At last night’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting, Streetlights Residential had a lot of explaining to do in regards to the design of their planned tower at Lemmon and Oak Lawn avenues.

If you’re in a Google satellite, the building on the lower right is the proposed 21-story apartment building. It would supplant the Shell station and Pizza Hut, and would be next to Eatzi’s (which is also sorta part of the plan).

For those without long memories, this is the parcel of land that empowered the neighborhood to set out the Oak Lawn Plan and PD-193 that is rigorously overseen by the Oak Lawn Committee. On this lot once stood the Esquire Theater, built in 1931 as the Melrose Theater. Lore says the reason “Esquire” was chosen in the renaming is that it had the same number of letters and would fit on the marquee. The theater would have turned 88 this year had Lincoln Property not demolished it in February 1985, in the middle of the night (also according to lore). The demolition catalyzed the neighborhood. So as things go, this is sort of hallowed ground in Oak Lawn.

Thus, when Streetlights Residential presented their proposal for this long-neglected corner, questions naturally arose about the building’s unfortunate exterior. More than one OLC member asked why Streetlights wasn’t going all out for a “signature” building on such a highly trafficked corner.

The response was that the exterior was still being worked on. Good. Thus far, it appears to be poor company to other high-rises seen in their picture, and the many other well-done projects Streetlights is known for.

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While I’m not an Oak Lawn Committee member and can’t speak, I am certainly free to roll my eyes. Last month, a proposed apartment building on the former Old Warsaw restaurant site showed up at OLC seeking support for an “adjustment” to their alley buffer requirement of 10 feet. They didn’t get it and so they returned last night with more paper shuffling – literal paper shuffling.

The answer to their quest is painfully simple. Design a building that fits within the parameters of your zoning or file a zoning case. This mealy approach of hitting up the Board of Adjustments to backdoor your way out of a full zoning case is a “poor door” to city planning. Kairoi Residential seemingly didn’t want the closer scrutiny of the OLC on their entire project. I say that because more than one question about the overall project was brushed off with “we’ll meet the PD-193 requirements” – never exceed.

And so it went, everything was the bare minimum. As I pointed out last time, certainly the design is bare minimum.

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Crescent Court

Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for CandysDirt.com. His opinions are his own.

It was with sadness that I saw the proposed development slated for the old Old Warsaw restaurant lot on Maple Avenue across from the Crescent Court. My sadness increased when I realized Kairoi Residential wasn’t visiting the Oak Lawn Committee to vet the building itself, but rather for a “landscape special exception.”

Architects and builders tell me that the exterior of the building is pretty easy to change in the grand scheme of things.  While it has no impact on the interior leasable space, it has a tremendous impact on everyone who walks and drives by.

Given the existing and announced components of the four-corner intersection, constructing what appears to be a low-slung chair of “blah” is an opportunity wasted.

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Across Cedar Springs Road from the Ritz-Carlton and the McKinney & Olive buildings sits a half-acre, triangular parcel anchored by Pizza Hut and Comet Cleaners in a shopworn building. Last night, the Oak Lawn Committee saw renderings for an 18-story “lifestyle” hotel crowned by a restaurant, pool, and check-in desk.  Yes, the check-in desk will be in the top floor offering a cool experience I’ve seen in Mandarin Oriental hotels in New York City and Las Vegas (since renamed).

The unnamed hotel brand at 2025 Cedar Springs Road will house guests in 230 rooms and suites with a minimum of meeting rooms. This is important because the tiny lot would make large spaces less practical not only due to space, but the ability to supply parking for large meetings and events. As it is, parking needs for the small plot, will be housed in three and a half underground levels. Large meeting or banquet functions would require a much deeper parking hole.

Today, the site is easy to identify in the middle of a rapidly rising Uptown. The 2011 Cedar Springs condos appear to be directly behind the building, but in reality, the proposed building does a good job of folding away from their windows – something the condo owners should appreciate.

