By the time you read this, the ACS/Xerox Building on North Central Expressway will be another dusty relic of Dallas history. But the implosion won’t erase the anger of the neighborhood and the negative publicity this development fiasco has created for Trammell Crow CBRE. Back in the spring, when I first met Jonas Park and got my head into what was happening with this story, I heard rumors, RUMORS mind you, that serious discussion was going on by the old Trammell Crow company heirs to buy out the new company they sold to the CB Richard Ellis group for $2.2 billion in 2006. There were lots of rumblings within the real estate community because, as much as we understand development and the need to make numbers work, we all thought this was so very, very wrong.
Why put a big-box Sam’s at Central and Fitzhugh when (a) there is already one off Skillman, a few miles north and east? And (b) with light rail rapid transit across the street at Cityplace, this could have been a great residential or mixed use development. Line the front facing Central with stores, build apartments behind.
Clearly, the big box store will pull a bigger and faster return on investment than a mixed-use village would have: the box goes up faster, cheaper, pays rent and kicks off profits. (Though, as I pointed out in the spring, Sam’s is generally not doing as well as Costco. Which is coming to an area near us at LBJ. ) Multi-use would have been more expensive to build, and taken about three years to show a profit. The Real Estate biz is almost totally dependent on timing. Three to four years down the road puts us at 2019, and I have heard reports that we could see a cooling of the market by 2017.
Also, to know that the investor in this land is Metropolitan Insurance of New York, is kind of like a nail in the coffin.
The demolition started at 7:30 am Sunday morning, and the building was rubble by 8:30.
There were many ingredients that made this zoning case almost a perfect cluster-(blank) storm.
Some say Trammell Crow was sneaky and first rolled out pictures of a West Village-style development, buried certain phrases deep in the proposal that allowed them to, if they so desired, plop a big box store down on the spot.
The developer denies that. And other developers have told me such options are not unusual.
I think it was irresponsible of the area’s City Councilman, Pauline Medrano, to let the zoning slide through because she was transitioning out of her office. Who knows what would have happened had she been more attentive?
Then there was the City Staff itself, who failed to catch the Big Box zinger buried in the fine print. Or did they? Did they just not care that Trammell Crow wanted the option to put a Sam’s Club at this location all along? Sources have told me that many city staff members aim to work for a company called MasterPlan post civic employment — and surprise surprise it was MasterPlan’s Dallas Cothrum representing Crow on this case. I know relationships rule in business, and this coziness of private sector apres public sector takes place in many big cities, hell it happens in Washington D.C. But is the movement from Dallas city employment to MasterPlan getting a little too close for comfort?
I would think a multi-use development like Preston Hollow Village on the east side of Central would have helped grow our tax base, inspire more “West Village”-type development, live up to the whole purpose of the name “East Village”: a live-work, walkable urban depot across from Cityplace and a few exits north of downtown Dallas.
“Not sure that neighborhood is there, yet,” one developer told me.
As we told you, the East Village Association filed for a temporary injunction against the development. They fought a good fight, led by a young man who deserves a lot of admiration and credit: Jonas Park. (Jonas was out of town for the weekend blast. He said he just could not watch it.) That he is an immigrant does not surprise me. Like the third generation descendants of millionaire entrepreneurs, sometimes U.S. citizens take too much for granted, become complacent and blow it. It takes a newcomer to America to value what property rights we have here, and to stand up and fight for them.
As you know, a judge ruled against the East Village Association, after verbally scolding the developers:
She chided the city and Trammell Crow for their “lack of transparency” in zoning documents and notices sent to nearby residents impacted by the Big Box. She made it clear she was unhappy with how the process failed the residents living next to a 150,000-square foot Big Box that will dropped in their proverbial front and back yards. She spoke of having to make a “difficult” decision.”
The East Village Association, the neighborhood group that has spearheaded the fight against a Trammell Crow’s Sam’s Club-anchored development planned for the former ACS campus at Cityplace, won a significant ruling against the developer. The judge in the case sided with the East Village Association, recognizing their right to sue the developer on behalf of neighbors.
The city of Dallas appealed, and had to, because this mess could end up costing Dallas a whole lot IF Trammell Crow were to file suit against the city for giving them permission to tear down a building, contract for, and build a store.
The horse is out of the barn. Sources tell me they do not see how the neighborhood has a snowball’s chance of winning this.
Which is so sad not just for them and property values, but for the whole city. What the hell are we paying real estate taxes for TODAY!!! to get this kind of thoughtless “planning” out of City Hall?
Jonas Park is hoping that the development can next be stopped by a few trees. There are a some 100-year-old Post oak trees on the east side of the lot, probably left over from the golf course, that will have to be cleared to make way for Sams.
Under the city’s tree ordinance, depending on the type of tree they want to remove, they can be chopped if the developer replaces them with new trees. Jonas, hopeful as ever, has not given up.
But I would like to make a suggestion to Trammell Crow CBRE: why not take this chance to mend a few fences, so to speak, with the neighborhood, to move on peacefully, and just please VOLUNTEER to save those trees? Maybe create a little arbor or small park as an olive branch? I recall being at a June meeting over at the Agape Methodist Church on Columbia Ave. in East Dallas. Trammell Crow CBRE set up easels, graphs, and maps of the area to let the neighborhood come see plans for the Sam’s. 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 sincere time on their feet just talking one on one, or one per groups of three.
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 be.
We cannot bring back the golf course, or the building, but we can work to repair good will. Someone said at that meeting —
“Highway 75 should not be the Berlin Wall of East and West Dallas,” he said.
It’s high time to stop building Berlin Walls in Dallas, and to start mending fences.