Columnist John Beatty Wonders Why We Cannot Put Retail & Multi-Family At Inwood & Forest. I Do, Too…

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With all the real estate bombarding us every day in North Texas, we stay pretty busy over here at CandysDirt.com. That’s why I always tell people, never, ever be afraid to bug us. Ring our chime till we answer the door. (Sometimes the line gets long!)

So I have not checked up on Forestwood Gate, the fight over a re-development of the intersection of Inwood and Forest, where we told you about the battle to bring a mixed use concept to an aging family-owned rental property. The property owners, the Daniels family, who have owned the land since 1849, want to yank down the 208 old townhomes and replace them with (up to) 350 rental units, a mix of town homes and apartments. This would include townhomes with garages and small yards, and a large multi-family unit with elevators that would have a boutique-hotel feel to it. Oh, and also a pool. All very nice.

 “This will be a long-term lease with the developers,” says William Dahlstrom of Jackson Walker LLP, a land-use expert and attorney who is representing the owners. “The same owners will continue to own the 30 acres of land. It’s the same family that has owned this land since 1849!”
Back then, it was likely a farm or ranch, as was most of the surrounding area. In 1972, the land was zoned for town-home type residences, which is exactly what it’s been for the last 40 0dd years.

Except now the surrounding neighbors are having a cow, the likes of which hasn’t grazed that land in 200 years.

You would think the corner of Forest Lane and Inwood Road in North Dallas is a natural place to build a combination of retail and multi-family housing — the kind of mixed-use development going up all over the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

But strong neighborhood opposition to the plan means that the future of the property is up in the air. I happen to believe that this mixed-use plan is a great idea. Why? Because this plan gets the area closer to something that can be considered walkable, and walkable is what Dallas needs.

So writes John Beatty, a North Dallas resident and a Community Voices volunteer columnist for the Dallas Morning News in a Sunday column. (Reach him atjohn.beatty@tx.rr.com)

Forest and Inwood border my neighborhood, so I have an interest in the outcome. I freely admit, though, that my interest is not as zealous — and maybe not as important — as the interests of my neighbors who abut the proposed redevelopment. I agree with our councilwoman, Jennifer Staubach Gates, that the wishes of those nearby neighbors outweigh those of us many blocks away.

That said, this approach also discounts the big picture: That maybe it is necessary to look at the land differently than it was looked at 40 years ago, when the current zoning was first put in place.

Ya think? I just don’t get the neighborhood’s beef with this development at all. AT ALL. I was at Lowe’s (Loews?) the other day, pulled out of the parking lot right across the street from the neat little Forestwood town homes. I was like, what is the matter with these people? There is retail here already! What is being proposed is not the big box stores across the street but charming, smaller restaurants and shops. Lord the Liberty Burger across the street is always, always packed during dinner time.

What is wrong with these people?

I also question the “No Retail West of Inwood” signs that have sprouted on lawns in recent weeks. The retail that could end up in that development, right next to some new townhomes or apartments, seems to be exactly what many — at least me — are looking for: a walkable place to live with a restaurant or two nearby and some stores that could reduce by a little the amount that I drive.

A recent version of the lawn sign says “No Retail/No Apartments.” As I saw this new sign the first time, the cynic in me thought, “How about we just bulldoze the corner, allow it to evolve back to prairie, and the coyotes and rabbits will have some space to hang out?” That doesn’t work, given that we are in the middle of the big city. Neither does hanging onto a 40-year-old plan that ignores the reality of what the real estate market is looking for today.

What is in the best interest of the owner/developer is to create a quality development that would bring in quality retail and housing — and quality income from both. That is not at odds with what the close-by neighbors want.

For me, that means a development that allows residents to park their cars and walk. There is already retail right across the street, with restaurants, a coffee shop, home improvement megastore, donut shop, etc., so we already have a head start. Adding some complementary retail will make it that much more likely that residents can lace up and walk out, rather than gas up and drive out. I can already see some of it as neighbors walk to the coffee shop across Inwood on weekend mornings. Let’s encourage more of this behavior by creating an environment that allows it.

My wife and I took a recent drive through Uptown and neighboring areas one Saturday because we are looking for something walkable. We love our neighborhood, but both the size of the home and the need for the car are causing us to look elsewhere. When we lived in Plano, the need for the car was amplified even more, and we would like to not repeat that situation in our next home. And even though our 20-something kids suggested to me that we were “too old” for Uptown, I have not allowed that to dissuade me from continuing the search there.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could make it happen in the neighborhood in which we already live?

But it appears likely we’ll be keeping the plot of land as residential-only and not change the zoning unless the developer is unable to make sufficient assurances to the close-by neighbors. Should the status quo remain, I am afraid that an opportunity will be lost to make something special here, and all we will do is continue the unfortunate bond we have with our cars.

I agree with nearly everything John has written, except his support of Councilwoman Jennifer Gates for listening to the NIMBY neighbors nearby have more of a say than those further away. God bless that woman, she has development battles in every corner of her District. The fact that these neighbors complain about retail, when they have retail on steroids across the street is just ludicrous in ludicrous speed. They need to get a life. This is a loving, caring family of developers who want to create a beautiful live/shop/play community.

As for those worried about crime, does anyone remember the terrible murder in that donut shop across the street many, many years ago when a young teen-aged girl working part-time after school was murdered? The new development would make the neighborhood safer.

And walkability: now that the weather is cooling, I’m ready to walk outside again. I still maintain Dallas is too hot to be a walkable city 12 months of the year. I think people want proximity as well as walkability: when you are tired and hungry, you don’t want to wait for the traffic light on Inwood. The neighbor’s NIMBY mind set is not fortifying our bond with our autos, it’s robbing all the homeowners of Dallas of a chance to bring in sorely needed tax revenue for street repairs and put more policemen and women on the street.

Really, it’s kind of selfish, in my humble opinion.

 

 

 

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Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for Forbes.com, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature CandysDirt.com, and SecondShelters.com, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

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