For those who need a reminder about why the Oak Lawn Committee is critical to the neighborhood’s integrity, last night’s meeting was a case in point.
Last month, StreetLights Residential brought a proposal for the corner of Oak Lawn and Lemmon Avenues next to the flagship/original Eatzi’s. You may remember I called the building’s design “unfortunate” and “poor company” to its surroundings. Things have changed.
After last month’s meeting, I had a chance to sit down with Greg Coutant, the director of development for StreetLights, and share my thoughts and concerns. We talked about the movie theater originally on the plot. I also brought along a book covering a century of high-rise residential design and played show-and-tell. They listened.
StreetLights went back to the movie theater’s archive (housed in the Dallas Public Library) for inspiration from the original 1931 theater. Now the Oak Lawn Avenue façade looks like an update on that original theater – complete with sign and marquee. It creates a visual connection to the Melrose Hotel. It also begins to heal the wound this parcel has represented to the neighborhood since the theater was torn down in 1985. I was impressed with the work so far.
As you can see, the first seven floors have given way to that new/old façade. It replaces the original plan’s rather plain-Jane streetscape and creates a destination. What also happened was that the Oak Lawn Avenue-facing units on those redesigned floors went away. The enabled them to rejigger the parking, resulting in a 25-foot (or two-story) drop in the height of the parking podium. It’s a great start, but at seven stories, it’s still too tall of a visual brick when not looking straight-on at the building.
Several committee members complimented the new façade as well.
But it’s only been a month and not everything has been addressed – yet. In my book, there are four things that still need working out. First, the already-mentioned 7-story garage. Second, the skin of the building above the new façade still needs help. Third, the orientation of the parking lot entry from Eatzi’s needs to be aligned with the road. And fourth, a bit more explanation on traffic flow for deliveries, moving vans, etc.
When I spoke to Coutant after the meeting, I congratulated him on the new streetscape façade but prodded him on the other issues I see (I’m a big prodder). He said that the façade was fast-tracked and that the other stuff would be looked at. I think the positive response to the new façade provides the confidence to move forward on the remainder of the building. And hey, stuff takes time, I’ll give someone as much time as they need as long as they’re using it wisely. So far, so good.
On another note, Coutant made a point of explaining how they were going to downzone the Eatzi’s lot to prevent the rights they’re proposing to use on the corner from being resurrected.
I’m not weighing in on the overall 240-foot height of the project, mostly because I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, density is a scratch because they’re taking density potential from Eatzi’s. On the other, it’s a signature corner on two quite busy roads. On the third hand, it would be the tallest building by far on the “north” side of Oak Lawn Avenue – and is that a bad precedent to set? And maybe it’s not the height, but the bulk – for which the seven-story podium is to blame?
The other itch some needed scratching was traffic. Coutant pointed out that residential is the least traffic-generating use when compared to office space (which could be built here by right). OLC member Leland Burk pointed out that a medical office building – with its non-stop ins/outs – would be a lot worse than the proposed residential (he should know as he owns just such a building in Preston Center). So residential is the lightest touch possible on traffic.
Their traffic study was a bit déjà vu. It was conducted by Pacheco Koch’s Steve Stoner – the same firm/guy who’d presented the PD-15 traffic study results the night before.
That’s it. There was only one project presented at this meeting. I liked the progress they’ve made and look forward to seeing its evolution into a project the neighborhood supports and enjoys. As it stands now, the new façade sorta completes a circle. The original theater streetscape is revived after being bastardized in a 1947 remodel and then unceremoniously torn down and the site left largely derelict for 35 years.
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.