After District 14 council member David Blewett pulled the Reverchon Park reconstruction project back from its December abyss, Dallas City Council heard arguments for and against the proposal in one fiery late afternoon/evening meeting before rendering a fresh decision.

What had been a tie vote in December was now passed 11-4.

And far North Dallas District 12 Councilperson Cara Mendelsohn was in the house to vote in favor of turning over the century-old ballpark to Reverchon Park Sports and Entertainment LLC, a group led by Dallas Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson. There will also be an all-abilities baseball field built by Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw, a Dallas native, and his wife Ellen’s foundation, Kershaw’s Challenge, along the chain-link fence side to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. Kershaw’s Challenge has given away more than $7.5 million dollars to benefiting communities since 2011, Dallas will now be one of them. On the surface, it all seemed very philanthropic, athlete-and kid-centered, and fun.

But like most real estate deals, the devil is in the details.

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It seemed baffling that last month the Dallas City Council didn’t approve the renovation of the Reverchon Park ballfield, but it shouldn’t be.

It’s no secret Dallas has an unspoken policy of “build lavishly and walk away” when it comes to maintaining its public facilities. It’s also no secret that Dallas does a poor job doing park deals (Fair Park and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Kalita Humphreys Theater spring to mind).

With this in mind, you may wonder if last month’s disapproval of the $10 million deal to redo the park with Donnie Nelson’s Reverchon Park Sports and Entertainment LLC, was any different. In that it was a bit of a CF, it’s business as usual. But in other ways, it was actually the right thing to do. Here’s why.

Only One Public Meeting – 28 Months Ago

I’ll start with the largest issue that might have fixed the rest. There was a single meeting in 2017, which was reportedly very sparsely attended. This was months before the initial RFP was issued in 2018 and 21-months before the second RFP, and its 1,100 more seats when the goal was solely the baseball field.

In the meeting notice (below) the city described the meeting as, “Public Meeting to provide your input for planning the proposed renovation of the Baseball Field in Reverchon Park.” Reading those words and seeing that picture, what would you think? Certainly not 3,500-seat outdoor concerts with alcohol.

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The authorized hearing initiated (and paused) by former council member Philip Kingston is moving forward as new District 14 council member David Blewett continues clearing old issues. Wednesday night at Oak Lawn’s “Kroger library,” Blewett held a meeting to re-kickoff the process to downzone Mansion Park, a tony neighborhood in Oak Lawn.

This all started back in 2016 and 2017 when a pair of high-rise projects sought approvals from the Oak Lawn Committee and the city on interior lots within the Oak Lawn Avenue, Cedar Springs Road, Turtle Creek Boulevard, and Fairmount Street. It’s an area the city rezoned in the 1960s to MF-3 designation under the old city zoning Chapter 51, which among other things, allows for unlimited height barring FAA issues.

Those two high-rises were brought forward by developers Toll Brothers and Teixeira Duarte. Toll Brothers created a lot of angst but was approved by the city and is currently under construction. The Teixeira Duarte parcels at Hood and Dickason were cleared, but financial troubles at the parent company saw the project grind to a halt and the parcels put up for sale (where they remain).

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This month’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting highlights the size of PD-193, as the projects presented include two in the usual Uptown orbit but one all the way into the Love Field / Medical District area. ‘Tis the holiday season, so let’s begin with the surprise.

The project at 2913 Fairmount is a 13-story office building with a little ground-floor retail at the intersection with Cedar Springs Road. Yawn, right?  How about building on only 63 percent of the lot to create some good green space? No? What if I told you it had 100 percent underground parking on six levels? Still no?  What if I threw in a 13th-floor penthouse entertainment space with fab indoor/outdoor skyline views?

Getting warmer?

OK, OK. How about if one floor from the top was the owner’s personal residence. That’s a pretty trick, right?  Especially when the owner’s personal office will be there, too. We’re talking live, work and play all in the same building. The only downside is you’d never get a snow day.

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Last night, District 14 Dallas City Council Member David Blewett held a town hall meeting to discuss Streetlights Residential’s proposal for a residential tower at Lemmon and Oak Lawn avenues. You’ve seen it before, so I won’t belabor the point (to catch up, skip the first listed story and you’re there).

In reading those older columns, you know what I think. I’d like more parking underground and I’d like the ass-end facing north Lemmon returned to its original, thinner profile. Kinda done. These sentiments and more were raised during the meeting.

The meeting was less vicious than expected, although the same elements that trail all zoning cases were in attendance. Speaking of attendance, while this meeting was posted on every social media light pole, about 100 attendees crammed into the Methodist Church’s meeting room – not a stellar turnout given the ubiquitous notification and density of the local neighborhood. Near the end, Blewett asked a series of leading questions to gauge the room. Who supported, who was drop-dead opposed and who was on the fence depending on some specific issues being managed. In other words, “who’s there?”, “who can get there?”, and “who’ll never get there?”  To cut the suspense, somewhere between a quarter to a third of the room were drop-dead opposed. Again, not a stellar turnout given the level of static this project has engendered.

Another telling metric came when Blewett asked the attendees how far away they lived. As Blewett closed the circle down to areas that might actually feel an impact, representation was sparse. Once the lack of local-locals was noted, attendees piped-up that they crossed the Lemmon and Oak Lawn Avenue intersection regularly. That’s a pretty shaky position. Are commuters’ opinions about development along their route a new bellwether? Construction would cease.

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Hilton proposed at Hall Street, Oak Grove and Noble

No, you’re not reading tomorrow’s newspaper. District 14 council member David Blewett is holding a meeting at the same time as tonight’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting.  Blewett’s meeting is the first community meeting that’s part of an authorized hearing involving the zoning surrounding the Arts District. I figured you’d want me to be there (story tomorrow), so here we are.

There are four projects on tonight’s agenda – two new and two repeats. Let’s begin with the new. Above is a proposed Hilton Hotel on the end of the block bounded by Hall Street, Noble, and Oak Grove (a couple of blocks towards Central from Breadwinners). No, you’re not dreaming, its around the corner from the never-built Dream Hotel approved back in 2015. But it’s not just a Hilton, it’s two of Hilton’s 17 branded property types – Motto and Spark – both operating in the building. While “spark” might conjure up images of pacemakers at work, both Spark and Motto will target the same Millennials the Dream envisioned (as single-word “app style” names do).

What’s the difference between Spark and Motto?  About $20 a night.

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Most developers are hard-living, hard-drinking, stress-filled time bombs of roller-coaster energy, over-indulgence, extreme risk-taking, and compulsion.

Not Ari Rastegar.

Remember when Jon Anderson told you all about the Austin-based investor/developer of Rastegar Property Company – and his first new-build in Dallas, which has been 100% leased by the short-term stay company Sonder? (Condos are hard to get financing for, and because of the prevalence of construction defect litigation, many developers shy away from building condos: one reason why so many apartments are going up. But because of the lease with Sonder, Rastegar was able to get financing and de-risk the transaction: brilliant. Rastegar says he’ll lease his Uptown building to Sonder for 10 years, then convert the building to residential condominiums.)

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Before I begin, I have to give a shout-out to my Chicago brethren who have upped the bar for project location mapping. Usually we’re treated to a line drawing or a Google Maps image with various shaded boxes. The above map was supplied for Ari Rastegar’s project at 1900 McKinney Avenue. We have an earthquake-like epicenter where the project will go and well-labeled, shaded city neighborhoods.

If that wasn’t enough, they placed the building in situ to show its relationship to Klyde Warren and the heights of adjacent buildings and their proposal’s impacts (pretty minimal from this angle).

Dallas developers and architects, take note.

Anyway.

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