At last night’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting, Streetlights Residential had a lot of explaining to do in regards to the design of their planned tower at Lemmon and Oak Lawn avenues.

If you’re in a Google satellite, the building on the lower right is the proposed 21-story apartment building. It would supplant the Shell station and Pizza Hut, and would be next to Eatzi’s (which is also sorta part of the plan).

For those without long memories, this is the parcel of land that empowered the neighborhood to set out the Oak Lawn Plan and PD-193 that is rigorously overseen by the Oak Lawn Committee. On this lot once stood the Esquire Theater, built in 1931 as the Melrose Theater. Lore says the reason “Esquire” was chosen in the renaming is that it had the same number of letters and would fit on the marquee. The theater would have turned 88 this year had Lincoln Property not demolished it in February 1985, in the middle of the night (also according to lore). The demolition catalyzed the neighborhood. So as things go, this is sort of hallowed ground in Oak Lawn.

Thus, when Streetlights Residential presented their proposal for this long-neglected corner, questions naturally arose about the building’s unfortunate exterior. More than one OLC member asked why Streetlights wasn’t going all out for a “signature” building on such a highly trafficked corner.

The response was that the exterior was still being worked on. Good. Thus far, it appears to be poor company to other high-rises seen in their picture, and the many other well-done projects Streetlights is known for.

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While I’m not an Oak Lawn Committee member and can’t speak, I am certainly free to roll my eyes. Last month, a proposed apartment building on the former Old Warsaw restaurant site showed up at OLC seeking support for an “adjustment” to their alley buffer requirement of 10 feet. They didn’t get it and so they returned last night with more paper shuffling – literal paper shuffling.

The answer to their quest is painfully simple. Design a building that fits within the parameters of your zoning or file a zoning case. This mealy approach of hitting up the Board of Adjustments to backdoor your way out of a full zoning case is a “poor door” to city planning. Kairoi Residential seemingly didn’t want the closer scrutiny of the OLC on their entire project. I say that because more than one question about the overall project was brushed off with “we’ll meet the PD-193 requirements” – never exceed.

And so it went, everything was the bare minimum. As I pointed out last time, certainly the design is bare minimum.

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Crescent Court

Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for CandysDirt.com. His opinions are his own.

It was with sadness that I saw the proposed development slated for the old Old Warsaw restaurant lot on Maple Avenue across from the Crescent Court. My sadness increased when I realized Kairoi Residential wasn’t visiting the Oak Lawn Committee to vet the building itself, but rather for a “landscape special exception.”

Architects and builders tell me that the exterior of the building is pretty easy to change in the grand scheme of things.  While it has no impact on the interior leasable space, it has a tremendous impact on everyone who walks and drives by.

Given the existing and announced components of the four-corner intersection, constructing what appears to be a low-slung chair of “blah” is an opportunity wasted.

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Across Cedar Springs Road from the Ritz-Carlton and the McKinney & Olive buildings sits a half-acre, triangular parcel anchored by Pizza Hut and Comet Cleaners in a shopworn building. Last night, the Oak Lawn Committee saw renderings for an 18-story “lifestyle” hotel crowned by a restaurant, pool, and check-in desk.  Yes, the check-in desk will be in the top floor offering a cool experience I’ve seen in Mandarin Oriental hotels in New York City and Las Vegas (since renamed).

The unnamed hotel brand at 2025 Cedar Springs Road will house guests in 230 rooms and suites with a minimum of meeting rooms. This is important because the tiny lot would make large spaces less practical not only due to space, but the ability to supply parking for large meetings and events. As it is, parking needs for the small plot, will be housed in three and a half underground levels. Large meeting or banquet functions would require a much deeper parking hole.

Today, the site is easy to identify in the middle of a rapidly rising Uptown. The 2011 Cedar Springs condos appear to be directly behind the building, but in reality, the proposed building does a good job of folding away from their windows – something the condo owners should appreciate.

