More Takes on the Now Defunct Transwestern Project in Preston Hollow

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I spoke with the folks who own the Preston Center Apartments. Asked what they are thinking, if they are disappointed (YES!), and what’s next on the horizon. Here’s what I got:

Unfortunately, Transwestern and the owners of Town House Row have ended their contractual relationship concerning the redevelopment of their property.  Of course, this means that my property is also no longer under contract, and will continue to be operated as a small apartment complex, perhaps for many years to come.  I can’t really add more than that, except that Transwestern, the owners of Town House Row, and myself, are all disappointed that this project did not happen.  

No doubt, many neighbors supportive of the redevelopment will also be disappointed at the loss of many benefits being offered by Transwestern.  These included a proposed turn lane on Northwest Highway, a small park area open to the entire neighborhood, six foot wide sidewalks, beautiful extensive landscaping, first-class architecture, and a substantially increased tax base for the city.  Transwestern’s new high-end complex would have beautified the area, and increased property values for everyone around it.  Also, let us not forget the fact that all these good things were being paid for by a private company, and not the local taxpayers.  In anybody’s book, that was a great deal.  However, instead of receiving the multitude of gifts, the chimney was closed to Santa Clause because of a perplexing neighborhood opposition to an attractive new six-story building.   

Today’s article by Tom Benning in NeighborsGo!, basically the Dallas Morning News, places full credit for the kill at the feet of Laura Miller. Not sure I agree.

“Some neighbors, including former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, had opposed the development. They said it would add too much density and traffic to an already busy area.”

Right Tom, but how come Laura and Steve can own in a high rise but no one else can?

Then, “It’s still unclear what the future holds for the property — or why the deal fell apart.”

Does it take rocket science? No, maybe just someone who understands real estate: MONEY, HONEY. Maybe the developers started out a little too ambitiously on pricing, got the home sellers all pumped. I knew when they lowered the density something had to give — building costs are what they are, and investors don’t hand you money and say, sure, go ahead and lose 20% of it.

Personally, I think if the sellers would have lowered their price, the developers trimmed a little more fat, a deal would have been made and the re-zoning would have come through. But hey, I get it: if I were one of the sellers, I would want as much as I could possibly get too!

As for the single family home owners, Transwestern jumped through huge hoops to please the neighbors who own some of the priciest real estate in Dallas and guard those values dearly. They also pay taxes through the teeth. They want what they bought: a quiet, pristine, safe neighborhood to raise their families. Preston Hollow is an anomaly neighborhood, trying still to be the country village it started as in the middle of a huge, growing city. I’ve always thought it should be it’s own village, like Highland Park. Once it was. Believe me, I get it — I live here. But I also think shooting down development might be like shooting ourselves because we are no longer segregated from the rest of Dallas, though it may appear that we are.

And it’s not that the neighbors didn’t want any new development at Preston and Northwest Highway:

“Transwestern ultimately did the right thing,” said Ashley Parks, president of the Preston Hollow East Homeowners Association. She said she and others weren’t opposed to all development at the intersection — just projects that they feel won’t mesh with the surrounding neighborhoods.

“It’s important that people who want to come in and develop an area be thoughtful of the neighbors,” she said.

Is there a political future in store for Ashley Parks after this campaign? Perhaps. Many Preston Hollow residents are patting themselves on the back after their victory, passing around congratulatory emails. But this story will be a big huge caution to developers, many of whom have already told Transwestern thanks for being the yellow canary.

Problem is, the land value EXPECTATIONS are so high on this Gold Coast… maybe too high. At least until the next recession.

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