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City Council took up the long in the tooth Lincoln Katy Trail project at Wednesday’s evening meeting after failing City Plan Commission in November. In an attempt to sweeten the deal to an affordable housing-hungry city council, Lincoln raised their affordable component from five percent to 15 percent (from 15 to 45 units). And many council members, including Mayor Mike Rawlings took the bait.

Mayor Rawlings was so obviously hot to pass this project, he literally asked Oak Lawn District 14 Council Member Philip Kingston if he would support the deal if Lincoln purchased a home for a blind woman living in the complex referenced by Kingston. Others wanted to know what affordable percentage would cause Kingston to support the project.

“It’s math,” they said. Why yes, it is …

The council couldn’t (or wouldn’t) figure out that the existing complex contains 115 market-rate affordable housing units. Raising the affordable housing giveback to 15 percent still leaves the neighborhood with 70 fewer affordable units. They also ignore the positive self-esteem of being able to rent or purchase a market rate affordable home versus having to qualify through an invasive application process to prove you’re poor enough.

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Mansion Park area under consideration

On August 16, 2016, the City Plan Commission voted 12 to zero “…to authorize a public hearing to determine the proper zoning on property zoned an MF-3 Multifamily Subdistrict and an O-2 Office Subdistrict within Planned Development District No. 193, the Oak Lawn Special Purpose District in an area generally bounded by both sides of Welborn Street on the northwest, Cedar Springs Road on the northeast, Sale Street and Enid Street on the southeast, and Fairmount Street on the southwest.”

That request was made in response to the (since approved) Toll Brothers high-rise (the large plot left of the “Subject Area” tag). The request for the authorized hearing was made by local homeowners from surrounding low-rise townhouse developments through their representative law firm Jackson Walker and former Council Member Angela Hunt (who has been fighting a protracted battle to upzone property on the other side of Turtle Creek for Lincoln Property).

If you want to catch up more, read this and this.

“Council Member Kingston invites you to a community meeting to hear from property owners, residents, and other individuals regarding interest in amending the zoning in the area shown in the map above … Council Member Kingston would like to know what, if any, changes should be made to the existing zoning regulations for this area…” (Click here for what little info there is available and here for invitation)

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703 McKinney Landscape Plan

Tuesday’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting wasn’t the chock-a-block agenda November was, but there was still an interesting project to see and a presidency to decide. First up was an application for a landscape special exception by the 703 McKinney Athletic Club. If you’re like me — more used to dealing with four-digit McKinney Ave. addresses — it will help to know 703 is north of Woodall Rodgers at the Interstate 35 connector at the south end of Victory Park. To the more uncouth, it’s kitty-corner from Hooters. To Realtors, it’s south of The House. To those of a certain age, it’ll always be The Starck Club.

In the mid-1980s, a lot of cities birthed signature dance clubs (or discos as they were called). New York had Studio 54 and Danceteria, in London it was Heaven and the Hippodrome. In Dallas, it was The Starck Club – an over-the-top nightly extravaganza that brought everyone with rhythm and shoulder pads out onto the dance floor. It was designed by a very young (weren’t we all) Phillipe Starck (who designed neighboring high-rise The House much, much, more recently).

While this chat with the OLC involved landscaping, there’s more afoot here than trees and shrubs. In addition to an athletic club overhaul, Mr. Starck himself is working with the building’s new lease-holder to revive The Starck Club. The club’s bones still exist, most recently as Zouk. Lord knows this country needs a good dance.

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On Dec. 13, Lincoln Katy Trail will return to City Plan Commission to have its case reconsidered. “How’d that happen?” you ask? According to insiders, any commissioner who essentially wants to change their vote from the majority to the minority can ask for a case to be reheard.

I’m told that since November’s twin Oak Lawn Committee and CPC losses, there’s been no additional community outreach, no change in plans, and certainly no return to the Oak Lawn Committee – just a do-over because at least one Commissioner wants to switch sides.

Do I believe in a guilt-fueled epiphany? No. I believe in City Hall lobbying by Lincoln Property Company. Lincoln and their representative, former Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt, didn’t stop knocking on doors after November’s CPC defeat – and it seems one commissioner was swayed.

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