Preston Center Task Force Shows How to Waste Two Years and $300,000: Part 1

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If I could sum up this final report by the Northwest Highway and Preston Road Area Plan task force, it would be that it took two years and $300,000 to identify what will cost the city even more money and more time to actually attempt to solve. But that’s what you get when a group rife with personal agendas discards most of the hard data.  As Laura Miller said, “Every task force member agreed on every word” in the self-authored report.  This was after the task force commandeered the report back in July from the hired consultants.

Consensus equates to a watered-down, namby-pamby report with all the right buzzwords to calm the natives while delivering absolutely nothing of substance.  The report tells the audience what they already know and want without a shred of information or detail on how they’re going to address any of it … except with more study and more money.

The audience at last night’s meeting nodded on queue to the placation … traffic is a problem … sometimes it’s hard finding lunch time parking at Preston Center … the Preston Center parking garage is ugly … Mark Cuban needs to put those mansions back.  But what was not comprehended was that every, single, solitary issue and crack-pot recommendation contained in this report is someone else’s problem to study, evaluate, fix and pay for. It’s like they typed up the flip charts of suggestions from the community meetings.

The actual recommendations are without detail or teeth, often fobbed off on another entity.

In other words, 99 percent of this report could have been written two years and $300,000 ago by an intern. The most frightening thing is that this report apparently represents the quality of work expected by the City of Dallas. (Although after the Fair Park debacle, I shouldn’t have been surprised)

Let’s review…

Traffic

Everyone thinks it’s bad.  It’s actually less bad now than it was a decade ago. Meanwhile, the various roadway agencies have spit-balled a few possibilities on how to optimize or change traffic patterns in the area. Even whack-doodle ideas like building a (toll) tunnel under Northwest Highway to shuttle cross-town traffic from the Tollway to Central Expressway can’t be called whack-doodle because the jury’s still out on whether the Cirque du Soleil-ing of LBJ and its resulting toll lanes is a success.

Where's the land for this?

Where’s the land for this?

Ditto the recurring thought to add an over/underground bridge/tunnel across Northwest Highway somewhere between Douglas and Pickwick. It’s plain to see there is NO land to acquire to house the required approaches and structures required … except perhaps from Mark Cuban on the north side, and this task force has pretty much flung a booger at him.

This all said, zero work has been done to actually create a working plan, complete with change estimates and costs.  That’s right folks, two years later TXDot, City of Dallas, and NTTA have yet to present a whiff of a plan on solving or at least mitigating traffic congestion. Goose egg.

Parking

The task force believes parking in Preston Center is worse than it measurably is.  So while consultants Kimley Horn counted cars for a week, the task force thinks it knows better because someone’s Mercedes can’t find a space in front of Snuffers at noon … the only time there’s a pinch of a parking problem.  They say that because 10 percent of retail space was vacant at the time of the counting and that they counted the dedicated spaces in front of banks and such, that their report was inaccurate.  Balderdash.  Had the task force asked, Kimley Horn could have easily augmented their counts and modeled the parking requirements based on full occupancy, but they seemingly weren’t asked.

And since the central garage is fullest from noon to 1 p.m. and since the vacant floor space was retail and not restaurant, it’s obvious the lunch time impact would have been very, very minimal.

Speaking of parking, it’s been known since January that over 100 Preston Center workers incorrectly park on the lower level of the garage. Eleven months later, the final report recommends “someone” police that problem.  Talk about not doing even the barest minimum to solve a problem; they should have been on that the next day.

Zoning

Within Preston Center, zero changes to current zoning are recommended.  There’s a lot of untapped density even before any Plan Commission begging. This do-nothing recommendation offers no concrete carrots to developers to create the mixed-use fantasy they envision. Many glittering generalities, but nothing concrete.  If they’re hoping developers will do the right thing by the recommendations, one only has to look at area development since this farce began.  There’s an office building being built on Berkshire, the worst use for the area in terms of traffic impact and the mixed-use goal.  There’s a senior living facility being built on Lomo Alto that’s slightly less bad than an office building but a far cry from the vibrant residential development hoped for. The only development that might have delivered on the mixed-use hope, the Highland House residential high-rise proposed by Crosland that partially kicked off this fandango two years ago, was kiboshed.  Bra-vo. Everyone take a bow.

Crosland's Highland House. More in keeping with the plan than what's currently being built

Crosland’s Highland House. More in keeping with the plan than what’s currently being built

Residential zones within the study area similarly are unaffected by any rezoning.  Specifically, there’s plenty of covert and overt text targeting Mark Cuban.  Certainly Miller called out he who must not be named during her remarks.

Pink Wall Zoning recommendations are more weak tea.  They’ll choke down four stories on new construction west of Edgemere … BUT only in exchange for a smaller lot footprint that currently exists.  One and all, I invite you to drive around the Pink Wall area.  The small complexes are already quite park-like with generous setbacks and trees galore … the pipe dream sees a developer making a dime with less lot coverage in exchange for a piddly single additional story?  Oh, and while 99 percent of residents were stunned earlier this year by zombie deed restrictions that were not disclosed to condo buyers for the past 45 years, the plan tosses that back to residents to figure out (a bald-faced stalling tactic).  Did Texas approve recreational marijuana use while I wasn’t looking?

Stay tuned for Part Two where we delve into mixed-use and the parking garage.

 

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com.

 

 

4 Comment

  • Why can’t Laura Miller understand that her high profile in this matter is both inappropriate and counter-productive? Why is lying about traffic and parking so fashionable? Why do people hate apartments so much? (see the referenced Highland House article) Why are these paid-for reports “fact” when activists like them and negotiable when they aren’t? Who the hell has a right to master plan other people’s property? And where did this task force come from in the first place? Southern Land Company is very active in North Texas and recently received approval for a $100+ million dollar mixed use development in Nashville’s Green Hills, near the notoriously over-congested Green Hills Mall area. One of their people could have provided the Preston Center community more pertinent information on how to move forward than the vaunted task force could muster in a lifetime.

    • mm

      I came in at the end of the meeting, and the very last man who spoke was basically saying “we don’t want anything new, no change, leave it all alone.” Jennifer Gates gently explained that if we don’t have change in Dallas, we get no revenue to keep the city up. A few weeks ago Kenneth Walters and I heard astronaut Scott Kelly speak at the Tate Lecture Series and this very strong statement remains firmly planted in my brain: we have to change course every single day, every single moment. This from the man who lived in space for 340 days. Scott said that when you fly, you never accept status quo but think ahead to the next course correction. Sometimes I get bogged down in routine and eschew change, or cry about change in my personal life that is so unfair, but Kelly’s presentation reminded me that change simply has to be and it has to be every moment. I am beginning to think the dearth of residents in Dallas who embrace change is what is holding us back from being that “World Class City” we hear about.

  • Did I miss the link to the actual report? Thanks.