Clairvoyance can be a terrible burden. Thankfully, it didn’t take any special powers to foresee Lincoln Property Company returning to the Oak Lawn Committee for their Lincoln Katy Trail project. After seeing the reactions of City Plan Commissioners on Sept. 22 to Lincoln’s plan to skip a re-blessing by the Oak Lawn Committee to their very different plan, I saw it as a foregone conclusion.

Had Plan Commission passed the project without renewed OLC support, it would have been precedent setting. I spoke with a few OLC old-timers and the only time any of them can remember that happening was when Victory was taking shape with the American Airline Center’s birth back in the 1990s. I was told that while OLC had a seat at the table, they were largely ignored as the area’s plan was being pushed with mayoral support.

I think we can all agree that the OLC’s success in managing Oak Lawn development has resulted in a lot better neighborhood than Victory. In fact, Victory got top honors as a failure in D Magazine’s recent “Dallas and The New Urbanism” special edition with the Perot Museum of Nature and Science called out separately for its poor streetscape, saying it makes “Field Street a miserable place to walk.”

Of course, what would this project be without arrogance?

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Lincoln Katy Trail divided the building. Too bad it’s 75 feet of concrete instead of green space.

Lincoln Property has done some work to change their Lincoln Katy Trail project. Arguably, these changes should have been the result of the first thumbs-down from the Oak Lawn Committee (OLC) well over a year ago. Instead they come much, much later and only after having exhausted their ability to cram the project through the Oak Lawn Committee and the neighborhood before hitting a Plan Commission brick wall. This project continues to be a manifestation of hubris.

Since Plan Commission kicked the project in August, there have been changes. For example, the single, unending block-long building has been split in two.  The Katy Trail no longer faces a fire lane and the ass-end of an underground exposed parking garage and loading dock. The trail also gets a proper entry from the property to engage residents.

But the question remains – Should a 307-unit, 70-foot-tall building (not counting above ground parking garage) comprising 80 percent one-bedroom units, now with 70 percent lot coverage, rear setbacks cut in half to 15 feet, and 600,000 square feet – giving back a miserly 15 affordable units – be allowed to blowout existing MF-2 zoning? That zoning limits a building to 36 feet in height, 60 percent lot coverage, and wider setbacks. It’s also worth remembering the current complex contains 115 market-rate affordable units in a rapidly unaffordable part of Dallas. More troubling still is that this case will be used as precedent for future encroachments into this still affordable area.

Of note, city staff’s recommendation when evaluating the neighborhood and factoring in the affordable units is for 230 units – 77 fewer than Lincoln is asking for, which is “a 152 percent increase, or deviation, in the current allowable density.” Staff also recommends shaving the project to five stories or a 60-foot height limit, calling 70 feet a “detrimental effect” for the Vine Condos on Carlisle. Sixty feet would restrict but not eliminate privacy and views of existing neighbors who comply with the MF-2 zoning.

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With luck, this is the last time we will see this rendering of Lincoln Property’s Lincoln Katy Trail project. Rewinding the clock, in February, the project passed Oak Lawn Committee by a single contentious vote after multiple unsuccessful trips seeking support. This scant win was followed in July by a disastrous City Plan Commission meeting where no commissioner would second a motion my Philip Kingston’s District 14 representative Paul Ridley – and several calling for Lincoln to return with a better plan. After that meeting I saw the city filing of neighborhood support and saw that aside from those cashing out and moving on, not a single entity was in support of the project.

In the ensuing weeks, Lincoln managed to get a letter of support from the Friends of the Katy Trail (more on that later).   However, a meeting last week at the Mayfair condos for its residents plus those of the Vendome and the Claridge resulted in no change of heart from the opposed buildings.

Couple all this with a fierce, largely unsuccessful lobbying campaign around City Hall, and even Lincoln had to finally read the writing on the wall.

At the CPC meeting, Lincoln’s chief opponent stated that there was a way for a redesigned building to move forward. I wondered why, when they were given an out, did they seem too arrogant to take it?

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Times change. Times change in city council representation. Back in 2007, then Oak Lawn council member Angela Hunt was quoted in the Dallas Morning News leading the charge against a proposed Gables development at Carlisle and Hall Streets bordering the Katy Trail.

Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt, who represents the area where Gables is proposing to build, says she’ll ask the council to deny Gables’ zoning request “with prejudice.”

“The overwhelming number of residents who will be affected by this change are opposed, and I am elected to represent them,“ Ms. Hunt said.

“I have not had a case come before me where such a large majority of residents are so vehemently opposed to a zoning change,” Ms. Hunt said. “There’s a reason we have zoning: so residents have some certainty as to what the future of the community will look like. To me, there’s a high level of proof needed to get a zoning change, and this project doesn’t cut it.”

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Capacity crowd on hand to watch the OLC fritter away its credibility

By a narrow margin, Lincoln Property won support from the Oak Lawn Committee in a 16-to-14 vote for their Lincoln Katy Trail project on Carlisle and Hall Streets Wednesday night.  This pivotal vote essentially opens up MF-2 zoned properties (36 feet in height) in the area east of the Katy Trail, from Uptown to West Village (if not further afield), for redevelopment.  I say “opens” because, should City Plan Commission and Council approve this project, developers will use it as exemplar for increased density in Oak Lawn and the OLC will have lost their credibility to stop them.

Already we know that the Carlisle on the Katy, located across from the Lincoln project, plans their own up-zone. The last plans called for a pair of high-rises with former Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt signed on to help. Additionally, on the next block, Sutton Place had been seeking a developer buyout for several years.

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At last week’s Lincoln meeting at Turtle Creek Terrace concerning their Lincoln Katy Trail project a question was asked about affordable housing units.  It was asked how many Toll Brothers was providing.  Some didn’t think there were any affordable units in that project.  I volunteered that there was a 10 percent affordable component.

I was wrong.

Toll Brothers is reserving three percent of their units as affordable (9 units) but they are also going to accept Section 8 vouchers (“over 12”) making for a combined 7-ish percent of units that will be available below market rates.

My mixup was from a proposed project by Alliance at Cole and Armstrong (Broadstone) that is offering a 10 percent affordable component (and who, along with Lincoln, will be presenting at tomorrow’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting at the Melrose Hotel at 6:30 p.m. … open to all).

I’m writing this to clarify (I don’t like being inaccurate), but also to propitiate a note from Angela Hunt correcting my 10 percent claim by noting the city told her the number was 3 percent affordable … though she did not account for the Section 8 component. 

 

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors has recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com.

In today’s D Frontburner blog, I traced the trail of Angela Hunt’s transition from District 14’s city council advocate battling inappropriate development in Oak Lawn to being an emissary for developers.  Here, I want to explore the Lincoln Katy Trail project where Hunt is representing Lincoln Property. (Click here for Frontburner article)

It’s important to note that Hunt is now a private citizen and has the right to secure work however she pleases.  Unlike many technology firms, government doesn’t use non-compete agreements.  Hunt herself says, “I am no longer on the Dallas City Council. I am not an elected official, I don’t have a constituency, and I no longer decide zoning cases. I am a private citizen representing developers and neighborhoods in zoning cases.”

Taking a step back, the owners of The Vine townhomes have been battling developers seeking to radically upzone two lots neighboring their complex.  Gables’ plans for the Carlisle on The Katy complex were nixed by city hall in 2007, Exxir reignited in 2015. The Turtle Creek Terrace lot began with a similar campaign by Lennar, they gave up, and now Lincoln Property holds the option.

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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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