I’ve written tons on the Pink Wall and its Planned Development District (PD) 15. I’ve spent many an hour trying to understand the loosey-goosey definitions found in the decades-old paperwork, even talking to a city attorney. It’s nice to finally have some official clarity … which was different from what I’d been told and I told you. So listen up …
There are 63 available units that can be built within PD-15. Period.
This number was arrived at by adding the unbuilt units from a high-rise that was to have been built in the late-1970s on the Preston Place lot. That high-rise was to have had 125 units. Preston Place built 60. Two buildings converted caretakers’ units to residential units which subtracts two. 125 – 60 – 2 = 63.
There’s other math involved that backs this up, but it’s all the same — 63.
Those 63 units can be built on any of the parcels within PD-15 and be divvied-up in any way, because assets within PD-15 are common assets. If Athena wanted to add another eight stories based on its current floor plate, that would smoke all the unit surplus. (They don’t, jus’ sayin’.)
Fairly (although not equally) apportioning those units makes the four low-rise parcels essentially unsalable. Re-read that. The current, allowable density increases make those properties unsalable.
In Preston Place’s case, adding 21 additional units (their portion of the 63 based on lot size) to their original 60 isn’t enough incentive to get a developer out of bed. Or the Diplomat with just 15 units … adding 10 more would be equally yawn-worthy. The land value is too high to turn a dime.
Or if a developer did get out of bed, it would be to build the worst kind of cheap, crappy construction with an exterior that would make Royal Orleans look like a beauty pageant winner. Or a developer would be interested but the (low) amount of money paid would also ensure a low-quality end result.
Nothing — nothing is worse for a neighborhood than bad development. It’s a cancer that spreads.
The only way out of this is to reopen PD-15 and update its parameters for the modern economics at play. The last density change was literally 40 years ago in 1977, when it cost 13 cents to mail a letter (and people mailed letters).
And you know what? The packed house of over 100 neighbors were almost uniformly on that page, too.
There are obviously multiple reasons, most of them self-serving to the neighborhood and property owners (as it should be, great things can come from blatant self-interest of stakeholders with skin in the game).
- Higher density equals higher-quality construction.
- Higher-quality construction equals higher-cost homes (likely apartments).
- Higher-cost homes equal residents with higher incomes.
- Higher-income residents equal increased property values for existing residents.
- Higher-property values attract higher interest for additional city services.
- Higher city service commitments equal a more attractive neighborhood.
- More attractive neighborhood equals even higher property values.
The only people who lose in this equation are those who die or move away before it’s realized.
(Insert clumsy segue)
One lady spoke passionately about the Preston Place owners who are trying so get top dollar for their parcel (which would require increased density). Her point was that we should feel pity for the homeowners who were underinsured and so need a big payout from the lot sale. If she’s reading this, I hope she takes note of the above list of interconnected events. Pity doesn’t go nearly as far as self-interest with the remaining owners. It’s not the neighborhood’s fault the building and its owners were under-insured, nor is it their responsibility to fix (cold, but true). But by demonstrating that what’s good for Preston Place is equally good for the area, you fatten neighbors’ wallets with the side-benefit of helping Preston Place. Tactics.
The Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association will be assembling a team to explore the appetite for changing the PD-15 guidelines. It will in turn liaise with Gates’ office to get the ball rolling. Stay tuned for updates as they happen. Keep reading CandysDirt.com, but also, start attending your HOA board meetings for the latest scoop. If we’re going to do this (and I think we should/must), we need to do it right.
For those readers behind the Pink Wall but not within PD-15, I give you your homework: The Preston Center plan pretty much left you in the cold. I challenge you to understand the deed restrictions that were placed on your properties decades ago to stop redevelopment, and that you, as condo owners were never told about.
In a perfect world, you would choose to extinguish them and revert to straight city zoning. This would allow those complexes that are in such bad repair to seek alternatives to slow disintegration. Like the PD-15 dance, done well, it will help the whole neighborhood. But understanding the restrictions and your neighborhood’s opinions on them are critical. FYI, there are three sections between Preston Road and Edgemere with the same restrictions but are not tied together. One tract can vote to kill them while others keep theirs.
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 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors has recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.