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Turtle Creek Terrace doesn’t look as dilapidated as Lincoln claimed

After a long and winding road, Lincoln Property’s proposed Lincoln Katy Trail project was denied by city council (I assume they will re-apply). That project would have replaced the Turtle Creek Terrace condo complex. Today, Turtle Creek Terrace unit #168, located at 3203 Carlisle – the intersection of Oak Lawn and Uptown – was listed.

It’s a perfect illustration of my point that replacing 115 existing market-rate affordable housing units with 45 was a bad deal. This one-bedroom, two-bathroom unit has 824 square feet and is listed for $149,000 with Tyler Hagood from Small World Realty. Using basic mortgage tools, that breaks down into a monthly payment of approximately $925 assuming a 30-year mortgage or ~$1,250 for a 15 year payoff. These monthly costs include mortgage, taxes, insurance, and HOA fees.

According to Zillow calculators, using Dallas’ average household income of $54,727, a couple could afford a monthly payment of $1,629/month. Using the 80 percent average median income required for listed affordable housing ($43,781), this home is purchasable by someone earning just $42,000 – less than a qualified affordable unit.

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City Council took up the long in the tooth Lincoln Katy Trail project at Wednesday’s evening meeting after failing City Plan Commission in November. In an attempt to sweeten the deal to an affordable housing-hungry city council, Lincoln raised their affordable component from five percent to 15 percent (from 15 to 45 units). And many council members, including Mayor Mike Rawlings took the bait.

Mayor Rawlings was so obviously hot to pass this project, he literally asked Oak Lawn District 14 Council Member Philip Kingston if he would support the deal if Lincoln purchased a home for a blind woman living in the complex referenced by Kingston. Others wanted to know what affordable percentage would cause Kingston to support the project.

“It’s math,” they said. Why yes, it is …

The council couldn’t (or wouldn’t) figure out that the existing complex contains 115 market-rate affordable housing units. Raising the affordable housing giveback to 15 percent still leaves the neighborhood with 70 fewer affordable units. They also ignore the positive self-esteem of being able to rent or purchase a market rate affordable home versus having to qualify through an invasive application process to prove you’re poor enough.

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The attempt to get a Plan Commission re-vote on the Lincoln Katy Trail project has spectacularly failed. As reported on Dec. 4, Christopher Lewis, Plan Commissioner appointed by District 8 Council Member Tennell Atkins, filed paperwork to get the project reconsidered after it initially failed CPC on Nov. 15.

Today’s CPC session brought up the motion to reconsider with District 10 appointee Tipton Housewright seconding the motion. Almost immediately, Commissioner Deborah Carpenter motioned for discussion to be halted and a vote to re-vote simply held. That motion didn’t pass, which I’m sure caused a few white knuckles (including mine).

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Last week, CandysDirt.com reported the unusual move by one Plan Commissioner to call for a re-vote on the contentious Lincoln Katy Trail project. We can now report the request was made by Christopher Lewis, newly appointed by District 8 Council Member Tennell Atkins.  I noted at the time it was an unusual move for someone so new to the position.  It also has the potential to set a very dangerous precedent for the City of Dallas.

The last (easily discovered) time reconsideration was used was back in 2013 when some wanted to frack in the Trinity River floodplain. The CPC said “no” but then CPC chair and fracking supporter Joe Alcantar asked for a reconsideration. Seems a game was afoot to game the system because of who was missing from the first vote and who would be missing from the second. You may recall the city manager and city attorney were fired during the scandal.

The reason for the re-vote was the same as Lincoln Katy Trail. A CPC loss translates into a 3/4 majority at City Council for passage.

Interestingly enough for history buffs, three council members wrote to Alcantar urging his to reconsider the re-vote. Scott Griggs, Sandy Greyson and … Angela Hunt, who now sits with Lincoln on the Lincoln Katy Trail case.

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