Yesterday’s meeting of the Oak Cliff Gateway Tax Incremental Finance District (TIF) Board included few action items. However, it included important updates on the three biggest development projects happening in the Bishop Arts District and a few Board’s discussions of upcoming items.
Exxir Capital/Nazerian Update – Bishop Arts Project
The Nazerian family is planning to begin construction on their Phase 1A building soon.
But first, the block’s zoning must be amended to include a few of the accessory uses they have planned for the project and other small changes like allowing gravel parking lots. The zoning case Z156-250 is scheduled to go before CPC at their October 20th meeting. The meat of their rezoning change request is below.
Unfortunately when PD 830 was created, section 51P-830.107 of the PD (p4) states that there is no area plan to consult for the neighborhood. But more importantly, (p5) section 830.108 “No development plan is required, and the provisions of Section 51A-4.702 regarding submission of or amendments to a development plan, site analysis plan, conceptual plan, development schedule, and landscape plan do not apply.”
So essentially, if the zoning request were approved, all uses would be permitted at any part of the site. We all like what the Nazerians have planned for the development site and it shouldn’t be a problem. But, if any portion of the site were then sold (heaven forbid the economy crashes or anything happens to Exxir Capital) any of these uses could be built on every part of the property. For example, my dear sister and visionary investor who lives in the home she owns at Melba and Madison, could one day have an event center or a hotel across the street from her. (It’s a similar issue as on the Crescent Communities development site, where a change in zoning to allow multifamily instead of just retail would allow even poorly designed multifamily unless design restrictions were specified in the zoning change.)
If a use is allowed “by right,” there’s little possibility of stopping a project at that point. For more info, call the city at 214-670-4209 and request info on zoning case number Z156-250. It’d be nice if the approval were contingent on their plan for the site, but that’s not a requirement and wouldn’t be for anyone else if a portion of the property were sold.
Construction was planned to begin March 2016 but various utility, streetscaping, and zoning setbacks have set the project off schedule. (Full disclosure, I worked for Exxir Capital as their VP of Marketing until May of this year when it became clear that the delayed construction was delaying their need for full-time marketing staff as well.)
The first phase will include a few boutique retail spots … I wish I could divulge the locals they’ve been talking to as potential tenants! I anticipate we’ll all be surprised and amazed.
Next up will be their parking garage off Madison near 9th St., then the main corner building at Bishop and Melba, the focal point of the rendering above, along with the Art Garden (designs for which the neighborhood saw back in March at a party in the Exxir metal artist’s shop by Local Oak) in the center of the Melba block. The multi-family residential planned for Melba St. at Madison St. will be the last piece of this first phase, slated to be gravel surface parking lot until construction begins.
Exxir Capital intends to some day soon ask the TIF Board for a funding partnership to construct a parking garage that could help relieve the entire neighborhood’s parking woes. Thea Van Loggerenberg, Chief Architect and Senior VP at Exxir, presented to the Board their recently completed parking study.
The study doesn’t include the impact from the new streetcar stop, likely because the study was completed months before the stop opened. But it begs the question. How DO we support a great walkable destination neighborhood? Clearly we’re not just talking about supporting residents there — the Bishop Arts economy is already heavy propped up by Dallas’ “bridge and tunnel” patrons. And if the Nazarian family has their way, this will be one of the top destination neighborhoods in the world.
“What can we do to continue to promote multi-modal transportation by bike/walk/trolley/Uber — now, before we get to the point that it’s a dire need? I encourage us to think in terms of wayfinding and multi-modal.”
– Don Raines, Chair of the Oak Cliff Gateway TIF Board
If Bishop Arts doesn’t want to be like Greenville Ave, or Deep Ellum, or Uptown, or Trinity Groves, what neighborhoods do they emulate to deal with parking effectively?
The Problem with Parking
Think of the places you’ve saved money for half your life to visit … Would you say you went there because there was adequate parking? Likely you picked one of the great cities where you walk and take efficient transit to get anywhere and where parking spaces cost as much as Dallas-Fort Worth homes do.
The essential question becomes, how do we get PEOPLE to and from Bishop Arts, not how do we get cars around.
There’s no right answer, but it requires thinking creatively with a mind to what it is we want this neighborhood to BECOME. If it is a truly multi-transit neighborhood, walkable design is essential. And wayfinding will be key, especially as Alamo Manhattan is under construction between the heart of the district and the new streetcar stop.
