I wonder if this project should be renamed Beetlejuice. It seems like Lincoln believes that by showing the same unpopular plan over and over, neighborhood approval will suddenly appear. Lincoln representative Angela Hunt whizzed through an incomplete deck of slides in record time. I say incomplete because one Oak Lawn Committee member had the original presentation from many moons ago and wondered where all the pages had gone … you know, the detail. Hunt said she left those pages out for brevity.
It was an excuse echoed by Lincoln’s Jeff Courtwright. In this case he was responding to a query about why Lincoln had ignored the very specific data requested months ago concerning how shade would fall across neighboring buildings. This time Courtwright said he made the decision not to provide what was asked for but instead give them only what he wanted. You’ll recall, I called Lincoln out for ignoring requests, essentially disrespecting the neighbors. Of course the reason it was ignored was because the result was bad. I’ll even go out on a limb and say some computer whiz ran the data and saw it was bad, so it was buried.
That’s buried, unlike the supposed buried parking garage. While it was claimed multiple times that all parking would be underground, when I saw the complete document set from a prior meeting, it’s plain the parking is visible on the back of the building and is quite above ground. In Lincoln’s case, below ground appears to mean you can’t see it from the street because apartments block it.
How do we know the garage hasn’t been changed? Lincoln reported that their five- and six- story building would have the same roofline. That couldn’t happen if it wasn’t sitting on something that was higher at one end and lower on the other. The garage.
What do you park in a garage? Cars.
You may recall that last year Hunt represented two groups on the other side of Turtle Creek. In one case she was representing Starbucks and the other neighborhood residents trying to fight the Toll Brothers project. When representing Starbucks, traffic was no problem. However weeks later when representing neighbors against Toll Brothers a block away, traffic was front and center. Then she lamented that the roads would be impossibly clogged and emergency services wouldn’t be able to get through, etc. etc.
Last night, representing another developer, traffic had returned to a minor issue. The traffic study presented was laughable to everyone I spoke with and many who were simply murmuring at its impossibility. Tell me what you think.
The existing complex contains 115 units while the proposed development contains 329 … that’s 214 more units (not quite double). The traffic study provided by DeShazo Group said that those 214 units would only “generate 35 more vehicular trips leaving/entering during the AM/PM peak hours than the existing development.” DeShazo went further, reporting that in 2015 they’d done a study on the same site but then with 540 units and found traffic increases would “have a negligible impact.” Hunt added that the resulting increase in travel times from the 214 proposed units would be “under two seconds.” Will this be a community for shut-ins? When Toll Brothers was being raked over the coals for a similar-sized building, their impact was slightly less than 1,000 trips per day.
And that’s the way data can be used. If you divide 1,000 by 24 hours in a day you wind up with 41 trips per hour. Add in some numerical massage and you might wind up with a seemingly innocuous hourly rate. But when Hunt was specifically asked if the 35 number was “per hour” she answered “no” and reread the quote above.
Regardless, no one in their right mind bought that adding 214 new units would result in so little of an increase. And if this was last year and Toll Brothers, neither would Hunt.
What about the emergency services access that was a rallying cry against Toll Brothers? It wasn’t even mentioned.
Setbacks, Canyons, and Privacy
An interesting thread was brought out concerning setbacks. Lincoln was happy to report that their building would be almost 85 feet away from the actual Katy Trail (roughly 35 feet from their building to the trail lot line and another 50 feet to the trail itself). But as it was pointed out, that pushes the building forward towards Carlisle and into the face of the neighboring Vine townhouses.
Essentially this proposal prioritizes the Katy Trail over the neighboring homeowners because the Friends of the Katy Trail are concerned with a canyonization of the trail (I share that concern too). But in this instance, it was estimated that the distance, front door to front door, between The Vine and this proposal would be about the same distance as the building and the Katy Trail. The difference being there’s a lot of vegetation blocking the Katy. All The Vine gets are a few small trees and Carlisle Street.
In addition to feeling crowded by the new proposal and a significant loss of sky views, they also lose privacy. In addition to the obvious window-to-window losses, The Vine has rooftop decks. Today those decks are largely private without binoculars. If this proposal is built, they lose that privacy too.
Is there a compromise here? When asked about this and other possible changes, Courtwright’s answer seemed to be that he would look at anything that didn’t impact his profit margin.
To digress back to cars, I made a mistake. I thought the building’s inset on Carlisle was some sort of courtyard. No, it’s the entrance and exit ramps for the garage. A far cry from what I’d wrongly assumed was greenery.
Why This Matters
Near the end, new Oak Lawn Committee President Hilda Rodriguez asked for a show of hands for those in the (standing room only) audience supported the proposal, one side was for while the other was against. Pretty even split. But when the question was clarified to ask who supported the project who wasn’t also an owner in the existing Turtle Creek Terrace condos, little more than a handful remained. Of those, most were part of the Lincoln Property team.
But other groups are also in favor of the proposal who have their own financial interests at stake. Sutton Place condos on a block away on Cole has been seeking a developer for a few years and Exxir Capital owns the property immediately north across Hall Street (and also employs Hunt who opposed development here when city council member). They all want Lincoln to open the door for their own zone-busting projects. So confident is Exxir of their own under-wraps plans that repairs have yet to be made from an August 2017 fire.
So, does Dallas want to preserve some semblance of mixed housing stock? Does Dallas want projects to generally abide by zoning? Or is Dallas wanting to be a more lawless Houston where land goes to the highest bidder and where zoning and neighborhoods simply don’t matter.
After the public meeting was over and the OLC met to discuss the project, it was clear that the OLC has another problem. In the past, this project would have been tossed (and has been). But as the OLC has grown its political capital, developers got smart and now have representatives as voting members.
Those with longer memories than I say a similar thing happened a decade ago and it cost the OLC a lot of credibility with City Hall (a bonus for developers). It will be interesting to see if Rodriguez tamps down the developer voices and keeps the OLC working for the neighborhood.
Lincoln wasn’t the only dog and pony in the show at last night’s meeting. Masterplan showed up with two items. Quickly, the Katy Trail Ice House is petitioning the city to sell it the tail end of Routh Street where sits an old railroad caboose. They want better landscaping and additional parking to be the result. Easy-peasy, no real controversy.
Masterplan also presented an update from the December OLC meeting on their McKinney and Hester project (apartments). After getting knocked down from 14 stories to five, the OLC gave them some homework in December. Masterplan was there to show their work.
Until next month …
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.