If traffic and density are supposedly the issues most feared by PD-15 development, we need an accurate measuring stick to insert reality into the discussion. The coming traffic study will do that, but …
In the fullness of time, I started to think about one of the tidbits from last week’s PD-15 meeting with City Plan Commission. As I reported, the chief opposition speaker was Carla Percival-Young, an architect with Alabama-based GMC and an Athena resident. She was asked if a coming traffic study revealed negligible effects on the neighborhood, would the opposition have a re-think. The answer was no because they disagreed with every aspect of the proposed updated PD-15 draft. Later she was asked what she thought was a fair number of units per acre. After hesitation, she replied 60 units per acre compared to the draft’s recommendation of 90 units per acre – 30 units less per acre.
Some things began to gnaw at me.
First, after failing to build a second Preston Tower in the 1960s, the original 1970s Preston Place was planned to be a high-rise containing 125 units before it was scaled back to the 60 units that were built and burned. The 20-odd stories housing 125 units equate to very large units – probably larger than Athena’s 1,721-square-foot average and definitely eclipsing those in Preston Tower.
Young’s 60 units per acre would equate to two-acre Preston Place essentially using the existing surplus units not built back in the 1970s. (The strategist in me wonders if that’s the opposition’s goal – give Preston Place what they had and forget the rest?)
However, that density was from the market forces and economics of 40 years ago. Back then, the minimum wage was $2.10 per hour and the median home price in Texas was $12,000 – today it’s $217,000 in Dallas. I’m sure construction materials have risen in a similar fashion.
When you look at the rendering of 1970s Preston Place (above) with its grandly oversized units, don’t you wish it had been built? Regardless of whether it began as apartments, by now, it would have been condos. It also would have had sprinklers and so not have burned. I daresay that its existence wouldn’t have stopped anyone in the greater neighborhood from purchasing their home either.
Regardless of the reason why it wasn’t built – finances, neighborhood pushback, or market forces from the tail end of the mid-1970s recession – it would have economically helped the neighborhood in a way the old Preston Place couldn’t. Hindsight is 20/20 (foresight o/o).
Traffic and Density
The 30-unit difference between the city’s proposed 90 units per acre and the opposition’s 60 units equates to 120 additional residential units across approximately four acres. Carmageddon is going to result from 120 units?
The intersection of Preston Road and Northwest Highway sees between 40,000 and 50,000 cars per day (and reports show has been declining for 20 years). Those 120 additional units would result in potentially 240 trips per day assuming two cars per unit and two trips per day. Those additional units/trips would increase traffic 0.0054 percent – so many grains of sand on a beach. That’s what the opposition is fighting over?
Sure, the impact will be greater on internal roads, but there’s an answer for that – Tulane Blvd. The good news is that apparently, the coming traffic study will show what opening Tulane to Northwest Highway can do to minimize internal traffic.
Those Preston Hollow single-family homeowners who waxed about traffic from new Pink Wall development running rampant on their streets by “cutting through” are wrong. Who in their right mind would be driving south on Preston Road and cut over to Edgemere on a random through street? They’d essentially be bypassing their home and entering from the far side. And for what? To avoid waiting the same amount of time to turn left from Preston Road onto Averill Way (while also adding Stop signs on Edgemere)?
Traffic crossing between Preston Road and Hillcrest isn’t Pink Wall traffic.
Those few cars residing in the Pink Wall and traveling east may cut up to Park Lane and over to North Park or take Bandera over to Hillcrest, but that’s the only thing that makes sense. North/south traffic may also result in some Edgemere to Walnut Hill trips, but with all the Stop signs and traffic divots, Preston Road or Hillcrest would be faster and less bumpy.
Let’s also not forget that given the average age of Pink Wall residents, the lion’s share are retired and no longer part of commuter traffic – in fact, we avoid rush hour.
If Preston Hollow single-family homeowners are seeing increased traffic, they may want to investigate navigation apps. Unlike the good old days when we stuck to the main roads with the occasional shortcut, GPS-based navigation apps try to cut every second off a journey. This may be particularly informative to Park Lane residents as Park Lane crosses the Tollway with no traffic signal nor exit ramps. In fact, for those looking to avoid tollway-related traffic, Park Lane does the trick in a pretty straight shot from Webb Chapel to Abrams Road – throwing in a less-congested Central Expressway crossing to boot.
I use GPS to navigate to a new Silicon Valley office. In the half-dozen times I’ve been there, I don’t think it’s taken the same route twice.
If The Towers Were Built to Orignal Specs …
It’s important to remember that while today’s PD-15 towers have about 500 residential units, the original developer, Hal Anderson, foresaw a second Preston Tower and a 40-story, double-sized Athena. Had those plans come to pass, we’d essentially already have the number of units possible in the city’s draft proposal – and it wouldn’t have cost us a devastating fire to get here.
The addition of 120 total units to the opposition’s 60 per acre are a pittance in the grand scheme. However, the opposition is too blinded by minutia to see the grand scheme of quality and design they should be focused on. It’s The Laurel all over again – “how short” and “how few” that will result in “how ugly.”
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.