Note: the Dallas City Plan Commission Public Hearing for PD-15 is scheduled for Thursday, April 18

This is the real story of the Pink Wall – a little pocket of Preston Hollow tucked between two of the highest net worth zip codes in the country. It is one of the few places where women of means at some point, who suddenly find themselves with a drastically limited bank account, can live with some dignity. And safety. For years it has been the answer to the need for affordable housing skirting the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods.

Sometime in the 1990’s we moved my mother “Behind the Pink Wall”, into her unit at The Seville on Averill Way. My mother had moved to Dallas in her seventies to be closer to my children, to help in my husband’s medical practice (she had managed medical practices in suburban Chicago) and to escape the bitter midwestern cold. Her first home when she moved here was a townhome off Knoll Trail Drive I found while taking the kids to Toys R Us: it was being leased by the bank holding the note, brand new, bright and cheerful.

It was also seven miles away from our home.

We wanted her to be closer, especially as she aged. We lived in Old Preston Hollow at the time and the only proximite multi-family living was Behind the Pink Wall. That is why I jumped on the two bedroom, two bath first floor unit at The Seville: it was about a mile from our home on Park Lane. We could walk to her house!

I will never forget sitting with her as she closed on the only property she had ever owned “sole” by herself. My parents had been married for 42 years before they divorced, and like most women of her Depression-era generation, men handled every penny. As we turned each page after her signature, she’d whisper to me, “are you sure I’m not going to lose everything?”

When she died in 2003, I left the condo exactly as it was for months, hoping she’d walk in the door. It remains in our family as an investment property, and has always been leased by retirees, most of them single women. My mother loved living Behind the Pink Wall.

Thank God she is not here to see it turn into a Senior Slum.

I met a Realtor a few weeks ago who is moving into an apartment down the street from mine: her husband supported her with the Highland Park good life until he decided her best friend was more exciting in the boudoir. She is a woman needing a place to live with two school-aged kids as she stitches a life back together. All up and down Bandera, Averill Way, Pickwick, Edgemere are neat, tidy little homes, 1950’s and ’60’s apartments converted to condos, decorated to the hilt with furniture and antiques moved from some of the toniest addresses in town. Come dusk they walk their dogs, doting on them, chatting with neighbors, accepting the lot life has thrust their way.

But all that changed with the fire. (more…)

Update, 2:17 a.m: fire trucks gone, alarm off, all is well again Behind the Pink Wall!

A friend who lives at Preston Towers tells me this is the scene right now at The Athena, where a loud sound is keeping everyone awake at 1:40am: hour 2 of The Athena’s fire alarm.

“Two fire trucks have been out front the whole time; it is foggy but I haven’t seen flames,” she writes. “In a bad case of irony, this is the same alarm sound we heard almost exactly two years ago, when Preston Place (next to Athena) was on fire in the middle of the night.”

Lord, I hope it’s nothing serious.

I’ll cut to the chase (shocking, right?). Of the speakers last night that held opinions about the prospect of development, I counted 10 that were making positive comments and five were negative. There were a couple whose position I wasn’t sure of because their comments were more “don’t forget about X, Y or Z” – perhaps they’re the “undecided” voters?

Not too shabby. The same cast were in each camp with the area low-rises being positive to the process while residents from Preston Tower and the complexes on Bandera being negative. Like politics these days, actual facts don’t shift the world views of people who “just know they’re right.”

(more…)

PD-15, slightly east of Preston Road bounded by Northwest Highway, Pickwick Lane, Baltimore Drive and an alley.

Last night marked the first meeting of the newly-formed PD-15 task force, begun as a result of development pressures within the area of the Pink Wall known as PD-15. It went as most initial meetings do, trying to find its feet. The task force members from surrounding buildings were brought together by Dallas City Councilwoman Jennifer Gates and assisted by her plan commissioner Margot Murphy.

It began with a review of what had brought us there, namely the pressure to redevelop the fire-ruined Preston Place and the Diplomat.  The two are unconnected except in current timing with the Diplomat having worked on a potential sale for over a year prior to the March fire at Preston Place. Given that two out of the four buildings within PD-15 are in play, it’s safe to assume developers’ wagons are circling the rest.

