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

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Laura Miller Ambush Gates

As promised, It’s time to see what’s been going on outside of view – a gift just in time for the holiday season. There was a meeting on November 1 at City Hall with Council Member Jennifer Gates, Plan Commissioner Margot Murphy, and a bevy of opposition to the Authorized Hearing within PD-15 behind the Pink Wall.

The opposition was a combination of the usual suspects and a few oddities:

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PD-15

The run-up to Wednesday’s tenth PD-15 meeting should’ve filled area residents with anger. The self-centered towers were at it again. On Monday, Athena management company ICI Real Estate sent residents an “URGENT!!!” call for Athena residents to attend last night’s meeting (Preston Tower did the same).

It said Bob Bowling from Preston Tower was going to make a motion to dissolve the authorized hearing and send developers directly to City Plan Commission. Athena representative Margaret Darden was scheduled to second the motion after which residents in the audience were encouraged to stand and applaud. It was so kindergarten, I’m surprised there wasn’t a warning about not eating paste.

Their argument consists of the same tired, disproven tropes as always – four high-rises, unprecedented traffic and 10 years of non-stop construction. Blah, blah, blah. If you want to sing that song, read this or this.

NOTE: ICI seriously overstepped their bounds by sending such a loaded, propaganda-filled email to residents under their own account. Darden and Dewberry should have sent their drivel opinions and plans from their own accounts. (Full disclosure: I send email wrap-ups and links to PD-15 stories to residents within the building under my personal account. I have never asked or even thought to involve the management company.)

You may recall back in July, I reported on an email Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association (PHSNA) president John Pritchett sent to committee members where he said they’re “not the A-Team in terms of zoning matters.” Apparently, Towers representatives Bob Bowling, Tatiana Frierson, Margaret Darden and Barbara Dewberry agree with the assessment, so hot are they to disband the committee. It’s almost comical, too. The Laurel apartments on Preston Road and Northwest Highway are pretty universally disliked and yet these representatives are in the same camp as Pritchett, who —to hear him tell it — single-handily led the negotiations for the neighborhood with developer Transwestern.

NOTE: If any member of any committee feels too stupid to do the job, resign and stop trying to crater a process everyone else is working in good faith to complete. (more…)

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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No, it’s not a time warp, PD-15 is meeting again. After devolving into immovable factions last autumn, the neighborhood is back at the table … with a difference.  First, the city is guiding the process to ensure information is accurate and decorum is kept. The second difference is that this new group doesn’t contain any of the rabble-rousers from the last time. The hope is for a more balanced conversation and outcome for the neighborhood.

This first meeting was no barn-burner. Planners from the city’s Sustainable Development office led the discussion reviewing the current conditions of the PD-15 area and how things evolved over the years to get there.  Council member Jennifer Gates was also on hand to advise the group on city processes and share her experience with some of the concepts discussed.

I think the air was definitely let out of the anti-authorized hearing camp who had spread propaganda claiming the city would show up with a jumbo development plan to whip the committee into approving.

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Council Member Jennifer Gates’ office has posted updates to the PD-15 Authorized Hearing Steering Committee. First, note that the committee membership continues to change. Robert Bowling is now the second representative for Preston Tower and Karen Stuart has replaced Jim Panipinto as the representative from Diamond Head Condos. Panipinto is now listed “at large” (whatever that means).

Stuart replaced Panipinto after residents voiced their opposition to his representing the interests of Diamond Head Condos. Understandable, considering he’s not a resident of the building (he owns a rental unit in the building).

The FAQ document has also been updated, but not enough. For example, in the “Other” section:

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Updated: PD-15 Authorized Hearing Committee members

UPDATE: In the immortal words of the Miss America pageant, “If for any reason Miss America is unable to fulfill her duties…” Astute readers will see that Preston Tower representative Mary Schulte has bowed out and been replaced by Robert Bowling.

Yesterday afternoon, the people selected to be part of the PD-15 authorized hearing committee were posted. Kudos to council member Jennifer Gates for keeping her promise to exclude those opposed to the authorized hearing process, who would likely seek to sabotage the proceedings from within.

You will note that the towers have two representatives on the committee. This was done in recognition of the land mass of PD-15. Roughly the towers and the four low-rises each sit on six acres and and so there are four representatives for each camp. This makes for an interesting group. Within the PD, neither side can outvote the other, so collaboration will be required. Also, the three “wild card” members from Preston Hollow East Homeowners Association and two neighboring buildings are just that, wild cards. How will they feel about the various development plans and options?  I think the pulse of the group will be taken in the first few meetings. (more…)

Packed House at Park Cities Baptist Church

If you’ve been following along in your prayer books, you know that over a year ago the Preston Place condos burned. You may also know about the failed attempt at negotiating an area redevelopment plan. I’ll even toss in bonus points if you’re aware of the Athena and Preston Tower working with former mayor Laura Miller to stymie everything.

All caught up?  Good …

Last night, Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates assembled the neighborhood to discuss the history and next steps in the process. What was a surprise to most was that the authorized hearing, first mentioned last summer as having a two or three year waiting list, had been bumped up in the schedule and was beginning immediately. Gates made available applications for representatives on the authorized hearing committee.

But I get ahead of myself.

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