PD-15: Neighborhood Association Hosts Meeting to Address Accusations

A.G. Spanos rendering for Diplomat lot

I can’t seem to go a week these days without some wrinkle or shenanigan involving Planned Development District PD-15, located on a small patch on Northwest Highway near Preston Road behind the Pink Wall. Last week, the Athena and Preston Tower had their fact-free punch-fest, and this week it was the Preston Hollow East Neighborhood Association’s turn (PHENA). They’re the single-family neighborhood north of the Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association (go figure).

For about a week, I’d been aware of a small but vocal (ok, accusatory) group of the neighborhood’s residents who appear to have awoken from a slumber now that PD-15’s future is finally getting serious. Granted, I know the world doesn’t all read my missives about PD-15 (here, on D Magazinehere, here – or Preston Hollow People), but PHENA has also sent scads of emails, texts, Facebook posts, and updates on the neighborhood’s website. My ears are cinders from what’s been said about me on Backdoor, Sidedoor, Frontdoor Nextdoor. Personally, I leave the social media trash talk, gossip-mongering, and digital curtain twitching to those with nothing better to do.

The point being, folks six feet under at Sparkman Hillcrest have heard about the ongoing redevelopment planning for PD-15. Given that the Preston Place condos burned down weeks shy of two years ago, you’d almost have to be willfully out of touch.

A.G. Spanos placed between towers (with MY suggested green roof)

And of course these folks are all in a tizzy with what’s been going on without them. Many were the same faces opposed to The Laurel on Preston Road and Northwest Highway. Accusations are flying back and forth, open records requests are being filed to get ahold of communications between PHENA president and PD-15 committee member Juli Black and city officials (below).  These residents seem to want the train to stop while they get caught up. This is the point at which I hate zoning cases. Everyone does the best work they can and then back-seaters suddenly get riled up to stop the presses because they’re … them.  It’s easier and more grand to upset an apple cart that someone else has grown, picked and placed in the cart.

Last night, a hastily called PHENA meeting attracted some 80 residents and interested onlookers. Here’s what went down.

A.G. Spanos rendering for Diplomat lot

The first 45 minutes of the meeting centered on walking attendees through all the communications that have gone on between PHENA and residents. Essentially it built the case laid out above that even death wouldn’t really excuse the neighborhood of not knowing what was going on.

The remainder of the meeting saw the two known developers showing their proposals. The A.G. Spanos team showed their vision for the Diplomat parcel while Provident’s Mark Miller showed an updated vision for Preston Place.  Attendees queried after the meeting were pretty OK with Spanos’ project but were aghast with Provident’s ever-growing project.

One of those residents was Richard Wynne. Yesterday, he filed an open records request with the city searching for:

  • All communications (letters/memos/emails/text messages) between Council Member Jennifer S. Gates, her staff, or anyone acting on their behalf and Juli Black relating to PD-15, the formation of a steering committee relating to PD-15, and/or any proposed development within PD-15.

  • All communications (letters/memos/emails/text messages) between City Plan Commissioner Margot Brito Murphy, her staff, any staff members of the Dallas Plan Commission, or anyone acting on their behalf and Juli Black relating to PD-15, the formation of a steering committee relating to PD-15, and/or any proposed development within PD-15.

  • All communications (letters/memos/emails/text messages) from Jan. 1, 2017 to the present between Council Member Jennifer S. Gates, her staff, or anyone acting on their behalf and anyone employed by or affiliated with any real-estate development company relating to PD-15, the steering committee relating to PD-15, and/or any proposed development within PD-15.

  • All communications (letters/memos/emails/text messages) from Jan. 1, 2017 to the present between City Plan Commissioner Margot Brito Murphy, her staff, any staff members of the Dallas Plan Commission and anyone employed by or affiliated with any real-estate development company relating to PD-15, the steering committee relating to PD-15, and/or any proposed development within PD-15.

