There are two columns today on the Oak Lawn Committee’s (OLC) latest meeting because there were really two agendas. First, was the business of reviewing the Crescent’s proposed redo of 2401 Cedar Springs and then the internal battle to wrest control of the committee towards a more developer-heavy make-up.

It began with a few bylaw changes proposed by a committee made up of four prior OLC presidents and Kyle Lyon who was later nominated as vice-president for the coming year. The changes were simple enough and targeted at strengthening the OLC’s position within the city’s development process. Those three changes were:

  1. Limiting membership to people who live, operate a business or own property within the PD-193 boundaries, but excluding investors who own shares in an entity that holds title to property. While every owner views their ownership as an asset, it was viewed that those who are merely investors (e.g. stockholders) were most interested in their investment over the neighborhood as a whole. It was said this change would affect one member.

In large part because of this proposed change, OLC vice-president Leland Burk sent an email to The Melrose Hotel, without OLC board knowledge, alerting them to the coming change and broadly hinting they would not be welcome under the new rules. The OLC board only found out when The Melrose started calling for answers. It was a disrespectful action, meant to whip up controversy.

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Before the hostilities erupted surrounding the eventual control of the Oak Lawn Committee, Crescent Properties presented a project to refresh 2401 Cedar Springs Road. It’s a 1987 building at Maple Avenue and Cedar Springs Road that’s across the street from both Coalvines Pizza and another recent OLC-vetted project, Granite’s Cedar Maple.

The biggest visual change is the reimagining of the terribly dated, granite-clad turret with its odd bell tower-shaped cupola. As you see above, the granite is gone, revealing a glass cylinder. However, there’s more to see on the ground level. On the left side (Maple Avenue) will be a new white tablecloth restaurant anchoring a new, more transparent ground floor lobby.

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With luck, this is the last time we will see this rendering of Lincoln Property’s Lincoln Katy Trail project. Rewinding the clock, in February, the project passed Oak Lawn Committee by a single contentious vote after multiple unsuccessful trips seeking support. This scant win was followed in July by a disastrous City Plan Commission meeting where no commissioner would second a motion my Philip Kingston’s District 14 representative Paul Ridley – and several calling for Lincoln to return with a better plan. After that meeting I saw the city filing of neighborhood support and saw that aside from those cashing out and moving on, not a single entity was in support of the project.

In the ensuing weeks, Lincoln managed to get a letter of support from the Friends of the Katy Trail (more on that later).   However, a meeting last week at the Mayfair condos for its residents plus those of the Vendome and the Claridge resulted in no change of heart from the opposed buildings.

Couple all this with a fierce, largely unsuccessful lobbying campaign around City Hall, and even Lincoln had to finally read the writing on the wall.

At the CPC meeting, Lincoln’s chief opponent stated that there was a way for a redesigned building to move forward. I wondered why, when they were given an out, did they seem too arrogant to take it?

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Granite returned to the Oak Lawn Committee as part of a three-building agenda. While Granite’s Cedar Maple project was last on the agenda, its size pushes it to the front of my line. After last month’s OLC meeting, the developer was given eight things to work on, and they did.

The biggest was a reduction in height from 425 to 399 feet, which eliminated two office floors and also cut parking by 111 spaces. Part of the reduction was based on Granite’s own internal research into parking patterns within its multimillion square feet of office properties. Their research shows a continual decline in parking usage — some from Uber and Lyft, some from walking and cycling, and some just from people not being in the office as much. If you work from home two days per week, that’s two days a parking space will be empty. Flow that through hundreds of workers and two lost floors, and the result is fewer spaces.

They also supplied support letters, a more fleshed-out landscape plan, and answers about parking on its adjacent streets.  Kinda nuts and bolts, the fun and confusion came in from the traffic study.

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Two very different Oak Lawn projects hit CPC Thursday night

It’s difficult being (unpaid) on the City Plan Commission. It’s 9 p.m. and they broke for 10 minutes for a bite to eat before plowing through on another case. Following the lot replatting cases and a West Dallas mobile home park, two Oak Lawn Committee cases hit the horseshoe about the time most of you were solidly into Happy Hour.

The other difficulty must be the variety of cases you see in a given session – anything from a palace to a “solid waste disposal” project. It must be a roller coaster bouncing from the cool to the banal of city planning. In this case, the roller coaster included the well-liked 2727 Turtle Creek mixed use development and the contentious Lincoln Katy Trail project.

It’s also got to be frustrating when every protester seems to say, “I’m not opposed to development, but …”

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Three projects were reviewed at this month’s Oak Lawn Committee. One was a school addition, one was yet another apartment building, and the third was this looker of an office building. Since I feel pretty (oh so pretty?) tonight, I’m going to walk you through the looker first. That’s not to say the school isn’t nice, too … it’s just not this.

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Last night’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting was different. There was no developer wanting to build a 500-unit apartment building in a teacup. There was only a neighbor seeking support for a worthy cause.

Preservation architect Ann Abernathy spoke to the OLC about a conservancy group’s masterplan for the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Kalita Humphreys Theater that sits on the banks of Turtle Creek between Blackburn Street and Lemmon Avenue. I give the location because unless you recognized Wright’s font lettering the building or grasped some of the few remaining interior Wright elements, the only way you know the building is a Wright is because someone told you.

Today the building, once the toast of Dallas live theater, might understandably be pictured as part of an architectural thesis covering bastardization. The 1959 building dates from the last period of Wright’s career when his style turned to circles. In fact, Wright died before the theater was complete.

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Homage to The Melrose (“oops” on all those cars in the rendering … foreshadowing?)

Last night’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting was a little more precise with their Robert’s Rules than prior meetings.  Given the past few tense months (here, here), I’m not surprised that precision is being used to combat disruption. However, while not disruptive, one member seemed hell-bent on chucking the evening’s projects through the chute by calling for a vote on both projects presented with his first breath.  Presenting projects and gaining support from the OLC isn’t a race nor a duty to be dispatched.

The first project is so far known as 2929 Oak Lawn Avenue, but Dallas folks will know it as the awful Office Depot next to the historic Melrose Hotel. The hotel, originally known as the Melrose Court Apartment and Hotel was built in 1924 and granted Dallas Landmark status in 1983.  Prior to the hotel, the corner was the homestead of the Mellersh farm.

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