KISS-ing at Preston Center Task Force’s Final Meeting Before Public Show and Tell

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First KISS

KISS has many meanings including being the acronym for “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

For nearly three hours we sat through the latest, painful presentation by Kimley-Horn, who is being paid $350,000 for their efforts.  It’s getting better, but either these guys don’t present to lay people often or they’re fresh off the MBA boat. Thankfully I’d pre-downloaded the deck before the meeting and was able to question them on how they’d presented their data.  Let’s just say that as someone who’s pretty data-driven, I might have gone a different way.  Loads of questions and clarifications by Task Force members proved my point.

What’s still missing (and I’ve said it before) is this progression of charts:

  1. Specific lot-by-lot detail on how much square footage exists in Preston Center today and its usage breakdown (retail, residential and office). (with totals)
  2. Specific lot-by-lot detail on how much added square footage and how much height can be built within today’s zoning and PD allowances. (with totals)
  3. Specific lot-by-lot detail on the Task Force’s recommended square footage and height increases desired by zoning changes. (with totals)

1, 2, 3 … it’s really that simple. What ya got?  What can ya get?  What ya want?

  1. Specific detail on the types of usage being recommended (office, retail, residential) and how their mix impacts traffic, parking and density.
  2. Specific detail on the recommended ratios proposed to achieve the desired result based on community feedback over the past 15 months.
  3. What do you think?

4, 5, 6 … What’r the ingredients?  What’r we makin’?  Ya gots any questions?

Models take the mystery out of development proposals. Too bad we don’t have any!
Models take the mystery out of development proposals. Too bad we don’t have any!

Because many people lack the spatial imagination to convert numbers on paper into three dimensions, get some Legos, two-by-fours, whatever, and, as Laura Miller said, build a scale model of 1, 2, 3 for people to look at. Instead we were treated to charged phrases like “double,” “X hundreds of thousands of added square feet,” and “X thousands of added residential units,” which were unhelpful in envisioning outcomes.

Second KISS: Right in the KISS-er

Remember all the hoo-ha in January about the secret shenanigans being conducted for the past year by St. Michael’s and All Angels church and their prayers for a jumbo tower on Frederick’s Square?  (Catch up Here, Here, Here … go on, I’ll wait.)

Illustration published in the St. Michael's Newsletter
Illustration published in the St. Michael’s Newsletter

Well, we weren’t very far into the meeting when south of St. Michael’s Zone 5 rep Betsy del Monte whips out a petition collected by residents asking whether they supported the church’s desire to upzone their three-story lot to tower height.  Of the 71 homes in the zone, 57 of them (80 percent) gave that idea a big, wet raspberry. Equally expected was a letter from the HOA of the tony condos at 8181 Douglas expressing their unanimous displeasure at the prospect of living a Grey Poupon pass away from a view-killing high-rise.

They say the last thing they need across the street from an expanding St. Michael’s Day School (with it’s pick-up/drop-off woes) is an office tower gobbling and expelling cars like a maniacal PEZ dispenser at rush hours.  And then there’s the peering.  Having worked in high-rise office blocks, we get bored and we peer.  “Who slept-in with the curtains open?”  “Who’s skinny-dipping?”

But it didn’t end there. Oh no it di’int!

Throughout the evening members circled back to the church’s plans. Jay Grogan, Zone 3 rep and St. Michael’s chief poohbah on the proposed project, found himself on the defensive.  He continually downplayed the church’s progress, making it sound almost as if the project chronicled in their own newsletter was no more than idle chatter and scribbles on the back of a napkin.  Laura Miller’s words stung the air, “Well, all I know is that you issued an RFP to every builder in town before choosing Lincoln Property.” To quote from the cookbook of St. Lagasse, “BAM.”

However, Miller lost a little steam trying to extend the “St. Michael’s versus the neighbors” metaphor to Mark Cuban’s lots on Northwest Highway opposite Preston Center (an issue that has put a bee in her bonnet).  Her reaching weakened a solid argument about traffic, density and proximity and gave it a whiff of NIMBY.  There’s also a hell of a lot of difference between being justifiably concerned about a 250,000-square-foot tower in your backyard and recommending an iron shroud encircle Cuban’s dirt (even the minimal idea of three-story townhouses was shot down).

See, that’s the problem with NIMBY.  It’s impossible to tell where it ends.  Do residents on Del Norte Lane, across the alley from the Pink Wall, get to dictate what does or doesn’t get redeveloped there?  If the battle to develop the Laurel apartments is any indication, they believe they do.  But you can’t just say “no” for no’s sake.

Maybe this is what he meant?
Maybe this is what he meant?

Lip Service?

Finally, for the past year, not a meeting has gone by without walkability being held up as a totem of success for this project.  “Walk, walk, walk … did we talk about walking?”  Heck fire, TXDoT even whispered there might be a way to get a suicide bike lane on Northwest Highway.

So you can imagine our chagrin when one Task Force member inquired about the inclusion of valet parking areas in the overall parking optimization plans.


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)!


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Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

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