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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With the two antagonists from the last meeting otherwise engaged, last night’s PD-15 meeting went smoother and accomplished more than the prior meeting’s tit, tat, and tut-tutting.  Tiff-free it wasn’t, but patience, we’ll get there …

In a change of pace, the meeting was run by council member Jennifer Gates and while she mostly missed the prior meeting, she was able to guide us through a discussion sprouting from some discussion points provided by the absent Scott Polikov.  I think most felt the group accomplished more agreement and offered more of a civilized Q&A session between the members. The added clarity was welcome.

I almost groaned as we headed to the Preston Road area plan yet again, but thankfully we swiftly agreed its recommendations could guide but not limit our work … and essentially avoided being pulled into the vortex of its (in my opinion) flawed assumptions (stay tuned for that breakdown tomorrow – shameless plug).

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Brokers & agents are invited to a CandysDirt Staff Party event at 5350 South Dentwood July 19, from 3 to 5 pm. Brokers & agents are welcome to bring prospective buyers back to the property from 5 to 7 pm that same day. RSVP’s are being taken at 214-543-9990.

In 1951, when Dallas was still learning to embrace the midcentury modern design movement, oilman Grady Vaughn, Jr. commissioned architect Robert Goodwin of Goodwin & Cavitt to design his waterfront dream home in what we now call the honeypot of Preston Hollow. The home is 9,500 square feet with six bedrooms, seven and a half baths, several living areas on one of the most heavily treed lots in this majestic part of town. The acreage is unbelievable: 1.36 acres that include a serene swimming pool and a large private pond.

5350 South Dentwood was designed to serpentine throughout the lush property, meandering alongside the pond on the Straight Branch tributary, weaving through and around original trees. Buildings developed for their sites have an inherent connection, and you feel it intensely walking around the Vaughn House setting.

The home briefly came to market in the spring when it first became available.  Now, it is back, offered for $5,500,000 from the original list price of $6,900,000, with some very serious sellers behind it.

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Plan Commission 2

Coming as no surprise, the final Preston Center Area Task Force plan passed Plan Commission Thursday. Even with all the political puffery and backslapping, approval took about 15 minutes. I say it comes as no surprise because there’s nothing surprising, insightful, or controversial about it. In fact, it could have been written two years ago before a single meeting was held or a single dollar spent.

A few self-congratulatory task force members got up to heap praise on the plan. Peter Kline and others said that for the first time in 40 years this group is actually in agreement.  Bill Archer said, “I don’t think there’s anything controversial in the plan.”

Well, ya got that right.

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5350-s-dentwood-dr-dallas-tx-MLS-33

By Donovan Westover
Special Contributor

A crowning Dallas midcentury modern jewel, the Grady Vaughn house — family residence of the late Dallas developer Allan Zidell since 1971 — has hit the market. It is one of the most significant midcentury masterpieces not just in Dallas, but in the country. Built like a fortress with maple studs, the home sits on an unusually lush wooded and waterfront-ed 1.36 acres in the honeypot of Preston Hollow at 5350 South Dentwood Drive, right across from former Dallas mayor Laura Miller and former Texas state representative Steve Wolens.

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Task Force Title SM

UPDATE:  Both D Magazine’s Frontburner and Dallas Morning News’ City Hall Blog referenced this posting today.

 

The session on Feb. 16 was different from the recent Preston Center Task Force meetings. Nearly all the task force members were there … and about 50 residents showed up as well! Before I run through the high points, a pair of interesting things …

During the meeting, I was paying particular attention to Laura Miller, as she tends to speak often and with some authority. I’m not sure if her demeanor had softened with the blue jeans she was wearing, but at some point I realized she’s smart-smart versus just opportunistic-political-smart. I’m not saying I completely agree with her, but she connects the dots quicker than most. And lately, I’ve been in too many rooms filled with people unable to connect the dots.

Secondly, after the meeting I approached councilwoman Gates to make a (constructive) suggestion (that I’ll get to later) and her preemptive question was to ask if what was said tonight matched up with the plan I’d crafted oh so many months ago. “Kinda” I said, caught a little off guard. (In truth, I’ve said I don’t have the resources to drill into development comparisons as these consultants have, but my plan and conclusions have a lot of similarities.)

Anyway …

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Preston-Center-parking-garage

The Preston Center Task Force meetings have given Jay Grogan plenty of time to talk about the office tower St. Michael’s and All Angels wants to build on its empty lot, but said nothing until documents came out, says Task Force member Laura Miller.

By Laura Miller
CandysDirt.com Contributor

Editor’s Note: CandysDirt.com continues to expand, explore, and evolve to serve the real estate needs and curiosity of North Texas. We focus daily on this fast-growing region which is metamorphosing before our eyes, reshaping some of our most beloved neighborhoods. Whereas we always want to bring you the inside story and scoop, sometimes we have to go outside our staff to become the best informed. It is our mission to not just earn your trust and confidence in our reporting, but to fill a void we see missing from conventional daily journalism: the inside stories about where we live. We want to connect you to the highest caliber voices in our midst, and we will do so from time to time with guest contributors. Today, we welcome former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller who serves on City Councilwoman Jennifer Gates’ Task Force Committee to develop a Preston Center and Northwest Highway Area Plan that will examine existing conditions and future needs & improvements within the area. 

A few observations about the new office tower St. Michael’s wants to build next to its church on Douglas Avenue from the perspective of a Preston Road and Northwest Highway Area Plan Task Force member trying to find the right balance between new development and current traffic and parking problems:

Besides being a terrible idea (the church’s property serves as a much-needed buffer between high rises and homes), what is also unsettling about the proposal is that it was purposely kept from the Task Force. When you’re spending $350,000 to analyze one neighborhood — $250,000 of taxpayer money and $100,000 in private funds — a full picture of what is going on under your nose is obviously necessary for a successful result.

Unfortunately, the Task Force only found out about this project because this past fall, a concerned citizen gave me a copy of a confidential Request for Proposal (RFP) that real estate attorney Jay Grogan had sent out on Aug. 3 on behalf of St. Michael’s and All Angels Church (SMAA). The 10-page RFP described the proposed office project in great detail and required interested developers to pay a $5,000 non-refundable application fee; the winning bidder (which has been selected but remains unknown) was also required to make a non-refundable $25,000 donation to the church. Since our Task Force meets so rarely, the first opportunity I had to raise the issue with the group was Dec. 3, although I had called several members previous to the meeting to see if anyone knew about the proposal (no one had).

There was one paragraph in the 10-page RFP that particularly surprised me:St. Michaels

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Last night Candy and I, both Pink Wall property owners, attended the (hopefully) final neighborhood meeting with Transwestern on their proposed complex on the northeast corner of Preston and Northwest Highway. It goes before the City Council on Aug. 20.

While the proposed structure will not win any design awards, it’s inoffensive. And of those attending this meeting, there were certainly more positive than negative.

We all have differing thresholds of skill and patience. Watching this gathering I was stunned how well the Transwestern representatives kept their cool in the face of some ill-conceived, often repetitive questions. I kept mumbling under my breath during most of them, thinking the answers were either idiotic, obvious, or previously discussed ad-nauseum in the nearly two years this has been percolating.

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