Thursday night marked the final public meeting of Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates’ task force studying the revitalization of the Preston Center parking garage. The picture above, snatched from the year 2055, tells the story. The current garage will be celebrating its 100th birthday marked by a vintage car show – fun for the whole family.
I say this because there are two sides that have to agree to move forward. The Preston Center Parking Corp., which controls the usage of the garage, and the city, which owns the land. While there’s a potential for some fudge on the city side for negotiation, the Parking Corp. has to be in unanimous agreement.
As has been abundantly clear since this first began that the Parking Corp. doesn’t want a park. Their thinking is that every blade of grass is a lost sale. Of course, it goes against any study documenting how parks enhance commercial districts, but we’re post-fact, aren’t we?
A Money Grab
The Parking Corp. wants the North Central Texas Council of Governments to give them $10 million, the city to give them $10 million, and the four acres the parking garage sits on ($30-$40 million?) plus a bunch of other monies. Why? So they can build a high-rise apartment building on half and sit a three-story aboveground parking garage on the other side.
A three-story parking garage with a park on top accessed by an elevator – or as Parking Corp. representative Robert Dozier called it, a “vertical transportation system” – one wonders if he perambulates on a treadmill to keep fit.
The negative reaction from the audience when he again presented his developers’ dream reminds me of the saying, “If I only spoke to people who liked me, I wouldn’t speak at all.”
The audience saw it for what it was, a self-serving private enterprise paid for by the city benefitting no one except surrounding landowners. Their rationale for the free land and monies was that the project would generate over $1 million annually in new taxes. We were told by Walker Consultants the lifespan of a garage is 50-70 years (why the existing garage looks so bad). So essentially the garage would begin to pay for itself in tax revenue at about the time it neared the end of its useful life. That’s like a car catching fire as you make the last payment.
The City’s Compromise
But all this came after the city’s concepts were presented by Walker.
They tightened up the design for the fully underground parking garage with a four-acre park on top that everyone (not wanting to cash-in off the garage) wants. Their other concept was a 50/50 park and apartment building – hardly ideal. This differed from the Parking Corp.’s proposal because the two-acre half park was at ground level, not reached by a vertical transportation system elevator. And while the Parking Corp. was all for their apartment building, having the park at ground level was a compromise too far.
And let’s be honest, the Parking Corp. has no compromise. Nothing has changed since the January meeting where their money-grab plan received a similarly cool response. Thus far, it’s their way or nothing. And they hold all the decision-making cards.
I like nothing. I think the city should play hardball with privilege. I think Gates should give Parking Corp. 90 days to reach a compromise before reallocating her $10 million to something less annoying. Ditto NCTCOG’s $10 million. Leave the Parking Corp. with all the maintenance on the old garage and let it crumble until building inspection requires the top deck torn off. And never, ever give up ownership of the land to an apartment building or anything else.
The Parking Corp. complains about the time a park would take to construct. Walker countered that there was a lot of surplus parking in garages surrounding Preston Center to alleviate the loss. There are also 10 vacant acres across Northwest Highway that Mark Cuban might rent out as an overflow lot.
Better yet, let Cuban rezone his land to some low-impact commercial after it’s all done. That would incentivize him to build an underground tunnel between his property and Preston Center helping the neighborhood safely access Preston Center. Hell, rezoning those highway-facing lots to commercial would move the residential proximity slope and enable more height among the other high-rises of Preston Center. Oh, wait. That won’t work. The “visionary” Preston Center Area Plan hung Cuban out to dry on those lots.
Finally, all the pretty pictures in the world won’t change the fact that neither party currently has the money needed to construct anything this ambitious. So, Happy pre-100th birthday to the Preston Center garage. I hear Preston Center Plaza will be throwing the party in appreciation for a century without any real competition.
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.