PD-15 Task Force to Pink Wallers: The Devil You Know

PD-15, slightly east of Preston Road bounded by Northwest Highway, Pickwick Lane, Baltimore Drive and an alley.

Last night marked the first meeting of the newly-formed PD-15 task force, begun as a result of development pressures within the area of the Pink Wall known as PD-15. It went as most initial meetings do, trying to find its feet. The task force members from surrounding buildings were brought together by Dallas City Councilwoman Jennifer Gates and assisted by her plan commissioner Margot Murphy.

It began with a review of what had brought us there, namely the pressure to redevelop the fire-ruined Preston Place and the Diplomat.  The two are unconnected except in current timing with the Diplomat having worked on a potential sale for over a year prior to the March fire at Preston Place. Given that two out of the four buildings within PD-15 are in play, it’s safe to assume developers’ wagons are circling the rest.

Blast from the past. Original layout forPD-15 east of Preston Tower. Only upper right Tract 1 (Diamond Head Condos) was built to this plan.

Overall, people seemed open to exploring what these events mean to the neighborhood. Neighbors must understand that regardless, here’s the poop:

Today, a developer could file a zoning case with the city that exceeded replacement of any building within the PD-15 area. That case would be heard as zoning cases are with public hearings and input that would help shape the city’s response.  Second, the city could choose to hold hearings on reopening and changing the PD-15 file. It, too, would be public with requisite input, hearings and notifications.  This process would likely take over two years due to a city backlog (developers could certainly file a plan during this time).  Third, the ownership of PD-15 could preemptively, and unanimously vote to reassess PD-15 and set their own guidelines.

Regardless of your poison, redevelopment of some stripe is coming. What development and to how many of the four low-rise parcels, I cannot say.  Being a “worst case” kinda guy, I plan for the worst.

Also, being a pessimist, I urge residents to support this effort and its resulting “third” option above. Why?  Because left to their own devices and without cogent input from the neighborhood, the Pink Wall will get a worse outcome … guaranteed. Put another way, it’s better if the Pink Wall picks its own paint color rather than relying on blind Uncle Marvin’s dog. The old “devil you know” philosophy.  I also strongly urge residents to get in front of this.  Waiting until the horse has run away to close the gate isn’t very helpful.  (I hope this rattle of clichés has proven my point)

Preston Place’s unbuilt high-rise shows a tall front tower with a rear low-rise and green space.

There’s More Than You Think

There are a lot of moving parts resulting from any change. They’ll be considered in the bi-weekly meetings over the coming months. It’s not as simple as deciding how much more density to allow.  There’s height, lot coverage, setbacks, sidewalks, parking, landscaping, green space, design, etc. etc. etc.  And hey, what about an affordable housing component?  We all complain about affordability, but this is an opportunity to help.  Either way, the result can’t be as loosey-goosey as the current PD documents. You want a strong document that anticipates the future as best it can.

Of course at every turn there will be controversy.  Even at this first “howdy do” meeting, there was very minor, but vocal dissent about even discussing changes to PD-15.  As I wrote, waiting until the steamroller shows up isn’t the best use of time. Deluding yourself in thinking the steamroller won’t come is equally wasteful because blind Uncle Marvin’s dog the city can just decide on their own … badly.

Unbuilt Preston Place high-rise

How Far to Turn Back The Clock

PD-15 goes back to the 1940s and was last updated in the 1970s.  To say it’s an overly simple document plagued by ambiguity is apt.  It’s safe to say the city was new to PDs (Planned Development Districts) when ol’ number 15 was drawn up. At a niggle over three pages, it makes for, shall we say, light reading for those seeking clarity.

Plat map notes during approval for Preston Place high-rise in late 1970s

For example, a few weeks ago Gates held a larger community meeting that explained more about the city’s current interpretation of PD-15’s statutes. This interpretation clashes with measurements used in the past. City staff determined that PD-15 has 63 surplus residential units available based a density of 52.4 units per acre that include units apportioned to an unbuilt high-rise on the Preston Place lot in the 1970s.

However, that calculation appears to differ from the calculations reflected on the PD-15 plat (above). The plat shows a lower number of units per acre but more acres and more units.  The 1970s change to the PD-15 written documents ties units per acre to buildable acreage (versus total acres seen in the plat). Also, the proposed high-rise added 140 units to PD-15 on the plat (above) versus the 125 number being used today.  Assuming the land differences make up for the density differences (and they may not), the 63 unit surplus may actually be 78 at a minimum.

Part of the issue rests on the acreage in PD-15.  As I said, total versus buildable. Usually this isn’t very controversial, but here, the streets within the PD are privately owned and maintained by the buildings bordering them and are included in their taxable lots.

Adding another layer, what happens to the calculation were multiple buildings sold to the same developer who would likely seek to join the parcels, thus eliminating the roadways?  Surely that would change how the acreage is calculated for density.

Regardless, I caution against spending too much time finding out the “bottom” of PD-15 density.  The point of the task force is to ultimately create a new upper limit. How much it’s over whatever nebulous calculation from decades past is largely academic.

Final Thought

As you can see from the old maps above, PD-15 began life as a series of low-rise apartment buildings. Developer Hal Anderson changed his plans as Dallas grew up around this area. PD-15 added two towers to supplement a growing city’s needs. A third was planned as demand grew.  When the Athena turned condo in the early 1970s, Hal Anderson added another five units to the building to further maximize his profit and meet demand.

Redevelopment is often seen as benefiting sellers who are unlikely to hang around to deal with any aftermath once their checks have cleared. But it’s equally true that quality development can bring needed vitality to a sleepy neighborhood.

Food for thought.

As I began, this is the first meeting.  As this process continues, issues and their consequences will become clearer for everyone. This should enable stakeholders to better shape the inevitable change. Development can have many positive impacts if done well. Involved neighbors are the key to ensuring the best outcome, not blind Uncle Marvin’s dog.

 

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 sharewithjon@candysdirt.com.

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