Preston Center

Back in 2016, I took St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church to task on a bunch of things. The biggest being that while their representative was sitting silent on the Preston Center Task Force they were secretly negotiating with developers to plonk a 250,000 square foot office building on Douglas Avenue. After that scathing take-down, I was surprised when they reached out to me to review their new and improved plans for the site.

You’ve likely read the press release in the DMN from Sept. 6, but I wanted to sit down and get some additional detail. I met with the church’s team fairly quickly, so this delayed column is my fault (busy, busy).

The press release piqued my snark when I noted that in the scant two-page release the Preston Center Area Plan was mentioned eight times … eight … times. When I sat down with the team, it was one of the first things I said … eight times? Their spin was that it showed their commitment. I told them it raised my suspicion meter that there was something to hide. They were surprised at my reaction assuring me there was no hiding … but eight times.

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Lincoln’s same old-same old project. Look closely to see indented garage entrance.

I wonder if this project should be renamed Beetlejuice. It seems like Lincoln believes that by showing the same unpopular plan over and over, neighborhood approval will suddenly appear. Lincoln representative Angela Hunt whizzed through an incomplete deck of slides in record time.  I say incomplete because one Oak Lawn Committee member had the original presentation from many moons ago and wondered where all the pages had gone … you know, the detail.  Hunt said she left those pages out for brevity.

It was an excuse echoed by Lincoln’s Jeff Courtwright.  In this case he was responding to a query about why Lincoln had ignored the very specific data requested months ago concerning how shade would fall across neighboring buildings.  This time Courtwright said he made the decision not to provide what was asked for but instead give them only what he wanted.  You’ll recall, I called Lincoln out for ignoring requests, essentially disrespecting the neighbors.  Of course the reason it was ignored was because the result was bad.  I’ll even go out on a limb and say some computer whiz ran the data and saw it was bad, so it was buried.

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After a blistering first meeting with the Oak Lawn Committee (OLC) back in September, Provident returned Tuesday night with a radically different plan at McKinney and Hester Avenues.  While short on specifics, I suspect Masterplan painted in broad strokes just to see if they were on the right track. Based on the original design language, it’s still not going to win any awards, but when was the last time Dallas won an architectural award? Perhaps Rotten Tomatoes needs to expand their repertoire?

On the upside, there is a whole lot less of it. September’s 14-story, super-dense monstrosity has been pared back to just five stories. That’s about 100 feet shorter. The number of apartments dropped in line with the height haircut, down from 350 to 195 with average unit size increasing from 950 square feet to 995. Parking needs diminished from four awful above-ground levels to one full underground and one half level above ground – which will be concealed behind ground-floor apartments.

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The fate of the proposed Toll Brothers high-rise in Oak Lawn remains stalled for another month. A bus load of Plaza residents showed up to voice their concerns without actually admitting their issue is view blockage and that the rest was just a smoke screen.  Several gave themselves away in saying that a midrise would be better (but then complained about other midrises in the area). So, why exactly would a midrise with essentially the same number of units be better than a high-rise?

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Were the architects colluding with the Russians on this design?

Are you a good news first kind of person, or do you want the needle before the lollipop?  Heck, I’m jetlagged and feeling woozy, so let’s go with the needle. (From the picture above, you guessed that, right?)  

At last night’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting, there were a trio of projects presented by Masterplan for various clients.  One client appeared to have not gotten the memo and showed up, shall we say, inappropriately attired.

You know what I mean.  You send invitations for an evening boat ride with big letters, “slacks, rubber-sole shoes, and bring a coat because it gets chilly when the sun goes down.” And invariably, someone shows up in 6-inch stilettos, a mini-skirt, and a tube top, who an hour and chattering teeth later, scams a coat from some chivalrous doofus.

The proposal for an apartment building at McKinney and Hester avenues (north of Knox Street) was full-on heels, skirt, and bare midriff, however the OLC didn’t offer Masterplan’s Dallas Cothrum a coat. And in truth, he knew it would be cold. This wasn’t his first cruise on the lake.

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After a session going well past 5 p.m. last Thursday, the City Plan Commission finally heard the case for Toll Brothers’ desired residential high-rise at the corner of Welborn Street and Congress Avenue. In the end, there were fewer fireworks than most expected.

Dallas Cothrum from Masterplan set out Toll Brothers’ case. In a nutshell, it was “here’s the bad high-rise we could build within zoning” … “here’s what a shorter, equally dense building looks like” … “here’s the better high-rise resulting from work with the neighborhood and Oak Lawn Committee.”  In numbers, they could have built over 400 units within zoning, now they’re wanting 271 units.

And as is the CPC way, the opposition spoke first …

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