If the Preston Center Parking Corp. doesn’t budge, chances are we’ll be celebrating the garage’s 100th birthday in the year 2055.

Thursday night marked the final public meeting of Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates’ task force studying the revitalization of the Preston Center parking garage. The picture above, snatched from the year 2055, tells the story. The current garage will be celebrating its 100th birthday marked by a vintage car show – fun for the whole family.

I say this because there are two sides that have to agree to move forward. The Preston Center Parking Corp., which controls the usage of the garage, and the city, which owns the land.  While there’s a potential for some fudge on the city side for negotiation, the Parking Corp. has to be in unanimous agreement.

As has been abundantly clear since this first began that the Parking Corp. doesn’t want a park. Their thinking is that every blade of grass is a lost sale. Of course, it goes against any study documenting how parks enhance commercial districts, but we’re post-fact, aren’t we?

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Last night. Council Member Jennifer Gates held the second public meeting about what to do with the dilapidated Preston Center parking garage. Since the first meeting back in September, consultants from Houston-based Walker Consultants have been busy scoping out concepts based on the Preston Road Area Plan (a bright spot in a dismal plan).  The plan outlined a completely underground parking garage with 1,600 parking spaces (double today’s garage) and a public park on top at ground level.  Think Klyde Warren but instead of Woodall Rodgers underneath, it would be a garage.  You may also recall that the surrounding landowners unanimously poo-poo that plan (put a pin in that).

The parking lot itself is 3.15 acres – 137,332 square feet – and 800 parking spaces on two above-ground levels. This … space … in the middle of an area zoned for high density. Understand just how rare that is. Klyde Warren had to cover a highway to get its space and here we are with a molding parking garage that could be so very much more. Like I said, very, very, rare.

Now, burying so much parking isn’t on the same planet as “cheap,” but it’s the right thing to do. It’s worth saving up for. It’s worth sacrificing for.

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Preston Center

Back in 2016, I took St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church to task on a bunch of things. The biggest being that while their representative was sitting silent on the Preston Center Task Force they were secretly negotiating with developers to plonk a 250,000 square foot office building on Douglas Avenue. After that scathing take-down, I was surprised when they reached out to me to review their new and improved plans for the site.

You’ve likely read the press release in the DMN from Sept. 6, but I wanted to sit down and get some additional detail. I met with the church’s team fairly quickly, so this delayed column is my fault (busy, busy).

The press release piqued my snark when I noted that in the scant two-page release the Preston Center Area Plan was mentioned eight times … eight … times. When I sat down with the team, it was one of the first things I said … eight times? Their spin was that it showed their commitment. I told them it raised my suspicion meter that there was something to hide. They were surprised at my reaction assuring me there was no hiding … but eight times.

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Last night, Council Member Jennifer Gates kicked off the first public meeting to discuss the possibilities for redeveloping the crumbling central garage at the Preston Center West shopping center. The meeting was an informative update and change for area residents to see and hear about the research being conducted to fix the blight.

My most glaring takeaway from this initial meeting was how poorly traveled area landowners are.

To review, the City of Dallas owns the Preston Center West central garage, however, grasping tightly to the city’s short and curlies are the surrounding business owners who have ultimate say-so on what the city is able to do with the garage. They’re represented above as the Preston Center West Corp. column.

The above graphic shows the five potential outcomes for the garage. The quickest way to understand what the real options are is to look at the big stars, but the Preston Center West Corp. column is the most telling. After all, their “no” is “no” or in this case, their “low” is “no.”

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Parking Study Title 1

Dear Chosen Consultant,

I saw that NCTCOG (North Central Texas Council of Governments) issued an RFP (Request for Proposal) for a combined $400,000 study on the viability of parking structures in four areas of the Metroplex.

  1. Northwest Highway at Preston Road (Preston Center West)
  2. IH 635 East of Galleria (Dallas Midtown)
  3. Dallas Medical District (Southwest Medical District)
  4. “Option 4” (Downtown Arlington, which may be changed or eliminated)

While I’m sure 2, 3, 4 are worthwhile projects, I have specific knowledge surrounding “1,” the proposed underground garage at the center (in so many ways) of Preston Center West. In fact, were NCTCOG to have issued separate RFPs, I’d have thrown my hat in to study the Preston Center garage.

Having spent two years attending and reporting on task force meetings along with researching area traffic flow and roadway optimization … even publishing a traffic plan nearly two years ago … I am uniquely qualified to understand the requirements and history of this project.  Add-in a 25-year career developing research and the resulting planning for global corporations and governments, and I’m da man for you!

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P Center Plan Front Page 1

In Part One, you learned about the final plan to be delivered to the city by the Preston Center Task Force.  It’s been two years in the making and cost $300,000 to produce a plan with little substance and holes a developer could drive a truck through.

Here in part two, we’ll finish out by reporting on the recommendations for development in the area.

Mixed Use, Not Mixed Income

There’s lots of talk about walkability, and an equal amount talk about luxury housing product.  This means that just like today, people who live in the area don’t generally work in the area.  An infinitesimal number of Preston Center workers walk to work today, and luxe-only development assures that will not change. Apparently walkability isn’t for area cashiers, cooks, waiters or firemen/women.

The vibrancy claimed to be the goal will not happen without housing that’s affordable to those who also work in the area.  Without it, what we’ll get is a plastic Disneyland that comes to life with the flick of a switch.  We’ll also have the added traffic as those workers commute in for their shifts. Lose-lose.

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P Center Plan Front Page 1

If I could sum up this final report by the Northwest Highway and Preston Road Area Plan task force, it would be that it took two years and $300,000 to identify what will cost the city even more money and more time to actually attempt to solve. But that’s what you get when a group rife with personal agendas discards most of the hard data.  As Laura Miller said, “Every task force member agreed on every word” in the self-authored report.  This was after the task force commandeered the report back in July from the hired consultants.

Consensus equates to a watered-down, namby-pamby report with all the right buzzwords to calm the natives while delivering absolutely nothing of substance.  The report tells the audience what they already know and want without a shred of information or detail on how they’re going to address any of it … except with more study and more money.

The audience at last night’s meeting nodded on queue to the placation … traffic is a problem … sometimes it’s hard finding lunch time parking at Preston Center … the Preston Center parking garage is ugly … Mark Cuban needs to put those mansions back.  But what was not comprehended was that every, single, solitary issue and crack-pot recommendation contained in this report is someone else’s problem to study, evaluate, fix and pay for. It’s like they typed up the flip charts of suggestions from the community meetings.

The actual recommendations are without detail or teeth, often fobbed off on another entity.

In other words, 99 percent of this report could have been written two years and $300,000 ago by an intern. The most frightening thing is that this report apparently represents the quality of work expected by the City of Dallas. (Although after the Fair Park debacle, I shouldn’t have been surprised)

Let’s review…

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Aerial-Preston-Center

Part One began with a look into the specifics of the latest round of data buttressing the Preston Center Area Plan by Kimley-Horn.  Of all the zones represented, Zones 1 and 4 are the two with the most potential. Part One was an overview of Zone 1 while this installment covers Zone 4 and some of the bedrock research that remains undone 16 months later.

Kimley-Horn: Zone 4 (Pink Wall)

Like Zone 1, the data presented on Zone 4 was frightening to many.  It supposes that every complex is rebuilt to maximum zoning potential (ignoring in-place deed restrictions). Highly, impossibly unlikely in the near-to-mid-term.  As one local developer pointed out in the last public meeting, the likelihood of many of the newest buildings being torn down and upsized to their full zoning potential was nil.  To add a single floor to a new building is economically ludicrous.

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