Recommendation carves Preston Tower separated to maintain existing commercial office space

The original, decades-old PD-15 documentation is faulted for its lack of clarity. Unfortunately, the new document reflecting city staff’s recommendations has its own issues with clarity (Draft PD and Presentation).  You will recall that last November, Council Member Jennifer Gates sent the second neighborhood committee home after being bogged down a second time by non-negotiable towers’ representatives. During the two ensuing months, city staff were to have created their own recommendations based on their research and experience. Unfortunately, given the output, I suspect work only began after the Christmas wrapping paper was cleared.

First, the document doesn’t stand on its own as an obviously understandable document. Instead, questions abound, requiring significant explanation by city staff at last night’s meeting. Hopefully as the draft tightens, these ambiguities are made clear to future readers.

For those who enjoy spoilers, the city’s recommendations call for the area between northwest Highway and Diamond Head Circle to support 240-foot heights, while from Diamond Head Circle northward to the alley could build to 96 feet in height. Overall, the PD would equalize density at 90 units per acre. The rough result would be 540-750 total units (405-615 new). Why the spread? You’ll have to read to the end.

(more…)

Sunday may be a day of rest, but it seems that journalists, politicians, and Twitter never really rest, and that was borne out yesterday when Dallas city councilmember Jennifer Gates took to Twitter to air her feelings about a recent op-ed about Preston Center traffic woes that former Mayor and Preston Hollow resident Laura Miller wrote for the Dallas Morning News.

We were, of course, sitting up for this super straight. Because over at CandysDirt.com, we’ve been writing about Pink Wall/Preston Center shenanigans for years now, and our own Jon Anderson has been doggedly covering the issues Miller wrote about — to a different conclusion, natch — for years now as he covers PD-15. And before he picked up the baton, Candy was writing about it as well. Candy has also been transparent about owning property there, as does Miller (through her husband, Steve Wolens, who inherited an Athena unit) except she was not so transparent. And we were the first media outlet to report the terrible Preston Place condo fire in which a woman lost her life.

Miller wrote in the Dallas Morning News about the prospects for the Pink Wall and Preston Center (and that interchange), and then said this:

“On the other side of Preston Center, council member Jennifer Gates and Plan Commissioner Margot Murphy have been pushing for 18 months to up-zone the 12 acres in and around the Athena and Preston Tower so developers can demolish four low-rise condo complexes and replace them with rental-apartment towers as high as 25 stories. Hal Anderson, who designed and developed the iconic Pink Wall community 60 years ago — one of the last fully owner-occupied, tree-lined, condo communities in Dallas — would be heartbroken.”

And that was news to a lot of people, including Jon (more on that in a minute), who not only lives at The Athena but has been faithfully covering the meetings surrounding the issue for years, and, apparently, to Gates, who took to Twitter to insist she hadn’t taken a position, and in fact had been seeking neighborhood input

(more…)

Pink Wall “accountants” using the latest technology

Attention developers! Forget LinkedIn — if you’re looking for accountants and financial analysts anxious to help you avoid monetary missteps, look no further than the PD-15 authorized hearing steering committee. Sure, they’re (very) long in the tooth, but last night’s meeting showcased a half hour of endless financial advice and “deep” research into how precisely PD-15 should be developed to avoid catastrophe.  After decades of unending failure, their assistance would be a comfort, no?

To reiterate, it is not the purview of the committee to make amateur stabs in the dark as to what product a developer should build (except that the buildable envelope is capable of supporting a project of reasonable profitability). It’s not up to the committee to decide the appropriate level of risk, the market timing or whether Dallas is overbuilding. The same way you don’t waltz into an operating room and bump the surgeon out of the way.

So the first half hour and untold amounts of oxygen were essentially wasted. Where was the city’s guiding hand of the last meeting?

(more…)

Tower Spacing: Through Thick and Thin, Thick Matters

There’s a bit of a special language being formulated between the Authorized Hearing committee members. For example, when the city facilitator recaps a prior discussion by saying, “We agreed on X,” a committee member or two will pipe up “We didn’t agree on that.”  What they really mean is they didn’t. And since they didn’t agree, there could be no agreement. Everyone believing they’re getting 100 percent out of this is a recipe for nothing ever being decided. Ancient children not wanting to share their toys.

(more…)

When you’re a man about town with a penchant for dramatic, luxe style, what kind of space do you design for entertaining and as a showcase for travel acquisitions? 

The answer is at 8526 Baltimore Dr. Apt 202, our Tuesday Two Hundred and the European-style pied-à-terre for a prominent Dallas jewelry designer. He arrived at this location after closing his Fifth Avenue apartment in New York City, seeking a discreet building in Dallas to house his expansive collection of art and antiques, throw fabulous parties, and provide a guest house for visitors.

“He was attracted to the natural flow of the layout, conducive for entertaining with large rooms and a lovely breakfast room or study off the kitchen,” said listing agent Catherine Gravel with Action Realty. “The condo was a blank canvas with great bones and structure in need of a little updating and color.”

It got both in its two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and 1,359 square feet. The space now is a jewel box of rich colors and textures, from dramatic gray walls and and sumptuous ruby drapes to ornate gold-framed mirrors and art. There is nothing like it on the market in North Texas. 

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

(more…)

home moving

Moving a house today is largely the same process, albeit more precise and without the horses.

It’s been estimated that two acres of forest are cut down for each 1,200 square feet of house built. It’s also estimated that for every 2,200 pounds of cement produced, 1,980 pounds of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere. Cement production accounts for approximately 10 percent of man-made carbon dioxide emissions and over 15 percent of landfill space.  And trust me, you don’t want to know the quantity of pollutants cement kilns (factories) throw into the air.

Sure, some building materials are recycled today, but nowhere near all that can be.

On the flipside, booming development in Dallas equates to a lot of demolition of sometimes interesting structures worth preserving.  Some are architectural wonders but many are lower-density structures someone wants to McMansion, or more likely, McApartment.  Many of these smaller structures would be at home elsewhere.

(more…)