While I’m not an Oak Lawn Committee member and can’t speak, I am certainly free to roll my eyes. Last month, a proposed apartment building on the former Old Warsaw restaurant site showed up at OLC seeking support for an “adjustment” to their alley buffer requirement of 10 feet. They didn’t get it and so they returned last night with more paper shuffling – literal paper shuffling.
The answer to their quest is painfully simple. Design a building that fits within the parameters of your zoning or file a zoning case. This mealy approach of hitting up the Board of Adjustments to backdoor your way out of a full zoning case is a “poor door” to city planning. Kairoi Residential seemingly didn’t want the closer scrutiny of the OLC on their entire project. I say that because more than one question about the overall project was brushed off with “we’ll meet the PD-193 requirements” – never exceed.
And so it went, everything was the bare minimum. As I pointed out last time, certainly the design is bare minimum.
I know this is tough to read, but on the top, there’s the main façade on Maple Avenue, on the bottom is the rear of the building that faces an alley and a series of homes over a century old. From the left, Maple Avenue pedestrians are treated to an above ground parking garage screened with “prefinished metal,” then a large car-hole entry and the off-the-shelf glass-clad leasing office. Exciting, no?
Here’s where the eye-rolling begins. When asked why they didn’t put ground-floor retail or restaurant space on Maple Avenue, the answer was that with the other proposed buildings nearby, maybe there’d be too much – because Dallas suffers from too much vibrancy. It’s another example of what I said last month – this is a building that taps neighboring vibrancy without giving back.
We were also told the project wouldn’t “park right” which translates into “we didn’t want to spend the money on underground parking.” They also noted that they were adding a few park benches to counter comments that the design wasn’t “urban” enough – because a few scattered benches are all it takes to be urban?
Along the alley, you can see the cheapness continues with an open garage facing the neighbors. There’s a “painted barrier” to keep most headlights from pointing straight out, but the ambient lighting will be “on” all night long. The reason given for the open back? Air flow. Not because they’re too cheap to give their neighbors something better to look at, something less lit to let them sleep at night without blackout shades. The light pollution was explained away by saying that since it’s above ground level, it’s OK.
Part of the need to shed the 10-foot alley barrier was that they’d had to give up 10-feet from the alley. You see, buildings over 30 feet tall require a 26-foot alley instead of the existing 16-feet. It’s not the city’s mandate to fix your problems. It sounds like Kairoi designed the building and got an “oops” at the end. Rather than redesign the building to accommodate the wider alley, here we are.
I also think these guys act before they know because last month they said they’d spoken with neighbors and their plans to install vegetation on the other side of the alley to satisfy. Well, an owner of three of those alley properties was not in agreement and joined the OLC to become involved. Kairoi also reported back that there was no space to plant their barrier on the other side of the alley – and even if there were, the shadow caused by their building would make healthy trees improbable (one presumes this was realized after having finally looked during the intervening month). The result would be fewer trees because there’s nowhere to plant them (translation: the building takes up too much land).
The subject of alley traffic was brought up. Specifically trucks. The fire lane and loading area are shared space. The service elevator isn’t super close or a particularly straight shot (above). First, if you place the truck where it says “loading” you’re in front of a storage room and trash area with no entrance to the building. But even where I placed a truck, the route to the service elevator is far from convenient. Cut through the dog area or the bicycle room or most likely, through the back of the main entrance/motor court.
But, the OLC was assured that this was going to be a Class-A property and that once it was leased up, there would be little resident turnover (eye roll). I’m sure all the neighboring Class-A apartments offering free months of rent could tell the story of folks moving in for the discount and moving on to the next when it’s not renewed.
But even aside from moving trucks, in our “deliver me” world, all makes of online retailer deliveries will be in and out of the alley daily. Sure, as Kairoi said, there won’t be food deliveries like those who serviced the Old Warsaw, but there will be FedEx, UPS, and Post Office briskly weaving into the fire lane at least daily – and then there are the inevitable maintenance trucks. Any way you look at it, this is going to be a busy section of alley downplayed by Kairoi.
My final eye roll comes from the few times they threw out the offhand comment that they’re building 180-feet tall and are zoned for 240-feet. It was like they wanted points. Constructing such a banal building in Uptown’s re-birthplace doesn’t score points with me. Feet away, Granite will be constructing a 400-foot tower with complete underground parking resulting in an acre of green space. That’s points.
So take the 240 feet or even more. Just show up with something better. Or if you’re going to show up with such an uninspired building, don’t ask for favors.
Rounding out the meeting was a quick presentation by Charisse Beaupre from the Friends of Stemmons Park. I bet you didn’t know we had a Stemmons Park or that it had friends. Apparently, it was a four-ish acre plot set aside by the Hunt and Crow families back in the 1970s as a park – and then it sat as vacant land for the next 40-ish years.
This new organization seeks to bring the “park” to Stemmons Park. Their goals are to ultimately see it as a connection point between Oak Lawn and the Design District. It’s a loooong-term goal. In the meantime, they want to clear the place out and put in some picnic tables, water station and a restroom (Portland Loo). To attract more than bagless dog walkers, they want food trucks to bring purpose and a reason to visit the area. Depending on how many folks work/visit the InfoMart these days, reasonably-priced lunch options could be a big seller they could walk to. Given the area attracts homeless people, the group wants to find a way to share food and employ them (bravo).
If you want to get involved, they have a website and email – email@example.com. I think we all wish this group success.
[Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for CandysDirt.com. His opinions are his own.]
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.