the Oak Lawn Committee, and homeowners who lives within 500 feet of the Saltillo who were in support of the project. We saw a little movie. But the strongest impact, I think, came from the 60-odd people in the audience who were there to support the development. Way more than Highland Park mustered up. Mayor Mike wanted to know where they were from — all over, said Sarah Dodd (the developer’s consultant): Highland Park, Oak Lawn, a few from Lakewood. Even the cute gal next to me stood up.
Only three council members voted against the development: Jennifer Gates, Sandy Greyson and Adam Medrano. Jennifer’s vote was, I think, because she has to work with the Park Cities on the other two upcoming showdowns, Transwestern’s behind the Pink Wall, and Highland House, Crosland Co’s luxury high rise in the middle of Preston Center.
In the end, the message was all about being a good neighbor despite differences of opinion. Philip did say that Highland Park buys it’s water from Dallas, and one good thing that has come from this has been that Highland Park is developing conservation strategies.
“Why would I meet with Highland Park?” said Philip Kingston. “Because they’re our neighbors.”
Mayor Mike Rawlings walked the tightrope with finesse.
“They are our neighbors,” he said. “Neither of us are moving, we will continue to be neighbors and I hope Highland Park knows they will be heard.”
Later he added: “There are some great things that come with the growth of Dallas, and sometimes there’s a cost to that.”