Toll Brothers Mired in City Council Quicksand And Water Carrying

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The fate of the proposed Toll Brothers high-rise in Oak Lawn remains stalled for another month. A bus load of Plaza residents showed up to voice their concerns without actually admitting their issue is view blockage and that the rest was just a smoke screen.  Several gave themselves away in saying that a midrise would be better (but then complained about other midrises in the area). So, why exactly would a midrise with essentially the same number of units be better than a high-rise?

It certainly isn’t traffic, and yet that old saw was trotted out yet again. One Plaza resident spoke of neighbors’ children being endangered daily by cars racing through the neighborhood. Others echoed this hyperbole of an Indy 500 zooming non-stop through their side streets.  They made it sound like a few well-placed cops catching these speeders and stop-sign runners would eliminate the need for a city bond.

On the upside, several, including council members, brought up the recently approved Starbucks’ larger traffic impact and the hypocrisy of neighborhood support for that while seeking to nix Toll Brothers. (Super easy to figure out. Starbucks benefits them personally and it’s one-story)

Similarly, the fear of emergency services not being able to navigate the roads was repeatedly voiced.  I’ll give council member Phillip Kingston from District 14 credit, after all the whinging, he asked the fire department to give their opinion … right then and there. A Fire Department representative stepped up to give a more technical explanation than expected. Kingston asked the speaker to net it out.  The fire department would recommend approval. That’s one more argument up in smoke (ha!).

Again, as I’ve said all along, when you peel it all away, this is a height issue masquerading as a traffic, fire, and safety issue. It’s trying to undo the property’s height entitlement … largely by a bunch of people living in an even higher high-rise.

And yet with these transparent arguments being knocked over, and the admission this is better than a by-right project, Kingston still asked for another month delay … and got it.

Carrying The City’s Water

But before that vote to delay came, council members opined …

Tennell Atkins asked about an affordable housing component that was then picked up by other council members.

Now if you’ve read my work at all, you know I’m waaaay in favor of mixed income neighborhoods.  But I’m sorry council members, you are the representatives of the city of Dallas. It is YOUR JOB to develop affordable housing regulations that apply throughout the city. It’s NOT your job to burble up with an 11 hour and 59 minute homework assignment to arbitrarily assign to this project.  You can’t use developers to do your job and take the heat from neighborhoods who (wrongly) fought hard over the last 40 years for economic redlining to keep people of lesser means from living close to them.

Kudos to council member Jennifer Gates for pointing out to her colleagues that the City of Dallas has not enacted any affordable housing guidelines and that because Toll Brothers isn’t in a TIF, it’s not required to do so.  AMEN

“We can’t, say it council, out of one side of our mouths we want to attract the middle class and then drive up the price [by limiting density], ”I think we have to figure out what we’re doing, council.”

Council member Lee Kleinman’s apples and bananas logic continues to mystify me on this case. Within the affordable housing conversation, he cited Dallas Midtown as eventually having a 20 percent affordable component (a laudable goal).  Then minutes later, echoing his prior meeting’s sentiment, wonders why Toll Brothers can’t just build a by-right project.

Dallas Midtown is anything but a by-right project. It took YEARS to work its way through City Hall. Part of that give and take was the creation of a TIF that required the affordable component.  Without the TIF, I doubt Midtown Dallas would have a 20 percent affordable component.

Similarly, if Toll Brothers built by right, there would be over 160 more and smaller units within a taller structure sitting on an exposed parking garage … without the need for a single affordable unit … because the Dallas City Council, of which Kleinman’s a member, has not done its job in addressing affordable housing.

Philip Kingston was absolutely correct in saying that a by-right project would be worse than what’s on the table. You’d think for a neighborhood so concerned with traffic, the specter of 160-plus more units would get them with the program (if, of course, this were about traffic and not views).

My Name Isn’t Toll

All I can say is that the nay-neighbors are really lucky Toll Brothers is in charge. I can imagine any number of people, myself included, with shorter fuses who by now would have begun a by-right building. It would be so tall Southwest flights could pass out peanuts.  It would have as many units as I could cram into the ugly box I wrapped them in. Parking would be above ground and unadorned — I’d even put cutouts in the perimeter so headlights could shine through.  Oh, and I wouldn’t manage it either, I’d sell the POS to some POS management company or REIT. Clearly my therapist has his work cut out for him this week.

Kingston thinks another month may net more compromise, but as Masterplan said, more people hated the midrise than the high-rise. So I’m not sure what’s left to wring out of the high-rise. Certainly the <10 unit reduction since last month is purely symbolic with zero impact on the hollow traffic concerns of the naysayers.

Toll Brothers next rolls back in front of Dallas City Council the week before Halloween. (Insert acidic, holiday related remark here.)


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 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

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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.

Reader Interactions


  1. Vicki says

    They are Horrible developers as I know firsthand many who have bought their developments in the Northeast. Not up to code- shoddy construction – sound issues. And once a problem is known and proven – forever to get any, if any, resolution. Buyer and City Beware with these guys.

    • mmJon Anderson says

      While I can’t comment on your concerns, please note, any issues with the building are Toll Brothers’. They will be the builder, owner and manager of this apartment building. If it’s bad, it won’t rent.

    • renato says

      According to Fortune Magazine’s 2016 survey of 1500 leading companies, Toll ranked as the most admired homebuilder and #6 overall behind only Apple, Disney, Amazon, Google and Nordstrom in terms of the quality of the products and services the company offers. The above post is just a continuation of an orchestrated lying campaign that started with the circulation of the false claim that the Sharif Munir property at the corner of Hood and Gillespie had been built by Toll and was of “shoddy construction”.

