Often developers show up to the Oak Lawn Committee looking for approval for a proposed project before hitting Dallas’ City Plan Commission and council. But sometimes they just need a little help. Last night’s OLC meeting was a little of both.
The first of three cases revolved around a project that had been blessed a while ago, but that now that it was under construction they uncovered a design boo-boo. They need to change it, but the original plan required the creation of a sub-district within PD-193 and the city says these things can’t be changed within two years of being granted. So they need a waiver. Nothing really for the OLC to do, but this property owner didn’t want the OLC to think they’d pulled a fast one. Courtesy. We like it.
The second case was a poor young soul who didn’t have his code, PD, and developer-speak down pat. His firm (who knew better how to approach the OLC) is considering purchasing a building with no ground floor. Yes, no ground floor. There’s a small elevator lobby and the rest is given away to parking under the bulk of the building above. He wants to operate some hair salons on the second floor but the PD-193 documents say salons are a ground-floor usage … but he literally doesn’t have a ground floor. So they offered, sometimes terse, suggestions and thoughts on how he could proceed. I say terse because it’s one thing to be new — it’s another thing when your employer knows better and sent you to slaughter anyway.
The third case was what the graphic is all about. You may recall the two prior OLC meetings where this project on Armstrong and Cole from Alliance Residential was presented (here, here). It was a thuddingly dense building with 340 apartments in a combined five- and seven- story design. The lot was crowded and crammed with what appeared to be wall-to-wall units.
Last night, they returned with a vastly different configuration. The same 340-unit density, but they siphoned units off the back 80 percent of the lot and placed them in a high-rise on Armstrong Avenue. This left the very northern part of the property with a 22-story, 240-foot high-rise with the remainder of the property within MF-2’s height of three stories. It was a pretty neat trick that I personally thought was a heck of a lot better than the prior iterations.
The tower could either face east-west or north-south. Personally, the north-south configuration looked better to me, but I’m just an audience member at these shindigs. I’m showing both so you can have your own armchair opinions. Sure, a tower is probably more controversial for some, but I liked the freer space in the back and thought it was a decent trade-off.
Of course, I’m not the keeper of the keys of PD-193, so the OLC’s ultimate thoughts may not mesh with my more short-term, eye candy impressions.
They also came to the table with a seemingly more generous affordable housing component to the plan. What was 10 units for folks making <80 percent of the median income in Dallas has been upped to a full 10 percent of their 340 units (that’s 34 for the coffee deprived). And these tenants would only have to make <50 percent of the median income and they’d take vouchers.
The OLC had a lot of questions on the affordable component specifically revolving around the longevity of these units’ availability in the program. They didn’t want the developer to sell the project and have the affordable units vanish. Alliance representatives said that they’d write it into their zoning so they’d be there as long as the building stood. Good answer.
The other more telling, and saddening, question was whether the city had formulated wording for this type of affordable component being inserted into a development. No. The City of Dallas remains too lazy to even get guidelines ironed out and available to developers, let alone actual policies. “Stuck in committee” is the catch-all phrase most used.
After the OLC was done peppering their questions, I had one question … the last iteration had one-bedroom units whose walls didn’t reach the ceiling (no window). Do those units now have a window in their bedrooms that allow them to have four to-the-ceiling walls? Unfortunately, the Alliance representative had left before I could buttonhole him after the meeting.
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.