The morning after the Preston Place fire, the extent of the damage was revealed to be catastrophic.

By Kevin McMahon
Guest Contributor

Recently, guest writer Barbara Dewberry expressed her opposition to the City Plan Commission’s proposal for updated zoning for PD-15. I would like the opportunity to offer a counterpoint and speak to the merits of the proposal. But first, I should state something up front some may consider relevant.

I am a former resident of Preston Place.

I lived there about four years. Our unit was the first home purchase my wife and I made, and we undertook a major renovation when we moved in, doing much of the work ourselves on nights and weekends. We aren’t real estate flippers. We had no intention of buying and selling and moving on to the next project. Instead, we put a lot of care and detail into our unit because we planned to call it home for many years. And then one Friday night, we watched with our then-5-year-old son as a fire indifferently consumed all that hard work.

Now two and a half years later, I see another destructive force at work in the neighborhood. It takes the form of hyperbole and fear of change which form the basis of much of the opposition to CPC’s proposal. Ms. Dewberry’s arguments are this hyperbole at work. (more…)

preston center

PD-15 Map

In 1963, the RCA Victor Company, which manufactured televisions, ran an advertising campaign with the slogan “The Gift That Keeps On Giving.” The neighborhood adjacent to Preston Center —PD-15, where one might actually still find an RCA Victor TV today, is a lot like that old ad.

PD-15 is the neighborhood behind the Pink Wall at Northwest Highway and Preston Road where a condo fire almost three years ago killed one resident and left hundreds homeless (not to mention a charred hulk of concrete over a basement parking garage).  

I received word on Sunday that CARD (Citizens Advocating Responsible Development), non-profit association that is not happy with the way zoning changes proposed for PD-15,  has hired former WFAA investigative reporter and congressional-candidate-turned-media-consultant Brett Shipp as their spokesperson. Or, as Brett told me, “to fight out of control, irresponsible development” at Preston Place.

CARD says it is a “grass-roots force to stop development change,” claiming Dallas City Hall is not listening. As always, I add this disclaimer: I own a unit in this area, and I do have a dog in this hunt. That is one reason why our columnist, Jon Anderson, who recently sold a unit at The Athena, has been covering so much of this case from the days when Transwestern first bought Townhouse Row and an apartment complex on the very corner of Preston and Northwest Highway.

Brett Shipp told me Sunday he is taking on the cause and is planning a presser. And there’s more…

Preston Place fire, where the fire eventually spread to the chimney stack and stairwell left of the blaze.

(more…)

Photos courtesy Full Package Media

The Athena is one of those buildings with really good, quite large floorplans coupled with HOA dues that pay for everything including utilities, cable, and internet. Located in Preston Hollow, it’s perfect for those downsizers not wanting to leave the area as well as those seeking easy access to the Dallas Tollway and Central. However, being an older building, finding a renovated unit isn’t always easy.

Enter unit 1111, soon to be on the market. And if I seem to be a bit enthusiastic about this place, I come by it honestly — it’s the home I put my heart and soul into remodeling. A new job means it’s time to move on to my next renovation (in the Metroplex).

What was once a three bedroom, three bathroom unit has been reconfigured into a more spacious two bedroom and three bathroom unit. It boasts 1,899 square feet, plus it is one of the rare units with its glorious 28-foot long balcony intact.

Note: Those familiar with the Athena will know the original walls were heavily textured (crow’s foot) – this unit has smooth walls and no popcorn ceilings. The property will be listed by Robert Blackman at Solvent Realty Group.

As you can see from the picture above, there’s a lot more that’s was done during its stem-to-stern renovation. Let’s have a look …

(more…)

Yesterday, the results of the PD-15 authorized hearing had their first airing with City Plan Commission. Those expecting a knock-down, drag-out were disappointed. Those relishing hypocrisy, dipped in pretension, were not disappointed.

It was explained that because the opposition to the city’s PD-15 draft had paid the fee to postpone the meeting originally scheduled on March 21, the meeting had to take place that day because a postponement sets a clock ticking. Because of that, and the unavailability of the much-awaited traffic study, the CPC hearing was ultimately split into two parts. Traffic issues and more discussion will take place at the June 6 CPC meeting.

CPC chair Gloria Tarpley set out the game plan from the beginning so everyone understood what was being accomplished that day. Zoning cases usually have an applicant (someone wanting to do something) but the authorized hearing didn’t. So the meeting disposed of the usual presentation of whizzy graphs and ambitious drawings. Instead, Tarpley opened it up to public comment for those in support of the city’s recommendation and those opposed.

First up were those in support (myself included – I’m a PD-15 resident). I’m going to call it 10 people who spoke. Their comments can be bucketed into:

(more…)

Note: the Dallas City Plan Commission Public Hearing for PD-15 is scheduled for Thursday, April 18

This is the real story of the Pink Wall – a little pocket of Preston Hollow tucked between two of the highest net worth zip codes in the country. It is one of the few places where women of means at some point, who suddenly find themselves with a drastically limited bank account, can live with some dignity. And safety. For years it has been the answer to the need for affordable housing skirting the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods.