  • All communications (letters/memos/emails/text messages) between Council Member Jennifer S. Gates, her staff, or anyone acting on her behalf and any person employed by or affiliated with the Dallas Observer newspaper regarding an April 22, 2014 news article entitled, “In Preston Hollow Apartment Case, Staubach Gates Takes Recusing Herself to a New Level.”

  • All documents, internal or external (including electronic communications) relating to an April 22, 2014 Dallas Observer news article entitled “In Preston Hollow Apartment Case, Staubach Gates Takes Recusing Herself to a New Level.” This request shall include any communications between Plan Commissioner Margot Brito Murphy or her staff and City Council Member Jennifer S. Gates or her staff.

This is a pretty big net that seems to be attempting to make connections between The Laurel, PD-15, and its cast of city hall characters. What’s interesting is the request includes current PHENA president Juli Black while not seeking the same information for PHENA board members in The Laurel case. Hmmm.

A.G. Spanos rendering for Diplomat lot

Returning to The Laurel development for a moment, this cry of poor communication may sound familiar. Back in August 2015, I wrote about how prior PHENA president and then board member Ashley Parks managed to secure a City Plan Commission delay. She claimed she, and thus the neighborhood, had not been notified of the latest Laurel proposal that had been publicly available since the prior March. I listed emails she’d sent and received about the proposal and also noted that her husband was one of a group of homeowners negotiating on the neighborhood’s behalf with the developer Transwestern. To me, the story didn’t hang together

Is it credible for PHENA residents to again claim ignorance of communication? I can’t imagine anyone involved with the two-plus years spent on The Laurel dropping the ball so soon. Surely anyone who cared about development had signed up for any communication from both the city and PHENA? Surely at least one of this similar group knew and spread the word. In my experience, protesters don’t hide their lanterns under a bush.

It’s hard to believe an accusation of a willful obscuring of the events within PD-15 can be credible given the amount of communication. However, there may be significant disagreement about the level of redevelopment Black supported. During committee meetings, she was an indulgent counterweight to the towers’ “do nothing” approach. Not all PHENA residents will be thrilled by her generosity of vision.


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 sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.

6 Comment

  • WOW Candy, were we at the same meeting? Who are you getting your info from. The first 45 min Julie read the rules of behavior to the group like we were in the 1st grade and her partner went on on about coming from some small town and wanting to live in Preston Hollow, they we heard about the people displaced from the fire…didn’t get what any of this had to do with the new development.
    You call the residents accusatory, I call them concerned citizens, who pay very high taxes to our city and deserve to understand what is happening in their backyard, Its not like a lot of us don’t want development, it would be nice if a traffic study was done, and perhaps a master plan for some greenspace ,more than 70×100 and perhaps a way to actually walk across NW Hwy to all that great retail.
    As for all the info we have received, I am a member of the PHENA I cant find a single email about this, and I do not have time to read nextdoor comments do not read Dmagazine. I had no problem with the Laurel once they dropped it Down to 3 stories , of course its a pity the developer didn’t set it back off the street a few more feet, perhaps that would help get it leased ….just sayin
    If you were just an average homeowner in this area (not a real estate writer) you would understand that the traffic and lack of walkability is getting worse everyday. I cant even walk the dog anymore without cars flying by trying to avoid the mess on NW Hwy. ( I walk along Park, Desco and Tulane )
    Please stop painting the people at that meeting as a bunch of sleeping ,trash talking people, its just not true.

    • mm

      Eileen, thank you for your response. I actually have a condo on Averill Way,and my daughter and grand-daughter live at Imperial House. I know the traffic is getting worse in ALL of Dallas, not just this area. Thousands move here every month. Texas is likely to have another 15 years or so in its current position atop the growth rankings — until the state’s younger residents start aging out of their fertile years and more of Texas’ baby boomers (like me) start dying. Our sleepy little streets are not so sleepy anymore. But I have seen the fast drivers speeding down Averill Way for years. What we try to do at CandysDirt is help you understand the dynamics of real estate and why developers have to chew up so much dirt to turn profits. It starts with high land costs. By the way, I didn’t write the story, one of my reporters did. But I attended almost all the Laurel meetings and jeesh. I agre, concerned citizens ned to know, and have a right to know, what is happening in their back yard, but I don’t believe they have any more right to dictate what happens on property they do not own.

