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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It’s difficult to be in two places at once.  That’s what a reporter’s contacts are for. In addition to last night’s Pink Wall towers’ meeting at the Athena, the Oak Lawn Committee held their monthly clambake (their first since the Lincoln Katy Trail ordeal).

As if to bookend that contention, Prescott arrived with their proposal to redevelop 5.5 acres on Turtle Creek sandwiched between The Mansion on Turtle Creek and the Turtle Creek Gardens condos.  The site at 2727 Turtle Creek is the former home of Republic Insurance.

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Capacity crowd on hand to watch the OLC fritter away its credibility

By a narrow margin, Lincoln Property won support from the Oak Lawn Committee in a 16-to-14 vote for their Lincoln Katy Trail project on Carlisle and Hall Streets Wednesday night.  This pivotal vote essentially opens up MF-2 zoned properties (36 feet in height) in the area east of the Katy Trail, from Uptown to West Village (if not further afield), for redevelopment.  I say “opens” because, should City Plan Commission and Council approve this project, developers will use it as exemplar for increased density in Oak Lawn and the OLC will have lost their credibility to stop them.

Already we know that the Carlisle on the Katy, located across from the Lincoln project, plans their own up-zone. The last plans called for a pair of high-rises with former Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt signed on to help. Additionally, on the next block, Sutton Place had been seeking a developer buyout for several years.

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Gridlock traffic on Hall Street walking to 6 p.m. Lincoln meeting

I could open by saying this was a full house, but the room in question wasn’t large, seating approximately 30 people.  So “full” would be misleading.  Most of the attendees appeared to be owners hoping to sell their property to Lincoln for their Lincoln Katy Trail project on Carlisle and Hall Streets. There was some friction from neighbors opposed to the project.

That friction mostly boiled down to the traffic study supplied. It states delays from the project would not result in more than 35 additional trips and a second of added delay during peak traffic hour. After the meeting I chatted with Lincoln representative Angela Hunt about the traffic conclusions and why they make no sense to most people.

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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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