Preston Center is as out of place in Preston Hollow as a Hershey’s kiss on a Ritz-Carlton pillow.
The land occupied by the Preston Center parking garage is the city’s biggest chance to fix that. Since the 2016 area plan recommended an expanded underground garage with a park on top, District 13 Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates has been working with the neighborhood, North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), and local landowners to move that vision forward.
However, any forward momentum has been dashed due to the unending headwinds of those landowners that are part of the Preston Center West Corporation (PCWC). It makes me wonder why they wrote the park concept into the final plan to begin with – tossing a bone they never intended to support?
To refresh, the garage is a textbook bad agreement worked out decades ago and reaffirmed by subsequent legal battles between the city (who own the land) and neighboring landowners (PCWC) who have veto power on everything. Essentially, any development plan put forth by either party results in a stalemate without 100 percent buy-in – so it’s always stalemate.
NCTCOG and Walker Consultants put together an exhaustive report on the existing (deteriorating) conditions and two options for redevelopment. I’ll admit the report was posted at the end of March and I didn’t read it until last weekend.
Two Options: One Right, One Half-Right
Option one is what everyone but PCWC wants – a fully underground garage with a park on top. Option two is sorta what PCWC wants – an apartment tower on part of the land with a smaller park on top.
I say sorta, because the last time we saw PCWC representative and presumed developer of the apartment tower Robert Dozier, he wanted to cover the entire lot with parking and a high-rise with essentially zero green space outside a pair of earmuff parkettes on two of the 3.15-acre parcel’s corners.
The PCWC plan was essentially developed by people who think trees are useless without actual cash falling from them. That is unless it’s their own home. Dozier’s 7,700-square-foot home on a half-acre lot in University Park has five mature trees just in the front yard of, what is, a rather park-like street.
So the final plan from the city offers a possible compromise in conceding half the block for an apartment building. I think that’s a mistake. As we saw two weeks ago, there are two residential high-rises planned for the Hopdoddy corner of the garage. Combined, they will bring 360 housing units and 245 hotel rooms to Preston Center – and 39 trees.
Should they face Dozier’s high-rise or overlook a park? Mercurially, the garage tower is competition to Leland Burk’s apartment tower, while Rosebriar’s hotel and condos on the corner get blocked views and no benefit from more apartments.
Were I Burk or Rosebriar and members of the PCWC, I’d vote against the garage high-rise, killing it cold. Did Burk, a Preston Center task force representative for Preston Center’s Zone One, know that the park written into the plan didn’t have the support of PCWC?
Time and Inconvenience
Most of the information in the 145-page report has been hashed before (here, here, here), but there were some interesting tidbits. Regardless of whether option one or two is selected, the construction time is the same – 23 months. Both options require the entire parking footprint be closed for the duration of construction. This requires alternative parking scenarios to be implemented. So right here, full-park or half-park require the same timetable and the same inconvenience.
The other big consideration is money. The report estimates the costs for the full-park option at between $38.5 and $41.2 million. The estimates for the half-park are between $38.1 and $39.7 million. The potential savings between the full and half-park are between $400,000 and 1.5 million (less for the half-park). This doesn’t include the costs for Dozier’s high-rise on the un-park side.
Ongoing operations and maintenance costs for either scenario are identical.
With no time savings, no inconvenience savings and virtually no money savings either initially or in ongoing maintenance, why not be bold and go for the fully underground option with its full park? The PCWC’s veto, that’s why.
And remember, there is already money in the kitty. The city and NCTCOG like the park and have a combined $20 million – halfway there.
Why Would the City Compromise?
Much to the chagrin of the Preston Center Plan they helped write, the PCWC doesn’t seem to have ever wanted the full park – they’re probably squeamish about the half-park. But the city is not on the hook for the crumbling garage’s maintenance, PCWC is. So sitting on the land and waiting for the garage to die doesn’t hurt the city except for any insurance needed in case a chunk falls off.
Those wanting to breathe life into moldering Preston Center feel cursed by the PCWC’s veto, but the option to do nothing is just as powerful. If those landowners want their lower-rent tenants to operate in a slum, so be it. It’s not the city’s job cave and time is on their side. Now what can’t be controlled is whatever the next D13 council person does. Gates is on her final term.
Her successor may believe in the PCWC’s aesthetic wasteland vision. But I remind City Hall, nowhere on Earth is there a city where they’re complaining about too much green space. Nowhere.
But this assumes Dozier still wants that original plan of a single high-rise. As we’ll read tomorrow, he’s been hard at work to fully develop an ugliness that lines pockets at the neighborhood’s expense and the city’s dime.