  • Doing the same thing over and expecting a different result? To me, the Laurel qualifies as a failure. It’s not leasing, it’s not attractive, it’s not high quality or a improvement over what it replaced. Why? One of the reasons is the demands of the surrounding neighborhoods. They got exactly what they wanted, and now no one is especially thrilled with what they wanted and got. Placing so many limitations on what builders can produce has consequences, especially on small tracts. It’s like the old adage, you get what you pay for. Lower density, and lower height, and bigger set backs, and smaller building footprint, and underground parking and additional urban set backs, and…. results in lower quality, less DESIRABLE projects, like the Laurel and the Bandera.
    If the residents of the pink wall don’t want another Laurel smack dab in the middle of their neighborhood, they better think about repeating history.

  • The level of understatement & euphemisms is astounding Jon. The first 45 minutes were not ” centered on walking attendees through communication”, rather
    It was spent with board member Dusti Smith SHAMING &
    SCOLDING the neighborhood for not reading their emails. And to say that Juli Black is ” an indulgent counterweight ” is a gross mischaracterization of the situation. The crowd was crying out with suggestions of
    her removal from the board to which she responded
    rudely that they were welcome to apply to be on
    the board with her, so unwilling was she to cede any
    control. You also forgot to mention Juli’s answer or
    lack thereof when a PHE homeowner ( who actually
    owns 2 homes in PHE) asked if Juli was prepared to
    recuse herself as an agent due to conflict of interest
    when the 38 story tower being pitched was discussed. Or that same neighbor being silenced by Dusti
    Smith when she raised her hand to ask a question. ( The backlash from the crowd forced Dusti to apologize aloud as she could see that wasn’t looking good for her, these bullying tactics).
    And as far as the neighbors claiming lack of communication, has it ever occurred to you that maybe some folks have lives that are focused on other issues? Working for a living, raising children, caring for aging parents, personal health struggles, etc., and now that PD-15 is at the crucial point and in the news EVERYWHERE in Dallas, they were shaken into the reality of their situation, wherein the President of their HOA is intentionally disregarding the message that resounded LOUD & CLEAR to any attendant at last week’s meeting, and that is the polar opposite of what Juli Black is PUSHING for.? Provident’s vision for PD-15 includes an iconic tower of 38
    stories to be built by the Architect of ” The Museum Tower”!!! That would be like having the Captain of the Titanic steer your yacht! No name calling, from Next door or the Back door, just giving another side of the story, which where I come from, is what good journalism is supposed to be about.

    • mm

      First, no, you don’t get to play the “we’re busy” card. We’re all busy. Busyness, like ignorance of the law, is no excuse.
      .
      If you felt shamed and scolded for not reading communications about what you now consider to be critical, tough. How is that someone else’s blame?
      .
      I agree the Provident presentation was shocking (“aghast” was my descriptor of reactions). I’ve been trying to get a hold of them to have a WTF conversation.
      .
      The architect wasn’t Museum Tower’s problem, everything else was. The architect certainly wasn’t the “captain” of that particular Titanic.
      .
      In a nutshell, you vehemently disagree with Juli Black’s representation on the committee (perfectly OK). But how many of you attended a single meeting to see what was going on? The neighborhood’s uninvolvement enabled this result.
      .
      Given the number of signs I’ve seen popping up in the neighborhood, I’d say that after hitting the snooze alarm for two years, the neighborhood is finally woke. It’s about time, but I’m not going to give a pat on the back.