It Took Almost Two Hours to Debate the Proposed Sky-bridge for Preston Center at Dallas City Hall Wednesday

Yes Sky bridge

Yes, there are are stickers. Signs to follow I’m sure.

No Sky-BridgeI have a Support Group I now attend every Wednesday around noon, thus I missed half the debate on the proposed sky-bridge that Crow Holdings wants to build in Preston Center in order to put a grocer in the second floor of the Preston Center Pavilion building.

Thank God for that Support Group: I will bet that half the City Council would have rather been there with me than where they were. It was the final meeting of the term, the agenda was bursting at the seams, and for once, I think Dallas City Council members earned their keep.

Robert Wilonsky (bet he’s pooped!) stayed there the whole long afternoon and has a great recap.

The anti-sky bridge (is it sky-bridge or skybridge?) people are a strong contingent, and they were out in full force: Laura Miller, Leland Burke, Laurence Bock, the distinguished founder of Bachendorf’s, the jewelry store that is actually located on the EAST side of Preston Center, the nice part, attorney Michael Jung who Leland tells me he hired eight months ago to help with this issue, but no lawsuits filed yet. And there were Preston center business owners who use the parking garage.

“To me, this is a classic case of a large, wealthy development corporation trying to bully and end-run certain constituencies in and around Preston Center,” said another opponent, Pat McLaughlin.

But the pro-sky-bridge people were also there in an equally full force — that being the folks from Crow Holdings, their consultant Sarah Dodd, and many supporters. Dwaine Caraway is a hoot — “I wish I had this problem In District 4,” said Dwaine Caraway. “I wish I had a skybridge from Rudy’s Chicken to the Fiesta food store.” But he also kind of scolded Tom Thumb for non-committal.

He also said if it was a guarantee that Tom Thumb was coming, he might be for the sky-bridge, and maybe more would. I have heard so many people say, “oh they don’t even have a lease”, but Crow Holdings has assured me they did indeed have one. Under current zoning Crow can lease to ANY grocer in that property. The skybridge makes the second floor more attractive to the tenant. Terms are confidential, like most commercial leases, so they cannot exactly email it to me. Crow explained how they would be making some sorely-needed improvements in the garage — the current one has no elevator — and how much tax revenue the store would bring into the city. I’m sure someone mentioned that the grocery store would help the other businesses, too, since grocery stores tend to bring people into a neighborhood 2.5 times per week. I mean, I went to the store at least three times a week when my kids were at home — now I barely go.

But Jennifer Gates got her motion passed, six more months to fight analyze agonize over debate the sky-bridge. I think it was the best she could do — she’s got some loud children under her roof.

Philip Kingston had hoped to push off a vote until the Preston Center Task Force completed its work — but that’s a long way off, the council was told anywhere from 12 to 14 months in the distant future at best. And Gates warned the council that this deal could be long dead by then; Crow Holdings had agreed to the November date, but nothing more. She told the council she wants to resolve the parking issue now, then deal with the task force’s larger recommendations for Preston Hollow. She also said that despite Miller’s assertion earlier, she does not support the skybridge … yet.

Parking, said Gates of the “contentious” skybridge, is an issue “that’s got to be addressed before we connect that top second level. If we can’t figure out what the solution would begin to look like, then we won’t be able to support that bridge. This gives them more time to think.”

What I heard Jennifer Gates say was that she is concerned that the second tier of the parking garage is used or employee parking, something I have heard a lot from folks who work in the area. But I have also been told that the employee parking is heaviest during the day, particularly around noon time because there are so many restaurants in the area, and considerably less full in the evening, 4 to 7 p.m. when the grocer is likely to be busiest.

Let me tell you: all eyes are going to be glued to the top level of that parking garage.

