Last night. Council Member Jennifer Gates held the second public meeting about what to do with the dilapidated Preston Center parking garage. Since the first meeting back in September, consultants from Houston-based Walker Consultants have been busy scoping out concepts based on the Preston Road Area Plan (a bright spot in a dismal plan).  The plan outlined a completely underground parking garage with 1,600 parking spaces (double today’s garage) and a public park on top at ground level.  Think Klyde Warren but instead of Woodall Rodgers underneath, it would be a garage.  You may also recall that the surrounding landowners unanimously poo-poo that plan (put a pin in that).

The parking lot itself is 3.15 acres – 137,332 square feet – and 800 parking spaces on two above-ground levels. This … space … in the middle of an area zoned for high density. Understand just how rare that is. Klyde Warren had to cover a highway to get its space and here we are with a molding parking garage that could be so very much more. Like I said, very, very, rare.

Now, burying so much parking isn’t on the same planet as “cheap,” but it’s the right thing to do. It’s worth saving up for. It’s worth sacrificing for.

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Preston Center

Back in 2016, I took St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church to task on a bunch of things. The biggest being that while their representative was sitting silent on the Preston Center Task Force they were secretly negotiating with developers to plonk a 250,000 square foot office building on Douglas Avenue. After that scathing take-down, I was surprised when they reached out to me to review their new and improved plans for the site.

You’ve likely read the press release in the DMN from Sept. 6, but I wanted to sit down and get some additional detail. I met with the church’s team fairly quickly, so this delayed column is my fault (busy, busy).

The press release piqued my snark when I noted that in the scant two-page release the Preston Center Area Plan was mentioned eight times … eight … times. When I sat down with the team, it was one of the first things I said … eight times? Their spin was that it showed their commitment. I told them it raised my suspicion meter that there was something to hide. They were surprised at my reaction assuring me there was no hiding … but eight times.

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Last night, Council Member Jennifer Gates kicked off the first public meeting to discuss the possibilities for redeveloping the crumbling central garage at the Preston Center West shopping center. The meeting was an informative update and change for area residents to see and hear about the research being conducted to fix the blight.

My most glaring takeaway from this initial meeting was how poorly traveled area landowners are.

To review, the City of Dallas owns the Preston Center West central garage, however, grasping tightly to the city’s short and curlies are the surrounding business owners who have ultimate say-so on what the city is able to do with the garage. They’re represented above as the Preston Center West Corp. column.

The above graphic shows the five potential outcomes for the garage. The quickest way to understand what the real options are is to look at the big stars, but the Preston Center West Corp. column is the most telling. After all, their “no” is “no” or in this case, their “low” is “no.”

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I am hearing that Target put its signature red sign up last week on the Pavilion Building on the southwest-ish corner of Preston Road and Northwest Highway, across from the parking garage where a potential tenant not too long ago (early 2015) wanted to build a skybridge to get a grocery store in the second floor space.

The Pavilion Building is on Westchester Drive and Berkshire Lane.

This will be Target’s first “small-format” store in the Dallas area, and I can hardly wait. It’s small-format at 54,700 square feet. I love Target and everything they carry, but I am getting to not like Big Box stores. It just takes too long to park, get in the store, and find what you are looking for. It’s like asking for a back-ache with a headache on the side. Ditto humungo grocery stores: Central Market at Preston Royal manages to have everything I could ever need and more and do it in 30,000 ish square feet. 

The new target store will have its grand opening Oct. 21, just in time for Halloween. 

That’s so 2015: proposed skybridge at Preston Center Pavilion.

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Example of seven-story building construction and density options

A.G. Spanos has released a second, more thorough economic analysis of the feasibility of redeveloping Pink Wall parcels within the confines of the Preston Road and Northwest Highway Area Plan (PRNHAP). Spanos has a contingent contract to redevelop the Diplomat condos within PD-15 and has financed both viability studies. While Spanos has obvious motives, any economic data supplied is certainly more than the economic nothingness contained within the $350,000 PRNHAP study. How the city adopted that Santa’s lap of a plan, containing no financial underpinnings, still astounds.

You’ll recall that in October 2017, my rough calculations exposed the then 10-month old PRNHAP as economically bogus. That was followed up in January 2018 by Spanos’ first report developed by architects Looney Ricks Kiss that backed-up my findings. Namely that the recommendations contained within the PRNHAP study’s “Zone 4” are not viable to build. This latest study offers more detailed and dire details for the PD-15 area (download here).

To be clear, “not economically viable” means that a condo unit would sell for more money as a condo than as developable land. To sell under those conditions would equate to owners taking a loss on their home. In many cases it’s good when land is worth some fraction of a structure. It helps with neighborhood stabilization, curbing gentrification, etc.

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When I interviewed Robert Reffkin in January about his company’s move into Dallas, I asked about overhead and office space. Was Compass going to have major office presence in Dallas, or would they keep on using the Oak Lawn office of The Collective, the firm they (sort of) acquired?

We will have offices here:  big, beautiful offices, Reffkin told me.

True to his word, Dallas Compass has signed a large lease in a new, state-of-the-art Preston Center Office building. The location is very strategic, as it puts Compass on the front line in the war for juicy Park Cities/Preston Hollow listings.

Compass has rented 24,000 square feet in the new Terraces at Douglas Center, located at 5960 Berkshire Lane in Preston Center. The building has 172,000 square feet and was recently completed.

The firm has been active since landing in Dallas in January, and already has more than 80 sales agents, with plans to acquire more across the DFW area.

“Our momentum in Dallas is a testament to agents’ commitment to growing their business, providing their clients with best-in-class service,” Rob Lehman, chief growth officer at Compass, said in a statement. “We’re excited to build out this office space to serve our agents and their clients across the region.” 

The New York City-based company is in more than a dozen cities across the U.S. and plans to expand to eight more this year. By 2020, Compass wants to own 20% of the U.S. residential real estate market.

Compass is one of the first major tenants in the 12-story office Terraces at Douglas Center,  located near the southeast corner of the Dallas North Tollway and Northwest Highway. The 172,000 square-foot office building was developed by PegasusAblon (owned by Michael Ablon) and Lionstone Investments of Houston.

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Pink Wall at Preston Road and Northwest Hwy. PD-15 and Laurel Apartments highlighted. (single family homes at top for reference)

Good news. You don’t have to go to Idaho to fish in Bogus Creek.  Last October, I wrote about how the NHPRAP (Northwest Highway and Preston Road Area Plan), not even a year old, wasn’t designed to be economically viable.  Essentially, my scribbles revealed that were its Zone 4 area to follow the recommendations contained in the NHPRAP task force’s final report, their individual condominiums would always be worth more than land value to a developer.  Note: Zone 4 contains PD-15 (Planned Development District) within the larger Pink Wall area.

This lack of economic benefit ensures none of the redevelopment and neighborhood renewal touted by the NHPRAP plan will occur, failing to live up to its own goals.

Well, now I’m not alone. A.G. Spanos (who has an option on the Diplomat) released an independent report by architecture firm LRK.

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When a document, supposedly crafted for long-term use, proves to be a barrier to the same long-term goals it was created to guide, it’s safe to call it a failure.  If that failure occurs within a year of its adoption by the city, I suppose we can just call that Dallas.

Yes folks, the Preston Center area plan I’d figured for a dust bunny playground has leapt off the shelf in time for Halloween. Like all good frights, I think the authors are just as surprised and perhaps a little scared.

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