Tonight’s Dallas City Plan Commission meeting had a surprise ending for naysayers bent on limiting heights in PD-15.
I have to give the neighbors credit for successfully coming together to put forward a plan to maximize green space in the area. Developers also upended the city’s recommended PD-15 changes with a bold plan to deliver on those neighbors’ request by offering 35 to 45 percent of open space between a combined Royal Orleans and Preston Place. The catch? A new tower on Northwest Highway would hit 310 feet in height, slightly less than Preston Tower. (I was agog when I saw this option gaining support.)
In exchange for that height, the neighborhood will gain the aforementioned green space plus 100 percent underground parking for residents and guests (limited above ground for delivery and prospective tenants). The kicker to the height is that they want fewer units than the city’s proposed plan calls for with its affordable housing and green space sweeteners (120 units per acre versus 125 with all the sweeteners).
The proposal that drove the Plan Commission’s decision is shown above. It will contain 360 units. Given all the cubic footage of the project, the units will have to be very large. It will be part of a semi-connected set of projects punctuated by connected greenspace. The building’s commanding views of downtown and North Dallas will be equal to the rents or selling prices charged. Yes, selling prices. Seeing the size of the building and the number of units, the resulting oversized units almost beg for condos – if not immediately, then converted at a later date. This is something the neighborhood has long wished for.
Contrary to the naysayers, a development such as this will resuscitate the Pink Wall in a way smaller buildings would be hard pressed to match. I believe once the dust has settled, the values and desirability of the area will quickly increase, bringing in new money to revive and restore the remaining walk-up buildings. It’s what a signature development can do. (Of course, this still has to pass Dallas City Council.)
And high-rise living isn’t going anywhere. This week, The New York Times noted that in 1908 just 26 percent of the city’s high-rises were residential. The last decade has brought that number to 64 percent (when accounting for those buildings currently under construction) – and New York has a lot of high-rises.
Above is a rendering of the new central green space. Diamond Head Circle is closed from the Athena to the old Preston Place and converted to a park. Ground-floor units that once faced concrete now have patios that bleed into the green. Traffic from the new developments is cut off from impacting the existing buildings on Diamond Head Circle as I had hoped.
Traffic-wise, the city also wrote into their changes that the redeveloped Preston Place, Royal Orleans, and Diplomat would need to shunt traffic to Northwest Parkway and (preferably) Northwest Highway via a new opening (probably Tulane). This will minimize traffic overflow to existing side streets and Preston Hollow – another win for the neighborhood.
Of course, for many, the positives will only begrudgingly be admitted in hindsight. The Dallas City Plan Commission was treated to a monologue of the same tired, slanted tropes – this time delivered by University Park resident and Laura Miller supporter Steve Dawson.
It’s Not Perfect
The city’s original draft proposal had built-ins for affordable housing. The new proposal at 310 feet along Northwest Highway needed tweaking. The proginal draft proposal had no way to break the 240-foot residential proximity slope even with the “points system” that rewards density for increased greenspace and smaller building facades (to avoid a solid wall on Northwest Highway). So to enable breakage or RPS, Plan Commission added affordable housing in a way that enables a building to go from 240-feet to 310-feet.
There would need to be 5 percent of housing set aside for those earning between 50 and 60 percent of Average Median Family Income and another 5 percent for those earning between 61 and 80 percent of AMFI. (But my gosh, it took forever for them to tediously get the wording right.)
Also, one of the things a developer can spend “points” on is the extinguishment of tower separation. In the case of Northwest Highway that only impacts the western edge of the Athena. It would behoove residents to meet with the developer and work out a compromise to keep a separation that’s frankly mutually beneficial.
Also, the Northwest Highway setback retains the city’s recommendation of 70 feet instead of today’s 100-foot setback. I think there is ample documentation for a fight to brew there.
But finally, it must be pointed out that contrary to political fudging, there will not be six 20-story high-rises, or even two. Just one.
In The End
Should this pass City Council, the end result will be very positive aesthetically and economically to the neighborhood. I’ve said for quite some time that it’s less about height, but what’s happening on the ground that really matters. In this case, the ground is a lot greener than expected while minimizing traffic.
Now, if only the Preston Center garage could see such a positive, park-like outcome.
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.