Oak Lawn Committee Sees Return of KDC, Some Trees, and a Crescent Communities Drive-By

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KDC’s Klyde Warren Park-adjacent project at Harwood Street

Last night’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting saw one good project, one “duh” project, and one project that has me seeing blistering red – you’ll want to read to the end for that one.

The “duh” was a simple landscaping request for a project at 5490 Denton Drive Cut-off called Lenox Maplewood that was seen last December. Their ask was simple. Can they put a slightly narrower sidewalk next to the street (versus set back five feet) in order to save five very mature live oak trees on one corner? Duh, of course.

KDC’s Klyde Warren-Adjacent Tower

In the “good” column we have the return of KDC’s proposed project at Harwood and Woodall Rogers adjacent to Klyde Warren Park (above). It was first presented last month and was back to answer some questions posed by the OLC.

Before we go there, I have to give them credit for returning with a presentation that banged out those questions one-by-one. We literally saw, “question” and “answer.”  Typically presenters almost re-litigate their entire presentation leaving attendees to figure out what the questions were and if they were answered. There was no rehash or ambiguity here – thank you – and I hope the OLC took note to encourage others to do the same.

Anyway, questions one and two encompassed conditions on the ground during construction. Specifically sidewalk closures and rights of way along with construction crane locations, lane closures, and worker parking.

As a walker, the green lines are of personal importance as they show where pedestrians can walk – essentially across the street from the project during construction. That kinda stinks and is dangerous. For example, if you’re visiting the building directly north on Harwood (although Water Grill is now closed) you have to walk back to McKinney, cross the street and then walk back south towards downtown. I call this dangerous because people (me) will simply jaywalk or walk in the street out of convenience and annoyance. I wonder if there’s a temporary mid-block “walk” sign that can be used?

The crane swings generally don’t concern me. The crane collapse that happened last year in Deep Ellum was a freak accident and not a new bar to meet.

Question three asked about new shade thrown on Klyde Warren by the project. Unsurprisingly, given its location on the border of Uptown and the central business district, there’s already a lot of shade. The project adds some, but it’s pretty minimal – even the Nasher endorsed the project.

Question four wanted to understand the glass corner at Harwood and Woodall Rogers and if cars would be visible from the parking garage behind it. They won’t. The corner is a feature that calls out the corner entrance. There will be a signature staircase visible through the glass, not bumpers and headlights.

Question five wanted to see what Phase One would look like on its own since it would be many years before Phase Two was eventually constructed. In the long term a slightly pointless exercise, but valuable nonetheless. It shows that Phase One stands on its own architecturally to the point we might eventually miss its solitude once Phase Two is built.

Connect those planter beds to keep me safe from myself

Question six wanted more sidewalk detail – and they got pages of it. Suffice it to say there are very wide sidewalks. My only concern/suggestion was to connect the planter/tree areas to discourage jaywalkers (me) cutting across in the middle of quite busy blocks that includes the Woodall Rogers feeder frontage road.

Novel Turtle Creek – Crescent Communities

As I said, this project has me seeing red. First of all, it’s a 20-story building that claims to be built by-right and so doesn’t need a zoning variance, making their visit to the OLC a courtesy. I call that BS.

According to the scant materials shared, the building – that broke ground last week – will have 206 apartments with an average size of 1,272 square feet, which equates to roughly 262,000 square feet of pure residential use. Add in an additional 20 percent for hallways, public spaces, and amenities and you’re closer to 330,000 square feet – without the garage. The land is 0.9336 acres or 40,668 square feet and is zoned O-2 providing a maximum of 4:1 floor area ratio (FAR) – meaning four times the square footage of the lot can be built or 162,670 square feet total. This is roughly half the size of the in-process building.

How’s that by-right?

The property abuts land owned by AT&T that has housed central office switching equipment for the area for decades. AT&T is selling their density rights (not the land itself) to Crescent Communities to double the size of its building. So there must be approvals needed somewhere, right? (Certainly not by-right)

And this pisses me off. Blocks away and just months ago, Streetlights’ project on Lemmon and Oak Lawn Avenues did the same thing (except they owned all the land and went through a proper rezoning). If a transfer gets approved, the city has an obligation to ensure that any transferred rights get truly extinguished in perpetuity (transferable development rights). But of course they didn’t. Why?  LAZY. 

City staff and council have no experience with this option even though it’s been used across the nation (even in Texas) for years. But they’re just too lazy to learn. And because the city takes the easy/lazy way out, all a landowner who transferred their rights away has to do to get them restored is file a zoning case (FAR is handed out like PEZ). And a lazy and forgetful city will likely not only restore those sold/bartered rights, but will more than likely match the (doubled? tripled?) rights of the oversized property they transferred their rights to in the first place.  In the case of AT&T, the rights they sell Crescent Communities today can be restored and sold or used again to redevelop their remaining property.

It’s astonishing laziness with real neighborhood consequences. I saw it called out in New York and now it’s here.

So no, I don’t like this tiptoe through the zoning tulips by Crescent Communities.

This is a zoning change that should have required a full Oak Lawn Committee airing, not just behind the scenes “discussions with the head of the Oak Lawn Committee” that began last November according to Crescent representative Lauren Ferguson of Sprouthouse PR.

Why wouldn’t Crescent want to face a full-blown zoning case and have to stand-up in front of the Oak Lawn Committee, Plan Commission and City Council?  In addition to questions about mass, one reason can surely be seen in their single level of parking buried under four levels of aboveground parking. The OLC would likely want them to bury more to gain support.