We all know how Laura Miller feels. It was pretty clear. She even went so far as to call the folks at Tom Thumb (on a private cell phone, no less) “demanding answers”. Well, Laura is a reporter after all, and a damn good one. (Leland Burke tells me she really is not against development.)  Tom Thumb is not the only grocer interested in the space. After the meeting, I chatted with two lovely Preston Hollow residents (they requested anonymity) and asked them why they were wearing the red “No Skybridge” badge. These were regular concerned ladies. They had some interesting points. When I said hey, the developer says that if the City tells them to take it down, they will, they said, ha! Don’t believe them!

“And the taking down and putting up will be very disruptive to the area, very disruptive,” said one.

“This only benefits one developer in Preston Center, just one, ” said the other.

“Crow Holdings is going to lease that space then sell the shopping center, flip it. They won’t even be here to contend with in a few years,” said her neighbor.

I asked why they are opposed to a grocery store at the location.

“There are plenty in the neighborhood already!” — they both said.

What if the little Tom Thumb on Villanova closes?

“Then we go up to Preston Royal or Preston Forest — there are four or five stores just a few miles away,” said one. I presume she meant in her car.

They both agreed that the skybridge should wait until the land use study is complete.

“I am tired of the piece-meal patchwork approach to fixing Preston Center,” said one of the gals. “Let’s just do the whole thing right!”

We talked about how we would all like Preston Center to be more usable — and agreed that if it could kind of be like Highland Park Village before all the glitzy stores invaded, well, that would be just perfect.

Course, Highland Park Village used to have a Tom Thumb.

One said the proposed skybridge does not meet code and is wider than Parkland Hospital’s skybridge.

“And it’s twice as wide as the one at the brand new Omni. There are 428 parking spaces on that upper deck and that skybridge is twice as wide. It’s wider than the one at Love Field that serves 7,000 plus parking spaces.”

When I suggested that could be because they had to accommodate grocery carts, we were back to “there are enough grocery stores in the area.”

I don’t know. I think Crow Holdings is going to have to poll the neighborhood to see who really wants or would use a grocery store in that space. For now, they intend to work with Councilwoman Jennifer Gates, “respect the process and work with the Task Force Committee,” Sarah Dodd told me.

“I would want a grocery store in that space,” Jane McGarry told me. Yes, THAT Jane McGarry. Jane is seriously considering a property in the area –stay tuned, stay very tuned for all the details. “One of the things I love about Preston Center, that area, is the walkability and proximity. I WANT a grocery store nearby, that’s why I’m buying there.”

Now I have a question for Crow Holdings? What if you persuaded Marshalls to move upstairs and put Tom Thumb (or HEB)  on the first floor? What if Harlan donated one of his statutes to Preston Center? What if Harlan just invited everyone wearing the red “No Sky-Bridge” badges over to his house for a drink, including Laura Miller? Kumbaya!

 

 

3 Comment

  • I don’t care which way this goes, but the sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees all persons accused of criminal wrongdoing the right to a speedy trial. I guess the same can’t be said of developers and our City Council. But then again, given the paltry salaries of Councilmembers, Dallas doesn’t exactly attract the best and brightest.

  • While skybridges add significant functionality to many locations, there is no logic to putting a normal grocery store in a development lacking a critical mass of high rise living units.

    The spread of Dallas and Texas dictate that vehicles will be used to haul multiple bags ( hopefully recyclable, in spite of the myopic Dallas City Council action to restore the cash flow to plastic bag manufacturers ).

    This suggests that shoppers will prefer ground level grocery stores which are in close proximity to parking.

    • Perhaps, but it’s still Crow Holdings and the grocery store’s risk and reward (who am I to yank the dice out of a gambler’s hands?). I’m guessing the reason for pushing for the second floor is because a ground floor lease of 55,000 square feet may be too expensive for a profitable grocery operation. It may also be that a grocery store needs a minimum size to be profitable and attract customers. Smaller stores like Preston Center East, Snyder Plaza and the deceased Highland Park Village locations become “emergency” shopping trips for staples versus larger stores for larger shopping needs. I know it’s the only only reason I’ve gone to Tom Thumb in Preston Center East. In my world, it’s called “share of wallet.” Smaller stores probably don’t get enough.