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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Council Member Gates enjoying a cuppa with constituents

Top Pot, a name that might evoke the hopes of an herb-aceous electorate, is alas just a coffee and “hand-forged” donut shop at the edge of Preston Hollow. Begun in Seattle, the city of coffee’s rebirth, there are three locations in Dallas. I wonder if Dallas leadership called out Top Pot for a “just like home” vibe in their Amazon HQ2 bid?

I was there at the crack of 9 a.m. on Saturday to attend a drop-in chat session hosted by the Preston Hollow East Homeowners Association (PHEHA). Council member Jennifer Gates was their special guest. Unlike more formal settings, this meeting was literally coffee and donuts, no set speech or presentation. It was an avenue for local residents to have a low-key interaction with their council person to discuss whatever was on their minds.  Think of it as a cocktail party with caffeine and crullers instead of champagne and caviar. I’m sure other council members do this too, I’ve just never been invited.

Gates handled queries ranging from the city’s homeless problem to more local issues including neighborhood walkability, and, of course the PD-15 circus.

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In Part One, I explained how I’d put my thoughts into an envelope to be opened once the PD-15 process was complete. However, my surprise resignation opened the envelope to share now.  In that first column, I faced the hard truth of the economic viability of redevelopment and how the buildings that might be built within zoning were not profitable for buyers or sellers. I also touched on the aging demographic the area attracts and their less likely bent towards renovation and the ability to play catchup on years of deferred maintenance in some complexes. Finally, I wrote about how in real dollars, the past 15 years have been a wash (punctuated by Recession-driven ups and downs). If you missed Part One, catch up here.

The overall endpoint being that if the area wants to attract new buyers for the long-term (not just because Dallas is skint of housing), who have the money and willpower to uplift the area, PD-15 is the last hope.

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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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