One of the main criticisms for Pink Wall redevelopment is the fear (real or imagined) that the traffic that results from increased PD-15 density will overwhelm the neighborhood. But does it have to?

With a little creative reimagining, I think increased density could be virtually unnoticeable on the Pink Wall’s interior roads. I sense the same sneers of disbelief produced by reading studies that show traffic along Northwest Highway and Preston Road has been decreasing for nearly 20 years.

Let me explain.

The graphic above shows PD-15 (light yellow) and the major interior streets north of Northwest Highway. There is currently a traffic signal at Pickwick Lane and Northwest Highway. On the western end, the first signaled intersection is at Thackery (off the map). Edgemere Road is not signaled.

Any rejigging of the traffic pattern has to address fears and offer a solution.

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The latest PD-15 meeting was interesting and odd. Unlike in prior meetings, this session was more of a conversation between committee members and city staffers Andrew Ruegg, Neva Dean and City Plan Commissioner Margot Murphy. It was a chance to ask questions of staff and each other to explore the next steps and possibilities moving forward.

It was also a time to debunk some misinformation. Personally, I think the more free-flowing conversation was needed. The committee had absorbed plenty of information from the city and the neighborhood, and needed to make some sense of it to begin piecing it together. (more…)

I’ll cut to the chase (shocking, right?). Of the speakers last night that held opinions about the prospect of development, I counted 10 that were making positive comments and five were negative. There were a couple whose position I wasn’t sure of because their comments were more “don’t forget about X, Y or Z” – perhaps they’re the “undecided” voters?

Not too shabby. The same cast were in each camp with the area low-rises being positive to the process while residents from Preston Tower and the complexes on Bandera being negative. Like politics these days, actual facts don’t shift the world views of people who “just know they’re right.”

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Reimagined Diplomat (with author’s suggestion of a green roof)

The highlight of last night’s PD-15 meeting was seeing the developer proposals for both the Diplomat and Preston Place by A.G. Spanos and Provident Realty, respectively. No slam on city planners, but somehow platting, drainage, and residential proximity slopes don’t hold the same ooo-ah as drawings.

To give a few spoilers, A.G. Spanos’ plans for the Diplomat were much more baked than those presented by Provident for Preston Place. Where Spanos was showing the actual skin of their proposed building, Provident showed a stack of grey boxes resembling the Centrum on Oak Lawn Avenue and Cedar Springs Road. No skin, no windows, no life — a first date who shows up wearing a tent wanting to know if they look fat.

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While meeting three didn’t see anything hurled through the air, that doesn’t mean all’s been quiet in the neighborhood. But you know me, I’ve saved the best juice for last.  The meeting opened with a review of the second meeting, specifically reviewing people’s thoughts on the various types of multi-family buildings presented in an exercise (here if you missed it).  The meeting also had a special guest star in David Cossum, Director of Sustainable Development and Construction for the city. Before the meat of the meeting a few (important) stray questions were asked.

Kevin Griffeth from Gas Light Manor asked about seeing developer examples and plans. This has been a key grumble from the small group opposed to the authorized hearing process. They claim only by disbanding the authorized hearing and forcing developers to open a zoning case will the neighborhood have any input.  The city stanched that claim by answering “yes” the committee will see and question the developers.

It was asked whether the Plan Commission could override any agreement by the neighborhood for development. The scary answer was “yes” they could make different recommendations to city council. However, Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates has repeatedly said she will not support any plan that isn’t supported by the neighborhood. I take that as a stalemate that defaults to the committee’s decisions.

Ken Newberry from Royal Orleans asked about the committee’s ability to take economic data into account when creating their recommendations. The answer was a bit more nebulous. The committee can be informed by economic data as they deliberate, but the economics aren’t part of the city’s decision making purview. Newberry summed it up best, “a development plan without economics is just a hallucination.”

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Example of seven-story building construction and density options

A.G. Spanos has released a second, more thorough economic analysis of the feasibility of redeveloping Pink Wall parcels within the confines of the Preston Road and Northwest Highway Area Plan (PRNHAP). Spanos has a contingent contract to redevelop the Diplomat condos within PD-15 and has financed both viability studies. While Spanos has obvious motives, any economic data supplied is certainly more than the economic nothingness contained within the $350,000 PRNHAP study. How the city adopted that Santa’s lap of a plan, containing no financial underpinnings, still astounds.

You’ll recall that in October 2017, my rough calculations exposed the then 10-month old PRNHAP as economically bogus. That was followed up in January 2018 by Spanos’ first report developed by architects Looney Ricks Kiss that backed-up my findings. Namely that the recommendations contained within the PRNHAP study’s “Zone 4” are not viable to build. This latest study offers more detailed and dire details for the PD-15 area (download here).

To be clear, “not economically viable” means that a condo unit would sell for more money as a condo than as developable land. To sell under those conditions would equate to owners taking a loss on their home. In many cases it’s good when land is worth some fraction of a structure. It helps with neighborhood stabilization, curbing gentrification, etc.

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When we “feel like just a number,” we’re really just reflecting our uniqueness being ignored. We’ve long known we’re just a number to taxing bodies like DCAD … albeit one with a dollar sign in front. But recently, I’ve found we’re a percentage, too.

In valuing property, DCAD calculates the total market value based on both land and “improvements” (structures). The combination of these numbers equals the total assessed value of a given property. All fine so far. A (land) + B (structures) = C (total market value)

But did you know that there’s a ratio used between land and improvement values? You likely think this means that land appreciates at roughly the same rate of structures. Partly. It also means that land should be equal to a certain percentage of the structure. And when the ratio gets out of whack, it’s adjusted. On the surface this too seems generally fine, provided you start with structure and land that fall within the ratio (and nothing changes).

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At the end of the meeting, Plan Commissioner Margot Murphy thanked the committee members and audience for sticking with what may be viewed as a tedious process. She said it was like painting where 80 percent was preparation with the 20 percent at the end being when the magic happens.

Murphy was observer and host. The heavy lifting was handled by city staff from the Planning office.

The meeting kicked off with committee members being given an interesting task. They were shown four buildings of varying height and quality and asked to silently write down their gut thoughts on Post-It Notes and affix them to the wall. They were then asked to arrange them all by similar sentiment.

I’ll admit I was steeling myself for much more confrontational messages. Instead the responses were more considered. Albeit a pinch naive.

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