City Being Bamboozled By Preston Center Landowners

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As April Fools’ jokes, I’ve written about the Crespi estate becoming a Costco, a green high-rise with dirt floors for farming, and this year’s tram system running along Turtle Creek. You might think this column is also a “gotcha.”

But, it ain’t April.

Yesterday I wrote about the city’s final report concerning options for the Preston Center Garage. I showed how the report includes a half give-in to the Preston Center West Corp (PCWC) who control the outcome on the city-owned land (half-park, half-high-rise instead of all park).

Since PCWC have been against the park from day one, I asked why the representatives on the Preston Center Area Plan would have written the park into the plan if they had no intention of ever supporting it. It has all the markings of a ploy.

My sniffing all started when I walked to Preston Center and saw zoning case placards taped to the garage. I looked it up and asked City Hall for whatever information they had. You’re not gonna believe it.

Two documents stand out. First, Robert Dozier’s Ramrock Real Estate LLC filed a proposed rewriting of Preston Center’s PD-314 ordinance. Second, a basic development plan was filed.

Whole Hog Development Plan

Above is the development plan. The grey is the proposed development area. The two white upside-down corner “L” spaces are “mini parks” – “mini” being the operative word.

The “mini parks” roughly measure 54-feet by 45-feet and 15-feet deep. To really put that in perspective, the lot measures 137,332 square feet. Those “parks” are a shameful 1,650 square feet each.  The presumably PCWC-supported proposal is for 97.6 percent lot coverage (on land they expect the city to give to them).

Looking back at the Hopdoddy pair of high-rises with 70 and 80 percent lot coverage, it’s easy to see how laughably miserly Dozier’s plans are on green space. How did the Preston Center Area Plan they supported (it had 100 percent support from its task force representative-authors) devolve into this land grab?

Let’s look at those dotted lines. The top portion of the parcel has morphed from an apartment building into a hotel with above and underground parking. The lower left portion is an office high-rise with above and underground parking and the final right “L” portion is “multi-family” (likely apartments), again with both above and underground parking.

While no sketches were included, the parking situation all but guarantees a huge multi-story aboveground parking garage with three towers sticking out of it.

All totaled, there’s 697,245 square feet of building floor space. The maximum height they’re asking for is 246 feet – likely the maximum they can get given the residential proximity slope from Mark Cuban’s single-family lots across Northwest Highway.

You know what you don’t see here?  Any mention of mixed-use development. You see, the greedy members of the PCWC don’t want new competition for their tatty retail and restaurants. So no new shops or restaurants at ground level, just built-in customers to ring their cash registers.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the apartments were built without kitchens, forcing residents to only buy from the surrounding mélange of third-tier eateries.

Will their proposed hotel even have a kitchen or will room service be a three-ring binder of Preston Center restaurant menus?

The greed is simply outrageous.

Why Would Hopdoddy Landowner Support This?

Rosebriar, the owner/developer of the Hopdoddy corner should be incensed by the trio of buildings being built on its doorstep – especially after having done it right on their parcel. But since Rosebriar and Dozier use the same attorney, I’m guessing no.

You see, the maximum building height being asked for is 246 feet. Theoretically, that’s due to RPS.

However, the Hopdoddy replacement is a 305-foot hotel topped with condos. The hotels might compete if they were in the same price-bracket (which I bet they won’t be), and no one really cares about views out of an urban hotel window. But Rosebriar should care about view-blockage for its high-priced condos. However, the condos will be on top – as much as 60-feet above the tallest point of the garage development (south/city views will already be blocked).

If Rosebriar ultimately supports this, I’ll certainly wonder why.

Timing Doesn’t Pass Muster

The other important document is Dozier’s rewriting of the Preston Center PD-314 ordinance. The first thing you see is that he wanted the amended PD-314 passed in 2019. That was an interesting year. The final Preston Center Garage public meeting was held in August and it was at that meeting that Dozier presented his original plans for a single high-rise apartment building atop a wall-to-wall three-story aboveground parking garage that theoretically had a park on top of it.

So if Dozier wanted his revised PD-314 to pass Plan Commission and City Council in 2019, how was he standing straight-faced in front of an audience with such a lesser plan in August? 