(more…)

 

Transwestern Tear Down

The 35 year old apartments at the corner of Preston and Northwest Highway are gone. Late last week, the entire south block of Town House Row was gone. By the time I venture south today, the entire north side may be gone as well. Every time I drive by this portion of Preston Center “Behind The Pink Wall”, I say a silent prayer for the miracle that Transwestern actually did get to proceed ahead with it’s plans to raze these town homes  — charming as they were — and fill them with luxury apartments. New luxury apartments filled with fresh air. I say this even though we are in the midst of Preservation Month.NE-corner-Preston-Northwest-Highway-570x400

Pink-Wall-townhouse-row1-5

It appears that some of the town homes may have contained asbestos:

I hope the progress Behind the Pink Wall will help more people understand that as much as we hate change and tearing down the past, sometimes it has to happen with balance. Town House Row was charming, but it was not Swiss Avenue or The Alexander Mansion. We built homes differently in the ’50s and ’60s. Today we build with more energy efficiency and insulation and we wire homes for high tech systems. There are buildings Behind the Pink Wall with knob and tube wiring. Some don’t have grounded outlets. Asbestos is a very dangerous building product that was once put into buildings because of it’s fireproof characteristics, but it has been proven to cause Mesothelioma cancer.  (more…)

New Transwestern rendering Preston Rd

Update: Here’s the video shown by Dodd Communications at today’s City Council meeting:

Jon will have all the details in a bit, because he was there! Jennifer Gates of course recused herself, and Phillip Kingston was the lone City Council member voting against it, wanting to wait on Jennifer’s Task Force (the Tsk Tsk Force).

In the end, 96% of the people in the notification area who voted, supported the project.

Stay tuned, we will have a whole lot more on this! And get ready for a whole new look for the northeast corner of Preston and Northwest Highway!

The Diplomat's Roof is Playful 60s

The Diplomat’s Roof is Playful 60s. We Love Playful!

Get ready. On October 7th, the Preston Center Task Force will be meeting with Zone 4 (Pink Wallers) to get residents’ “thoughts and ideas” on their “vision for the future” for the neighborhood. Certainly the two properties likely being replaced on the corner of Preston Road and Northwest Highway are not the only properties in the area in need of replacement or renovation. Since I already solved the traffic issues as best as they can here, I thought I’d turn my talents to musing on what the next chapter of the Pink Wall should include.

(What, no one asked?)

Renovation
Any building that wishes to ride out the coming transition should ensure their properties are in tip-top shape. This will ensure that prices rise, potentially making them too costly for development. While I don’t see many architecturally significant complexes in Pink Wall territory, I welcome every complex that wishes to be part of the next chapter. It’s my hope that new buildings will spur the remaining older ones to make the investment necessary to return them to their glory, both in unit interiors and building infrastructure.

Neo-Classic with HUGE Units

Neo-Classic with HUGE Units

In my opinion, there are only two buildings in Pink Wall territory I see as architecturally significant – the George Dahl designed Imperial House and the unattributed Diplomat. Both in their ways typify 1960s architecture in it’s glory. Imperial House is a mid-century classical throwback, perhaps influenced by the Beverly Hillbillies which debuted in 1962, two years before it was built.  The Diplomat, on the other hand, is pure 1960s with its joyous full-vault modernist glory. If you disagree, we’d love to hear. (more…)

New-Transwestern-rendering-Preston-Rd

As predicted, we are all two-weeks older since the Planning Commission fobbed-off the vote on the proposed Transwestern development at the northeast corner of Preston Road and Northwest Highway. What, if any, votes changed in those two weeks is unknown, but I suspect few. Certainly attendees were not treated to German band Texas Lightening popping out of a cake as I’d hoped.

In those two weeks Transwestern held a meeting largely for angry single-family homeowners upset that the proposal had moved on without them paying attention and seemingly their neighborhood association not informing them. Thankfully I was busy elsewhere that evening. However, I invited Candy over after the fireworks to spill the beans while I plied her with wine.

Also in those two weeks the opposition became a bit more organized and vocal, certainly putting up more of a show at today’s Planning Commission meeting.

And a show it was… hours of tedium and speechifying. It was like church without the wine and crackers.

The same tired rubrics about density, traffic and parking ultimately found no purchase with the Commission. Especially after both the Transwestern-hired traffic engineering representative and the City traffic planning representative spoke. Those arguments were shot, gutted, stuffed and mounted on the rumpus room wall. (more…)