Sometime in the 1990’s we moved my mother “Behind the Pink Wall”, into her unit at The Seville on Averill Way. My mother had moved to Dallas in her seventies to be closer to my children, to help in my husband’s medical practice (she had managed medical practices in suburban Chicago) and to escape the bitter midwestern cold. Her first home when she moved here was a townhome off Knoll Trail Drive I found while taking the kids to Toys R Us: it was being leased by the bank holding the note, brand new, bright and cheerful.

It was also seven miles away from our home.

We wanted her to be closer, especially as she aged. We lived in Old Preston Hollow at the time and the only proximite multi-family living was Behind the Pink Wall. That is why I jumped on the two bedroom, two bath first floor unit at The Seville: it was about a mile from our home on Park Lane. We could walk to her house!

I will never forget sitting with her as she closed on the only property she had ever owned “sole” by herself. My parents had been married for 42 years before they divorced, and like most women of her Depression-era generation, men handled every penny. As we turned each page after her signature, she’d whisper to me, “are you sure I’m not going to lose everything?”

When she died in 2003, I left the condo exactly as it was for months, hoping she’d walk in the door. It remains in our family as an investment property, and has always been leased by retirees, most of them single women. My mother loved living Behind the Pink Wall.

Thank God she is not here to see it turn into a Senior Slum.

I met a Realtor a few weeks ago who is moving into an apartment down the street from mine: her husband supported her with the Highland Park good life until he decided her best friend was more exciting in the boudoir. She is a woman needing a place to live with two school-aged kids as she stitches a life back together. All up and down Bandera, Averill Way, Pickwick, Edgemere are neat, tidy little homes, 1950’s and ’60’s apartments converted to condos, decorated to the hilt with furniture and antiques moved from some of the toniest addresses in town. Come dusk they walk their dogs, doting on them, chatting with neighbors, accepting the lot life has thrust their way.

But all that changed with the fire. (more…)

The truth about Preston Center: Latest proposal for the parking garage

A couple of days ago, Phil Crone, Dallas Builders Association Dallas Division executive officer, asked for help plugging the DBA debate planned for April 4 at the division’s monthly meeting. Knowing that Jennifer Staubach Gates had canceled an earlier debate, I jumped on this and called executive editor Joanna England: we’ve got to live stream it!

We got to Maggiano’s, got set up, and were told that we had a problem: Neither candidate had agreed to video of any kind. Jennifer Staubach Gates was seated, and Laura Miller had not yet arrived.

I went right up to Gates and asked if we could live stream. She said yes, of course. The DBA asked Miller when she arrived, and she agreed. The Dallas Morning News was there taking stills. Knowing that residents of District 13 wanted to see this, we also decided to post the hour-and-a-half-long video here on the website.

Keep in mind that the DBA drafted the questions and yes, it was builder-oriented, which is very pertinent to the issues concerning D13: building, growth, density, big houses dwarfing smaller 1950s ranches, traffic, site views, density, highest and best use of land, and did we mention density? Crime and other issues were not discussed, but we will cover those in our soon-to-be published candidate questionnaires. (Ours were so detailed the candidates are all asking for more time.)

During the debate, Dallas Morning News writer Robert Wilonsky messaged me that it was riveting, then asked how I would score the candidates. 

The corner of Preston Rd & Northwest Highway, 2014. It has since been replaced by The Laurel Apartments, the first shot over the bow of the burgeoning Preston Road and Northwest Highway debacle.

(more…)

[Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for CandysDirt.com. His opinions are his own.]

While Thursday’s meeting fell short of the usual fireworks PD-15 brings about, the City Plan Commission asked some great questions regarding city staff’s proposed changes to PD-15.

In the lead-up to City Plan Commission’s public hearing on staff’s proposal for updating PD-15, staff briefed plan commissioners Thursday morning at Vital. Groups. Knee. Senior Planner Andrew Ruegg, who’s led the process so far, presented essentially the same slides as were shown to the community two weeks ago.

What the few who went to the meeting were most interested in were the questions and comments from the other commissioners. I give a “Hallelujah!” to CPC chair Gloria Tarpley for commenting that the 3-D images shown of the proposed changes would have been welcome at other cases. How the city can be devising “words on paper” documents reflecting 3-D realities without 3-D models has always been a mystery. It should be ante to the game.

The first questions were from District 11 appointee Janie Schultz. First, she was curious whether the requirement for a street lamp every 50-feet was adequate. While boilerplate, staff said they’d look into it. Schultz’ second question concerned the affordable housing sweeteners and whether anyone would use them. The suspicion is that along the northern side they will be unlikely to be used, while on the Northwest Highway side they may if the developer wants to get near tapping any height. It kind of goes to what I’ve been saying that if the buildable envelope doesn’t grow, it’s just cannibalizing market-rate units for affordable units.

(more…)

This just in…