I just don’t find it believable that he received only derision at that meeting, walked out, called his attorney and told him to get cracking on a new, more awful plan and its required rewrite of the PD-314 ordinance – and expected to get it written and through City Hall in the last four months of 2019. I suspect that his August presentation was little more than bad theater.

A Rewritten PD-314 Ordinance

Aside from the dates, there’s a lot to be aghast at in the rewrite. The goal is to create a new subarea within the PD called “Subarea A in Tract III” that equates to the parking garage lot. They claim “The addition of public open space will also be significant as it will provide a central gathering space for Preston Center patrons.”

Based on the development plan, I’m not sure 97.6 percent lot coverage equates to “significant” public space.

I will clarify from the get-go that the rewrite mentions three exhibits (314I, 314J, 314K). The development plan is 314I but the city hasn’t sent the remaining two (listed as landscape and perimeter streets).

MU-2 Zoning in Name Only

The first thing the rewrite does is upzone the parcel to MU-2 zoning (Multi-Use) and strike down the restriction that the parcel be “limited to parking uses only.”

But as we’ll see, the MU-2 definition is pretty much only to define uses (hotel, office, multi-family) and not the other requirements of that zoning designation.

There’s a 20-foot setback required in the “front yard” of a building exceeding 45-feet in height – but only if the lot is adjacent to Preston Road or Northwest Highway (which this isn’t).

MU-2 floor area ratio (FAR) is limited to 2:1; the ask is for “no maximum floor area ratio.” At 2:1, they’d be able to build 274,664 square feet on the lot. The development plan calls for 697,245 square feet. That’s 422,581 square feet more or 2.54 times what’s allowed under MU-2 zoning equating to a 5.06:1 FAR.

However, the rewritten PD-314 states that the wording takes precedence over any diagrams, so 5.06:1 on the development plan is meaningless.

MU-2 height is either 135-feet or 180-feet if there is retail; the ask is for “no maximum.” Based on the development plan’s 246 feet, it’s 66 to 111 additional feet in height. I suspect it’s 111 feet as I don’t see a retail component listed (it would be competitive to existing businesses). But again, “no maximum” beats the development plan.

MU-2 stories permitted are either 10 or 14 depending on the height; the ask is for “no maximum.”

MU-2 lot coverage is limited to 80 percent; the ask is for 100 percent.

Parking Problems? … Poof

One of the big brouhahas of the Preston Center Area Plan was that parking at Preston Center was so terrible that it required the garage to be rebuilt with increased parking. The consultant’s final report recommended 1,200 spaces – a 400-space increase from the existing 800 spaces.

Yet, the rewritten PD-314 ordinance asks for “at least 800 off-street parking spaces” – the same 800 spaces that exist today. The development plan calls for 2,404 spaces – I’m left thinking the remaining 1,600 spaces are for the high-rises, not the public. This leaves Preston Center with the same parking “problem” it has today – the deal makes absolutely no headway while pulling significant additional traffic to the area.

Landscaping?

“Landscaping for Subarea A shall comply with the Subarea A Landscape Plan” (which I don’t have, so can’t judge at this time). However, in the rewritten ordinance, there are nine “except in Subarea A” listings in the landscape wording section, so I am not hopeful.

Bring It Home, Will Ya!

There’s a lot here to unpack. Suffice it to say that Robert Dozier is asking for nearly unbridled development rights and a huge city giveaway.

At that last Preston Center garage meeting, he said his then plan was dependent on being gifted with the city’s $10 million in bond money, NCTCOG’s $10 million, and for the city to deed the land to him – for free.

What’s the value of land constrained to a parking garage? A hell of a lot less than land zoned for three high-rises with near-unlimited rights near Preston Hollow.

The city and its citizens have been taken for a ride ever since Preston Center representatives lied to the City Plan Commission and Dallas City Council when they unanimously supported the Preston Center Area Plan, which called for an underground parking garage with a park on top.

Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller was a member of that task force and led the offsite meetings that drew up the plan. A plan she’s used to run an unsuccessful city council campaign and bludgeon development elsewhere.

Where is she now?

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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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