  2. steve byars says

    Jon, thanks for another update on this much maligned project.

    This is yet another example of the bullshit that passes for neighborhood engagement in this city. I’m terribly sorry that the residents of the’ Dallas tacky’ tower known as the Plaza feel so special that they can seek to block the progress of another developer from building nearby in an area full of mid to high rise buildings with many more on the way. What a bunch of hypocrites. Toll Brothers has a very successful track record across the U.S. Perhaps these NIMBY’s might be happier living in the suburbs or perhaps the countryside if they don’t want to be in an urban setting with all that entails. Dallas is amazing for just how country and small-town at heart it really is. Good luck with Amazon.

  3. John Sieber says

    I think the councils point about affordability is merely just to counter the Plaza’s residents desire for more upscale to justify their price points. I agree Toll should just build by right just like TDRE plans over there. I’m not sure I understood your complete support for high rise over there when just the other day you lamented hrises along the Katy?

    • Jon Anderson says

      The Toll Brothers area is zoned for high-rises, so I’m OK with a high-rise. If the neighborhood wants to remove rights, they should pay the owners what they’d lose in doing it. Otherwise, it’s theft.
      Parts of the Katy Trail may also be zoned for high-rises, so there’s nothing one can do besides lament the loss of the more natural vibe of the trail. That said, there’s a mix of high- and mid-rises that are doubly cursed by also being ugly. I’m betting a lot were not by right projects (before my time covering).

      • John M says

        Yes, it is technically zoned for a highrise like all of PD193, it is not zoned for what would be a likely economically viable highrise which is why they are asking for the zoning change.

        To me it strikes me as a bit of a dishonest argument because all of PD193 is zoned for a highrise, the zoning was put in place knowing that high-rises that didn’t reasonable development standards wouldn’t be built. I mean sure, technically on some PD193 property you could build a 20 story building with 900 sqft floor plates but like almost all legal agreements it is a waste of time to hash out every outlandish scenario that could come up under technicalities of zoning.

        • mmJon Anderson says

          Sure view factors into a buying decision in a high-rise, you may even pay more for it (more likely in new builds than resales), but you still don’t own it.
          I’ve never said view blockage isn’t an understandable argument. I’ve said that few admit it, instead conjuring up faulty arguments, because while understandable, it’s weak. It’s like complaining about a neighbor’s flowers. They’re not your flowers. You view encompasses someone else’s air rights.
          If you want to see by right high-rise projects, there are two coming soon to this area. I’ll bet they’re not as nice as this one. Hood/Dickason and on Hall facing Oak Lawn Park. If you’re impatient, the (terrible) mid-rise Gallery at Turtle Creek on Sale St. and Cedar Springs is also by right.
          The big ask on this project isn’t height (BTW the Plaza is higher., so a high-rise is hardly a “technicality”), it’s increased FAR which is largely the result of setbacks that pull the building’s footprint away from the edges of the lot (a good thing). They could follow the book and the building would be worse and look more massive than it is.
          Toll Brothers could build an additional 160+ units, do you think there’s no profit in doing that if money was their primary driver?
          FYI, PD-193 has a vast variety of sub-tracts with varying building rights. It’s not all high-rise…by far.

  4. Gmit says

    Easy solution, those being affected could just purchase their neighbor’s air rights….but that’s not really how this city works. The entrenched feel entitled, just because, and go to great lengths to avoid saying that out loud

  5. John M says

    It comes up over and over again, I have been accused of it personally on a project that most definitely did not block my view but why is not view blocking seemingly viewed as a universally bad interest to be fighting for?

    When I bought my house I knew the zoning and considered that in my decision, yes, of my view. I paid good money knowing that there were height restrictions in State Thomas that should ensure that my view is very difficult to block, the Toll Brothers knew full well what they were allowed to build there under the current zoning and are asking for an incredibly profitable exception to advance their economic interests at the expense of the people that paid for their view.

    As you know views are very much calculated into the price of a highrise condo, often easy in the 5 figure range, I don’t see why it is viewed as such a bad thing for the people that have invested hundreds if not millions of dollars in their home and yes, their view to give it up just because a developer would make a bigger profit by blocking it with full knowledge of what was allowed under current zoning.

    • renato says

      Allowing complaints from Plaza residents to derail a similar height high-rise a block away from them would be like allowing conscientious objector status to people who oppose a particular war and not war in general. A just society just cannot function that way. More properly, Plaza residents should be excluded from the process on fairness grounds as should those who failed to determine the zoning status of their property before purchase. That is why the opposition to the Toll project has devolved into the choreographed procession of incoherent misinformation that we saw at the Wednesday hearing. With respect to Toll’s profit, people need to understand that the initial funders of the opposition effort included very sophisticated real estate people. What appears to be going on now is an attempt to nibble Toll to death by moving the goal posts time after time to (1) increase their pre-development costs, (2) maximize the construction cost of the project itself, and (3) disadvantage Toll relative to competitors who are endeavoring to get their product to consumers before supply and demand equilibrium is restored to the Dallas apartment market. Do the math. If this really is a $100 million project as Toll’s consultant claims and Toll has optioned the dirt at $130/sf (my guess), we are getting close to $350,000 per unit development cost for the structure alone. An ultra-successful, best-in-class builder with access to favorably priced debt markets may be able to stomach this kind of risk but run-of-mill investors would run away from terms like this. 268 units rented at $2000/month assuming no vacancy and 25% annual overhead would only yield a 4.8% cap rate on a $100 million deal.

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