Another Perspective: For Preston Road, It’s Time to Let Go of The Task Force Fantasy

New-Transwestern-rendering-Preston-Rd

Last night Candy and I, both Pink Wall property owners, attended the (hopefully) final neighborhood meeting with Transwestern on their proposed complex on the northeast corner of Preston and Northwest Highway. It goes before the City Council on Aug. 20.

While the proposed structure will not win any design awards, it’s inoffensive. And of those attending this meeting, there were certainly more positive than negative.

We all have differing thresholds of skill and patience. Watching this gathering I was stunned how well the Transwestern representatives kept their cool in the face of some ill-conceived, often repetitive questions. I kept mumbling under my breath during most of them, thinking the answers were either idiotic, obvious, or previously discussed ad-nauseum in the nearly two years this has been percolating.

One woman, who Candy also mentions, expected the developer to give her a dollars-and-cents accounting of their profit margins. Of course this is the same woman who upon “meeting” at the sign-in table told Candy her comment to one of the staff about her (Candy) eating too much birthday cake recently was “TMI.” Really? Copping to a Birthday Cake binge is TMI? Lordy, “The View” must be the devil incarnate to her.

Several voiced bizarre, misplaced concern about who would live in these rentals. Seemingly fearful these $2,500-plus apartments would attract community college beer pong tournaments (followed soon after by a query on where their maids will park – go figure). My mumbled reply, “Whomever they are, they probably earn more than most of the current Pink Wall residents.”

Others complained that being on major roadways they’d find no tenants. I mumbled, “Haven’t you seen all those apartments lining our highways? And whatever happens, it’ll be better than the ramshackle buildings it’s replacing.”

Someone asked (again) where the construction workers would park during the build-out. The answer (again) was they’d park offsite and be transported in. The devil in me mumbled, “Let them park at the underutilized Preston Center West garage … except during lunch, of course).”

In one measure of the temperature of the room, those who expressed approval for the plan got applause while generally the naysayers didn’t.

When I got up to speak, I commented on my bewilderment that all this angst was for the sliver of the proposal that goes to four-stories. The developer has given a lot of concessions – underground parking, dog weight limits, green space, dedicated turn lanes, etc.. They’ve taken the extra step of applying to canonize them in Planned Development District paperwork, deed covenants and restrictions. Are those few units on the fourth level worth the trade-offs being given? I think “yes” because another developer could come in, abide by current zoning, and do none of these things, which would be worse than a few fourth floor units.

Of course no summer would be complete without tedious reruns and we were treated to the one-episode Laura Miller Show. To be fair, her tune has changed from “I thought we got rid of them” (referring to Transwestern) spoken during the April 27 Preston Center Task Force meeting, to seeming acquiescence to the inevitability of the current Transwestern proposal.

But, she said, no more. She reverted to script that the task force’s (unenforceable) plan should be allowed to unfold in the fullness of time before any other project goes forward. She estimates its delivery as one year away while I maintain it’s closer to four before anything (if anything) is even begun. She again mentioned her goal of keeping Mark Cuban’s properties across from Preston Center zoned single family (which I have repeatedly said is a quaint but anachronistic view given the commercial nature of Preston Center and the commercial properties book-ending Cuban’s holdings). It was, like all reruns, nothing, if not predictable.

Task Forces and Neighborhood Plans
Both the Preston Center Task Force and the Pink Wall folks are working on plans for their areas to guide development. They seem to be placing their hopes, dreams and letters to Santa in these plans, but there’s a big problem. They’re toothless.

The Pink Wallers can create whatever fantasy they envision for the area’s development. But with no enforceability, deals will be done one-sy two-sy as developers pick off whatever parcels become available (or they can pry from owner’s hands unsolicited) and dash to City Hall to cajole for needed zoning variances (and they will need/want them). Neighbors will be summoned to developer meetings for the foreseeable future as the area is reshaped (Are the Diplomat/Royal Orleans likely attempts to break the PD-15 restrictions next?).

As I’ve written before, the Pink Wall is especially vulnerable because self-inflicted, delayed maintenance is biting many of these small complexes in the butt. They’ve racked up hundreds of thousands in critical repairs with few cash reserves and stingy owners who’ve been unwilling to do what’s needed for decades. Some of these complexes view developers as their golden parachute to sell their homes for two or three-times their value and flee their tumbledown shelters. I have some issue with this as it appears to reward indolence.

Ditto the Preston Center Task Force. They have a modicum of control over the roadways and even less over the Preston Center West garage. Their plans will not result in building moratoriums, zoning caps, or any other pie-in-the-sky vision. Any attempts to impose binding constraints on landowners will be met with stern opposition (as they have been since the 1970s). They may bend, but it will be because they’ve agreed to “give” to get something better in return.

Like the Pink Wallers, many of the landowners in Preston Center have not improved their properties and are unlikely to. So again, one-sy, two-sy development will occur as weaker owners sellout or are picked-off over time.

In the business world this is called organic versus planned growth.

At the end of the day, the time it takes to craft these plans accomplishes nothing except to delay the inevitable. I say, fix the roads and adjust traffic patterns as best you can and let go of the fantasy (island) of “the plan, the plan.”

Remember: Do you have an HOA story to tell? A little high-rise history? Realtors, want to feature a listing in need of renovation or one that’s complete with flying colors? How about hosting a Candy’s Dirt Staff Meeting? Shoot Jon an email. Marriage proposals accepted (they’re legal)! sharewithjon@candysdirt.com