Saturday is election day, and this one revolves around real estate centered in one Dallas city council district: District 13, where 17.6 percent of voters have cast early ballots. That’s the highest voting percentage in any city council district.

There is the Behind the Pink Wall real estate quagmire, the condo owners and tenants who say they do not want increased density from the remaking of PD-15. PD-15 is an antiquated city document that permits a developer to go as high as he wants, but limit the footprint to 60 residential units to replace those lost in the seven-alarm Preston Place fire more than two years ago where a woman lost her life.

The fire has left the owners of Preston Place with nothing more than a parking garage. And now, owners of condos in the periphery of Preston Place find their HOAs are postponing repairs on those buildings that are most likely going to be snapped up by developers and scraped.

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At last night’s debate between District 13 Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates and former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, I fully expected the political point-scoring and backbiting that is politics. What I didn’t expect was the paucity of actual answers to questions. Part of that rests on moderator Tim Rogers for not calling out either candidate for being non-responsive to his questions. Each question was supposed to net both candidates 90 seconds to respond. With such a short time, you’d think they’d get to the meat of an answer. Not really.

Instead, we saw an hour of political brinksmanship with little hard substance from either candidate. One of two things was behind this – either they had no detailed answers, or more likely, those answers were thought to be unpalatable to voters. As you will read, I’m not afraid of unpalatable.

But before I go there, Miller’s opening remarks contained one of the few truthful moments. She described herself as someone of “action” compared to Gates’ “indecision.” While Miller meant this as a dig at Gates, I saw the opposite. Gates’ appearance of indecision comes from her wanting information to help guide a decision. For example, within PD-15,  Gates has spent two years trying to reach a compromise. Only after two committees devolved into factions did she finally ask city staff to come up with something.

Compare that to a quick-to-judge, uncompromising Miller, whom I’ve seen in action on the Preston Center Area Plan committee, the proposed Preston Center skybridge, Highland House, and now PD-15. She’s someone who doesn’t allow new information to cloud her initial judgment. I have the patience for those trying to learn more to get a better result.

In a more visceral display, before the debate, Laura Miller asked me to carry her suitcase to the stage (seen in photo) while Gates glad-handed me as she did many in the room.  To Gates, I was a constituent, to Miller, a lackey, apparently.

Roads are Bad and You Don’t Pay Enough Tax

The topic of roads came up … (more…)

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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I am hearing that Target put its signature red sign up last week on the Pavilion Building on the southwest-ish corner of Preston Road and Northwest Highway, across from the parking garage where a potential tenant not too long ago (early 2015) wanted to build a skybridge to get a grocery store in the second floor space.

The Pavilion Building is on Westchester Drive and Berkshire Lane.

This will be Target’s first “small-format” store in the Dallas area, and I can hardly wait. It’s small-format at 54,700 square feet. I love Target and everything they carry, but I am getting to not like Big Box stores. It just takes too long to park, get in the store, and find what you are looking for. It’s like asking for a back-ache with a headache on the side. Ditto humungo grocery stores: Central Market at Preston Royal manages to have everything I could ever need and more and do it in 30,000 ish square feet. 

The new target store will have its grand opening Oct. 21, just in time for Halloween. 

That’s so 2015: proposed skybridge at Preston Center Pavilion.

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Close to a year ago, Preston Place burned.

Last week at a CandysDirt.com event in Preston Hollow, in and amongst the wonderfully renovated kitchen, a temporary kitchen cabinet assembled.  You see, when I was introduced to several ladies, they all wanted to talk about PD-15.  Turns out they live and lived in neighboring buildings. By “lived” I mean that one was a former Preston Place owner who was displaced by fire in March 2017.

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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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Preston-Center-640

I bet the task force members thought I’d given them a Christmas present by not writing up the Dec. 3 meeting. Nope. I was just outta town. So what happened at that meeting (you didn’t show up for)?

First was a recap of a Nov. 3 meeting, the Task Force open house held to share preliminary data to area residents and to ask for feedback. As in previous open house sessions, there were “topic stations” setup with flip-charts and markers for capturing thoughts. This time, 66 residents attended. For those keeping count, that’s 1 percent of the 6,736 residents in the task force area. I suppose the other 99 percent were either out of town (like me) or more likely apathetic (waiting for any action to be a gavel-bang away before piping up). You know the type — the first to complain and the last to volunteer — and if you live in Task Force-land, you likely only have to look in the mirror. (Although I do love those with total apathy — no opinion and no interference.)

Before I get to parking, one topic seeped into every question posed of the meagre attendees. That question was, “How do we ensure Mark Cuban gets the shaft on Northwest Highway?” In one question, attendees were asked to put colored “dots” on locations they want to see Residential, Office, Greenspace, or “Other.”

First, there wasn’t a single dot placed that wasn’t spitting distance from the intersection of Preston Road and Northwest Highway. So again, while the task force’s mandate covers a huge area, only that intersection is of any real interest. Is that “concern” really just attendee self-interest? Probably. The vast majority of attendees to these meetings reside or have businesses within blocks of this intersection.

Does it call into question why a resident’s opinion on the outskirts of the task force area carries more weight than a non-resident who works daily in Preston Center? Probably. Should the task force have included the opinions of people who navigate Preston Center every day? Probably. Just 8 percent of survey respondents actually work in Preston Center. Given this task force is so focused on one intersection, shouldn’t University Park (one quarter of the intersection) officially be part of this foofaraw? Probably.

Have I said all that before? Very probably.

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Douglas Square Apartments formerly located on top parcel

Frederick  Square Apartments formerly located on top parcel

I have to thank Dallas Morning News’ Robert Wilonsky for my literal laugh-out-loud Sunday as he broke the story on St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church’s plans to lease land to a developer to build a high-rise office tower in Preston Center. I mean you just can’t make this stuff up.

Flash back to Christmas Eve 2007 when the Church, pulling a Martin Luther, nailed 60-day eviction notices to residents of the Frederick Square Apartments located on church-owned property … and on a Sunday no less! While Martin Luther only nailed 95 Theses to the door of the All Saints’ Church, St. Michaels and All Angels nailed closer to 100. I’m sure back in 2007 many made the allusion to Mary and Joseph also being turned out on Christmas Eve a few years earlier.

Vacate your home, St. Michael needs a parking lot.

Vacate your home, St. Michael needs a parking lot.

Flash forward to March 2, 2015, the Preston Center Task Force had its first meeting to present its mission and membership. Jay Grogan was named a representative of Zone 3 (bounded by Preston, Del Norte, Hillcrest and Walnut Hill). You remember Zone 3, right? The chief grumblers on the recently approved Laurel apartments Transwestern will be building on the northeast corner of Preston and Northwest Highway?

According to the autobiography supplied to the task force, Jay Grogan is “actively involved in Saint Michael & All Angels Episcopal Church” located in task force Zone 1. He’s also been “a practicing real estate and business lawyer for more than 30 years.” It’s obvious why his church involvement included being one of three members of their Campus Development Committee overseeing the proposed redevelopment of the former Frederick Square Apartments site.

Why is St. Michael’s scrabbling for more money? In February 2015, the Episcopal School of Dallas announced they were embarking on a plan to unite its younger and older students on their Merrill Road campus. That plan has its own hurdles to jump and is reportedly years away from breaking ground. But that move will quash the rent paid to St. Michael’s by the Episcopal School for the 403 students currently educated on St. Michael’s land. (The main gripe for that project is of course, traffic. Neighbors worry about the twice-daily drop-off/pickup parade of 403 SUVs – I was apparently the last child to ever walk to school.)

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