In Part One, I explained how I’d put my thoughts into an envelope to be opened once the PD-15 process was complete. However, my surprise resignation opened the envelope to share now.  In that first column, I faced the hard truth of the economic viability of redevelopment and how the buildings that might be built within zoning were not profitable for buyers or sellers. I also touched on the aging demographic the area attracts and their less likely bent towards renovation and the ability to play catchup on years of deferred maintenance in some complexes. Finally, I wrote about how in real dollars, the past 15 years have been a wash (punctuated by Recession-driven ups and downs). If you missed Part One, catch up here.

The overall endpoint being that if the area wants to attract new buyers for the long-term (not just because Dallas is skint of housing), who have the money and willpower to uplift the area, PD-15 is the last hope.

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Weeks ago, I began telling people that I already knew what should happen to PD-15 to make the most people happy. I said I was going to write it down, put it in an envelope that I would open at the end to see how accurate I was.  Now that I’m not part of the task force, screw it, I’m opening the envelope.

In this first part, I will explain how my plan was formed using some key information.  In the second part, I will go building-by-building and explain how the information in this section informs that plan.

Note: To burst bubbles from the outset, my opinion is based on uplifting the area, not personal gain.  While it’s true I would benefit from any financial uplift, over the past 15 years, there are only two people who paid less per square foot in my building. So I’m good financially.

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Former Dallas mayor Laura Miller working behind the scenes to stall progress.

[Editor’s Note: The opinions reflected in this column are those of the author and are not the editorial opinion of CandysDirt.com. We reached out to Laura Miller for comment. Her response is included at the end of this opinion column.]


Author’s Foreword:  On Wednesday night, I resigned from the PD-15 task force because of behind-the-scenes machinations and actions that I could not agree with once I became aware of them.  Also, I refuse to work with people I can’t trust. This includes representatives from several area buildings, including my own. Those representatives also asked former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller to step in and help their cause. Here’s that story.

Earlier in the evening I was forwarded a letter being crafted by some members of the PD-15 task force but whose pen had been heavily guided by former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller.  I’m told the letter will be sent to council member Jennifer Gates in the coming days. In my capacity as a task force member, my name was listed as a supposed signatory, although I’d not been consulted on its verbiage.

Upon returning home I spoke with my HOA president and co-representative to see if she’d seen the letter.  She had not only seen it, but had been actively involved in its creation.

The letter seeks to put a clamp on any redevelopment within PD-15 that goes against the deeply flawed Preston Center and Northwest Highway Area Plan that was largely hijacked by Miller and written in secret with the help of the business interests in Preston Center.

I believe this is a distraction that does one thing well: it uses the element of time to kill progress. This is a tactic Miller is very familiar with.

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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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With the two antagonists from the last meeting otherwise engaged, last night’s PD-15 meeting went smoother and accomplished more than the prior meeting’s tit, tat, and tut-tutting.  Tiff-free it wasn’t, but patience, we’ll get there …

In a change of pace, the meeting was run by council member Jennifer Gates and while she mostly missed the prior meeting, she was able to guide us through a discussion sprouting from some discussion points provided by the absent Scott Polikov.  I think most felt the group accomplished more agreement and offered more of a civilized Q&A session between the members. The added clarity was welcome.

I almost groaned as we headed to the Preston Road area plan yet again, but thankfully we swiftly agreed its recommendations could guide but not limit our work … and essentially avoided being pulled into the vortex of its (in my opinion) flawed assumptions (stay tuned for that breakdown tomorrow – shameless plug).

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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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