And that ticks me off more.

Crescent project in situ

A high-rise apartment building with units averaging 1,272 square feet almost screams future condo conversion. It also screams “expensive” not only because of their size but location. Surely a product this generous demands underground parking – especially as its tubby four-story podium is off the main drag of Oak Lawn Avenue in a residential area topping out at three-story townhouses. The neighboring two-story FedEx location (actually on Oak Lawn Avenue) looks like a Chihuahua’s doghouse next to this.

This presentation was no “courtesy” visit, it was a drive-by.

I get that Oak Lawn and Uptown are the city’s main dumping ground for density, but this lazy enabling of backdoor upzoning and double-dipping has to stop. If the city is to allow transferred density at all, it must be permanently extinguished on the donor site. And it must be done in public view.

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Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is CandysDirt.com's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on SecondShelters.com. An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

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Comments

  1. William A. Morgan says

    Unless I’m missing something, Crescent’s contemplated plan is blatantly illegal under existing zoning. They will apparently need both CPC and City Council approval to proceed with this proposal.

    So, it sounds like they told OLC they were appearing as a courtesy, even though the proposed plan will require CPC and City Council approval. Is that correct? When are they planning to appear in front of CPC?

    • mmJon Anderson says

      The project broke ground last week without having to go through CPC or council. There are no plans to revisit that I’m aware of. Crescent came to OLC as a “done deal”.

      • William A. Morgan says

        Mr. Anderson,

        I continue to be VERY confused by this project.

        The Crescent Communities project site is 220’ x 180’ or 40,500 square feet.

        Under the O-2 zoning, building for residential use, they are permitted a 4.5 FAR as of right, which would allow them to build a 182,250 sf structure, plus parking.

        The plans they provided to Oak Lawn Committee appear to indicate their intent to construct a building well in excess of the 182,250 sf. They show 206 units with an average square footage of 1,272 sf, which results in a total of 262,032 sf. Next, they show 10,800 sf of amenities, which would bring the project to 272,832 sf. Factor in the leasing center, hallways, etc. and the building could easily exceed 300,000 sf, which is well in excess of the 182,250 sf maximum allowable.

        Confusingly, Crescent’s presentation to the Oak Lawn Committee indicates that their site is 1.83 acres, including the AT&T building (which is to the west). An examination of DCAD’s records, however, reveals that AT&T that site, NOT Crescent Communities. Further, Crescent confirmed that they don’t own the AT&T site and don’t intent to purchase it. In other words, two separate projects owned by two separate owners on adjacent parcels.

        Nothing I am aware of under the Dallas City Code allows property owners to “help themselves” to un-utilized development rights associated with nearby parcels owned by other parties. What am I missing here? Surely they wouldn’t have broken ground on this project without obtaining the required CPC and City Council approvals, as city staff lacks the authority to award FAR in excess of that permitted under city ordinances.

        Could you provide more details surrounding this unusual situation? Again, it appears that Crescent Communities is intending to construct a building which is over 100,000 sf greater than is legally permitted.

        What am I missing?

        Bill

        • mmJon Anderson says

          I continue to be as well. The 1.83 acres encompasses Novel and AT&T land. It was replatted in January 2019 but there was no ownership change, so I am trying to uncover just how this happened. I don’t see how rights can be transferred between properties owned by multiple entities. Stay tuned.

  2. Betty Quicksall says

    I would be interested to know just when did the OLC ever not support a new construction building and/or high rise that the CPC and city council voted against. It seems the OLC has these developers presenting to them “as a courtesy” so they feel important, but the developers know they have no power and never is the CPC or city council influenced by their non support of a project. Please tell me when that happened. Why do people think the OLC does anything, they support it and it gets approved, they don’t support and it still gets approved.

    • mmJon Anderson says

      Betty – Lincoln Katy Trail was unsupported, the recent Hilton project was unsupported – there are any number of projects that do not get support. Few projects get support without givebacks by the developers. And no, when the OLC doesn’t support, it doesn’t get approved. I recommend attending more meetings.

  3. Rex Van Duzen MD says

    This was indeed a drive by. OLC was completely caught off guard. There was no visual that showed the tower. The presenter was even praised by OLC President. The Presenter is a regular attendee. Oh man did the OLC screw the pooch on this one!

    • William A. Morgan says

      In fairness to OLC, it looks like Crescent Communities claimed to own the adjacent AT&T property, and that it informed OLC that it was therefore legally entitled to build the project, as proposed.

      If, however, Crescent DOESN’T own the AT&T site, a SIGNIFICANT number of issues are raised.

  4. Mike says

    Regarding the (temporary) removal of the sidewalk at KDC, why is it that places like Manhattan can require that they remain open and safely covered during construction and Dallas can’t? I guess probably the same reason they don’t get run over by scooters on the sidewalks in NYC either.

  5. Laura Sahliyeh says

    Mr. Anderson,
    I’m NOT typically someone who “writes in” about anything I read or hear. Can’t even recall a time I’ve done it (and I’m over 50:)
    Even the rare times when your subject matter holds no interest to me, I read on because you are such a terrific writer. You make complicated subjects to us lay people easy to follow. You are witty, resourceful and thorough.
    So, just a thanks from one of your many readers.
    P.S. I live in the Oaklawn/Turtle Creek neighborhood, Plaza condos at Turtle Creek

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