Last night, Council Member Jennifer Gates kicked off the first public meeting to discuss the possibilities for redeveloping the crumbling central garage at the Preston Center West shopping center. The meeting was an informative update and change for area residents to see and hear about the research being conducted to fix the blight.
My most glaring takeaway from this initial meeting was how poorly traveled area landowners are.
To review, the City of Dallas owns the Preston Center West central garage, however, grasping tightly to the city’s short and curlies are the surrounding business owners who have ultimate say-so on what the city is able to do with the garage. They’re represented above as the Preston Center West Corp. column.
The above graphic shows the five potential outcomes for the garage. The quickest way to understand what the real options are is to look at the big stars, but the Preston Center West Corp. column is the most telling. After all, their “no” is “no” or in this case, their “low” is “no.”
Option one is the recommendation from the 2016 Preston Center Plan for a below-ground parking garage topped by a park and community amenity for fairs, concerts, and just sitting around gabbing about how decrepit the old garage was. You’ll note that the city is “high” on it while business owners are “low.” You might think that they’re concerned about the disruption caused by constructing the garage. Nope. They’re “high” on the second option, building a new above-ground garage (future eyesore). They’re also high on option four that rebuilds the parking garage but with apartments on top (more customers).
I opened by saying the members of the Preston Center West Corp. were poorly traveled. Clearly, not to support the amenity park can only mean they’ve never been to Klyde Warren Park. They’ve never sat and watched the unending throngs of people customers who flock to the park every day because of the dynamic activities the park hosts. They’ve never read about the unbridled appreciation of rents happily paid by nearby businesses that used to face into the abyss of Woodall Rodgers (an ugliness equal to the existing garage). Because if they did, and if they put on their long-term glasses, they’d understand the wellspring of new customers and higher rents such a park would generate.
Another way I know they haven’t been to Klyde Warren is because their support for a garage/apartment hybrid structure reeks of customer generation. They’re willing to put up with all the additional garage and apartment construction distraction and annoyance as long as there are built-in customers screwed into the ground (I think we can agree, the city ain’t a great landlord). Those hundred or two apartment dwellers would be a drop compared to what a Klyde Warren-style park would bring to the area.
The full-bore park option is the only way these businesses get close to the rents charged across the street at Preston Center East.
But let’s talk about bringing residential to Preston Center. If these landowners want captive customers, why aren’t they demolishing their own bounty of single-story retail buildings and building their own? Ohhh, I get it, they want the city to spoon-feed them. I mean let’s face it, if Preston Center West really wanted their land to perform better, they’d get together and drag the whole place out of the 1950s with a more attractive, cohesive and functional design. But they’d have to spend a buck.
Yes, I’m on a bit of a rant, but that slide just ticked me off with what it said between the lines.
On the flipside, Houston-based Walker Consultants are parking garage experts (there’s a niche for ya) who’ve been retained to guide this process. This was meeting one, there will be more before a final report will be presented. Thankfully most of the work will be behind the scenes with a next meeting sometime around the first of the year and a third final one a couple of months later.
They’ve already been at work disseminating an online survey to gauge people’s thoughts about the existing garage and what might be desired in the future in a new structure. As you can see above, it’s no surprise the existing garage’s signage, appearance and pedestrian features were found wanting with over half of respondents thinking they were “inadequate.” Inexplicably, 6 percent thought the garage’s appearance was “good” (that’s three times the national visual disability rate).
On the upside, 61 percent want the parking underground (hear that landowners?) and 60 percent want it integrated with other uses (like a park, not an apartment building). Happily, 58 percent want green building practices used. Perhaps even a few solar panels to generate the power for the underground lighting?
Evenly split were respondents’ feelings about whether the garage should accept credit card payments (43 percent yea/nay). Here’s how I see it. The city and NCTCOG kitties haves a combined $20 million earmarked for the project, but it’ll cost $40-50 million. Could some of the gap funding come from a partnership with NTTA (tollway folks) where they’d charge a nominal fee (like a buck), to park. No fussy cash or credit cards, just a tolltag scan. Invisible. And lord knows with that large of a funding gap they’ll be looking for someone who wants to pay big bucks to name the structure after their business, spouse, child, or dog.
One thought I had for the everyday use of the park obviously involves food. Preston Center West is already a food court, but has little outdoor eating. Why not setup an area on the park with numbered tables and chairs. The business owners could develop a restaurant menu and ordering app for all nearby restaurants that delivers food to your numbered table in the park. It would be so popular, the app would have to be expanded to allow reservations.
Send Your Message
The survey is still open for you to make your thoughts known on what the swan the existing ugly duck parking garage should turn into for the neighborhood.
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) 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. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.