That’s the perspective many neighborhood leaders are taking when looking at the projects coming into the neighborhood. The charm of Bishop Arts is that it was built at a time when the majority of people walked. Few people actually owned cars. We have to continue to be sensitive to that characteristic.
Alamo Manhattan Update – Bishop Arts Station Project
Alamo Manhattan plans to begin construction in the next 30 days or so. The Sonic is being torn down and their plans are being finalized. They have designed the Bishop Arts streetcar stop and plaza as part of their project, and have updated designs since their April 22nd presentation to the City’s Urban Design Peer Review Panel about the plaza’s design.
The Urban Design Panel’s recommendations included making the patio dining areas larger, which Alamo Manhattan accommodated by moving the planters and steps to the east to accommodate larger dining areas on the north and south. The panel also made specific recommendations for studying the feasibility of improvements to the actual streetcar stop shelter, that could “modify the shelter design to better allow passengers to enter into the plaza by either creating a portal in the center of the canopy or by orienting the seating and windscreens perpendicular to the street” – Alamo Manhattan studied the options and concluded that, “Based on the study, we believe that erecting a canopy perpendicular to Zang Blvd. would be an unnecessary obstruction into the public plaza, which would be contradictory to the community’s strong preference to create a large open/public space at this location.”
So unfortunately, it looks like we’re stuck with a really lame gateway shelter. We might as well be riding the bus from the East Transfer Station, which has the same design. Not that we’re special visitors and residents taking a million-dollar, high-tech streetcar from downtown to the coolest neighborhood in Dallas. Huge missed opportunity.
BUT! See the scrawny tree in the corner of the concrete plaza? The Design Review Panel “strongly recommends relocating one of the large existing shade trees, currently located on the future Bishop Arts Station development site, to the plaza as an opportunity to provide much needed shade for the public plaza space and outdoor dining area.” Alamo Manhattan’s reply is they are “conducting extensive study into the physical and financial feasibility of this suggestion,” while Economic Development staff have already begun exploring the possibility of the city making sure this happens.
The City replanted two huge old Oak trees out of the way of the streetcar stop, so they have experience with with the costs (about $70,000 each) and the process (it does take a lot of prep with a specialized team of arborists and heavy equipment.) They’re looking at the potential of moving a tree from the property line of the old Zoli’s restaurant that would be perfect here. Fingers crossed! These city staff understand the value of keeping the OAKs in Oak Cliff and are attempting to put their money where their mouth is.
If only Alamo Manhattan could find a place for the other two old oaks from Zoli’s! One could easily fit on the corner at 7th …
Urban Genesis Update – Bishop Highline Project
This project deserves it’s own post to go into the details about their design (what are those square ‘hats’!)
In short, they took their project design to the Urban Design Peer Review Panel on August 26th (you’re seeing the trend — that’s the process for all projects applying for TIF funding) and received a few solid recommendations. The most articulate recommendations related to design were to “Locate a consistent row of street trees at back of curb wherever possible to promote shade along the sidewalk throughway,” “Consider architectural treatments to the facades of both buildings that leverage opportunities to break up individual building masses within the vertical plane,” and “Further consider opportunities to respond to adjacent structure heights through the architectural massing and landscape treatments.”
The Urban Genesis team also asked the Bishop Arts Neighborhood Association (BANA) for their coordinated critiques and comments. The neighborhood group submitted a thorough evaluation of the PD’s architectural design requirements and recommended changes to meet those requirements.
A few of their highest priority recommendations included: Meeting the PD requirement by replacing the square ‘hats’ with metal or tile roof projections similar to other buildings in the district (such as the Gloria’s firehouse and Bishop Gate apartments), widening the front stoops of the ground floor apartments to allow for small gatherings of neighbors (supporting the district’s ‘front porch culture’), and using some signature brick patterning and an additional building entrance to break up the building facade (required by the PD) instead of the facade bump-outs in the current design.
Lower priority recommendations from BANA included some real gems, including secured bicycle storage for residents, make the parking area to be well lit with warm light (carefully angled so it won’t glare into surrounding neighbors), add seating in grassy areas along alley, use area median income of local zip code to set the affordable rent for required TIF units (not the AMI as required), incorporate some two-bedroom units, use native landscaping, and reduce size of blade sign by half or change to non-blade sign design.
Their architects began last week to make design changes and with all the inspiring design recommendations we look forward to seeing their updated drawings soon!