Boll and McKinney

Let’s begin big. The Oak Lawn Committee saw four projects last night. The one above is a nice residential high-rise at the corner of Boll St. and McKinney Ave. We also saw a proposal for a 13-story retirement home around the corner from Al Biernat’s, as well as the more mundane signage variance in Victory Park and the reopening a drive-through that’s been on Cedar Springs for decades but whose permit expired.

Mixed-Use With Parking Underground

So you’re thinking … where’s Boll Street? It’s a couple of blocks up from Whole Foods, where Jake’s Burgers is (soon to be “was”). There are many aspects of the building that I like and all of them are below the fourth floor (handy picture, eh?).

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The August Oak Lawn Committee was thick with high-rise proposals. In Part 1 we saw an update on StreetLights Residential’s proposal for Oak Lawn and Lemmon Avenues plus a new office building and retail restaurant village for the Quadrangle.  Let’s now focus on 2500 Cedar Springs Road, a full block you may know as housing a Briggs Freeman office and Kung Fu Saloon.

It’s a four-acre site that gives developer, Ryan Companies, the space to do something pretty great. For us pedestrians it’s the 55 percent lot coverage to cheer for. They’ve created a winding pathway through the three-tower project along streetscapes lined with shops restaurants. Definitely more enticing than the existing buildings that almost tumble into Cedar Springs Road like so many bar patrons at closing time.

The project has been a long time coming, with Ryan working side by side with architects GFF to make this all happen. And GFF is no innocent bystander here. The back corner of the development is, and will remain, their home.

Let’s jump in.

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After a couple of months where a single project was proposed to the Oak Lawn Committee, last night saw scads of new high-rises within blocks of each other in Uptown. The fifth high-rise postponed their presentation, but we’ll see it soon enough (and perhaps a sixth). The four shown comprise two separate projects abutting each other – two office buildings, one apartment building and another hotel (I now count five hotels in various stages of development). We also saw the return of a shortened Oak Lawn and Lemmon Avenue project by StreetLights Residential.

A full night indeed made fuller by an appearance of new council member David Blewett. Amidst the usual political “supporting constituents” patter came a series of double-takes delivered by way of audience questions.

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A good start, but where’s the rest?

Streetlights Residential is trying to redevelop the corner of Oak Lawn and Lemmon Avenues where a Shell gas station and a Pizza Hut sits next to the original Eatzi’s. Their first go-around was a blah building that didn’t have a lot going for it.

The second visit saw a much improved Oak Lawn Avenue frontage that reimagines the original Melrose Theater that once sat on the site. It was after that meeting when I spoke to StreetLights that I congratulated them on the new façade but wanted the same care taken with the rest of the 240-foot apartment tower. They said they were working on it. At last night’s third visit, they hadn’t moved a brick since last time – which is disappointing.

To review, StreetLights’ plan is for a 240-foot “T-shaped” tower containing 297 apartments with ground-floor retail space along Oak Lawn Avenue. They’ve visited the Oak Lawn Committee in May and June.

After last month’s meeting I wrote, “In my book, there are four things that still need working out. First, the already-mentioned 7-story garage. Second, the skin of the building above the new façade still needs help. Third, the orientation of the parking lot entry from Eatzi’s needs to be aligned with the road. And fourth, a bit more explanation on traffic flow for deliveries, moving vans, etc.”

The 75-foot tall podium parking garage is untouched. The skin above the façade is unchanged. The parking garage orientation is unchanged, but they did show traffic flow for deliveries – simply adding pathway arrows to existing illustrations. One question came about whether large semi-trucks can make the corner from Oak Lawn Avenue onto the alley entrance to serve Eatzi’s. StreetLights’ answer was they’d have to look into the turn radius. (In one hysterical moment, StreetLights doubted whether that large of a truck was used – then an audience member pointed out you could see the trucks in their own pictures. Oops!)

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After a show-and-tell session about the history of the lot adjacent to Eatzi’s, StreetLights Residential came back to the Oak Lawn Committee with a better plan.

For those who need a reminder about why the Oak Lawn Committee is critical to the neighborhood’s integrity, last night’s meeting was a case in point.

Last month, StreetLights Residential brought a proposal for the corner of Oak Lawn and Lemmon Avenues next to the flagship/original Eatzi’s. You may remember I called the building’s design “unfortunate” and “poor company” to its surroundings. Things have changed.

After last month’s meeting, I had a chance to sit down with Greg Coutant, the director of development for StreetLights, and share my thoughts and concerns. We talked about the movie theater originally on the plot. I also brought along a book covering a century of high-rise residential design and played show-and-tell. They listened.

StreetLights went back to the movie theater’s archive (housed in the Dallas Public Library) for inspiration from the original 1931 theater. Now the Oak Lawn Avenue façade looks like an update on that original theater – complete with sign and marquee. It creates a visual connection to the Melrose Hotel. It also begins to heal the wound this parcel has represented to the neighborhood since the theater was torn down in 1985. I was impressed with the work so far.

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Who stands to benefit if District 14’s Philip Kingston is ousted?

I used the above graphic when reporting Lincoln Property’s Katy Trail project failed to pass Dallas City Council in January (after failing City Plan Commission). It was a portend that I thought the arrogance shown by the developer throughout the process hadn’t ended. I’d heard the contract between Lincoln and the Turtle Creek Terrace condos had expired and not been renewed. I’d also heard that it hadn’t been canceled either and that the property was still actively looking to sell.

Just as District 13’s election revolved around development, it appears the District 14 runoff may have some of that same razzle-dazzle.

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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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