At the last PD-15 meeting, Preston Tower and Athena high-rises asked to meet to come up with a plan they thought they could “sell” to their residents. This was a direct reaction to the massing study shown at that meeting which pictured a development the towers felt would not be supported. I called that first massing study “a high water mark” in density. Perhaps the tower’s plan showed, in some respects, a low water mark. (And no, I’m not showing you that either because it’s just as polarizing as the other one. If you want to drink from that trough, come to the meetings.)

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What makes PD-15’s gyrations different from many other upzoning cases is that there is no blueprint to follow.  The Toll Brothers building in Oak Lawn largely fits within its MF-3 zoning. Sure, some complain whether MF-3 is appropriate for the area, but it’s there. Other projects have MF-2 and want to move beyond those controls. But PD-15 has none of that to act as starting point.  The PD documents essentially state a total number of units in the PD that is derived by the number of units per acre. There’s also a bit on parking and interior street right of ways. But that’s pretty much it.

If you’re talking about traditional city zoning, there are categories for setbacks, density (units per acre and size of units), height, lot coverage, primary uses and any special standards (like a minimum lot size or proximity slopes).  Proximity slopes protect neighboring buildings from being too close to radically taller structures by forcing them to literally step back from those neighbors (think of stair steps back).

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Map of PD-15

For those just joining our story, the Pink Wall is pocket of multi-family condominiums bordering the mansions and McMansions of Preston Hollow located at the northeast corner of Northwest Highway and Preston Road.  Within the area is Planned Development District 15 (PD-15) that includes the buildings above and fronts Northwest Highway between the Preston Tower and Athena high-rises.

Because PDs operate differently than straight city zoning, a task force has been formed by Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates and includes Plan Commissioner Margot Murphy with representatives from each of the PD-15 buildings as well as buildings in the neighborhood outside the PD.  The group is addressing the development issues facing the area since March’s Preston Place fire and a developer’s interest in the Diplomat property.  PD-15 began in 1947 and, as you can imagine, needs some updating to reflect the realities of this century. You can get up to speed here, here, here, here, here.

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Last night marked the second meeting of the Pink Wall PD-15 task force gathered together to address increased density in the area. As a reminder, the Pink Wall is essentially the northeast corner of Preston and Northwest Hwy.  PD-15 is roughly the space between the Preston Tower and Athena residential high-rises. If you missed last week’s roundup, click here.

This second meeting began to tackle the issue of density and what the neighborhood’s desires are for the area.  Of course before we got there, we heard more on the shifting sands of how this could play out procedurally within city government.  I’m not going to go into detail here (again) because questions remain and I want to be crystal clear versus continually negating what was said previously.  It’s annoying that city officials just don’t know this. Do we need to lock them in a room until their story is straight?

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PD-15 boundaries along Northwest Highway

I’ve written tons on the Pink Wall and its Planned Development District (PD) 15. I’ve spent many an hour trying to understand the loosey-goosey definitions found in the decades-old paperwork, even talking to a city attorney. It’s nice to finally have some official clarity … which was different from what I’d been told and I told you. So listen up …

There are 63 available units that can be built within PD-15. Period. (more…)

Istanbul’s Basilica Cistern has been holding water for over 1,500 years

Last week I got to thinking about flooding in southern Preston Hollow, particularly behind the Pink Wall and Northwest Highway … and it struck me.  There was a solution to area flooding staring us in the face since March.  Preston Place condominiums lot.

You see, currently we all know existing drainage can’t handle large, fast torrential rains, like the one we had yesterday.  In the south Preston Hollow area and Northwest Highway, there is enough flooding to lift and move cars a few times per year.  The thing with flooding is that first, you can’t change the rain.  So the only other options are to either increase capacity or to control the flow of floodwaters to keep water off the streets.

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Preston Place Nearly Cleared; Diplomat's Roof Repair

Preston Place Nearly Cleared; Diplomat’s Roof Repair

On May 10, Preston Place owners voted to engage a Realtor to sell the property to developers.  What I’m sure was a gut-wrenching decision likely came down to a lack of will by the majority of owners.  Let’s face it, many were older and the stamina required to rebuild was likely not there.  Compounding any rebuild would be the death of 1,000 cuts as owners sought changes to the original plans both large and small.

The property is completely demolished and just about cleared of debris.  There were several pauses in demolition when building- and owner-supplied scavengers were employed to seek residents’ belongings in the rubble.  Certainly a sad occasion for all, including the demolition crews dumping life’s remnants into trucks to be hauled away.

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Preston Place Demo Exterior 4 Awning

During the early morning hours of March 4, the Preston Place condominiums were destroyed by fire that had seven firefighting companies and over 170 first responders using hoses carrying water from nearly a half a mile away.

The building is now moving forward with its next chapter … demolition.

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