Tower Spacing: Through Thick and Thin, Thick Matters

There’s a bit of a special language being formulated between the Authorized Hearing committee members. For example, when the city facilitator recaps a prior discussion by saying, “We agreed on X,” a committee member or two will pipe up “We didn’t agree on that.”  What they really mean is they didn’t. And since they didn’t agree, there could be no agreement. Everyone believing they’re getting 100 percent out of this is a recipe for nothing ever being decided. Ancient children not wanting to share their toys.

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Sheesh, I can’t leave town for a minute before the woodwork erupts with another in the continuing stream of faulty logic and lies thrown against the Pink Wall to see what sticks. Last week, Athena representative Barbara Dewberry continued the towers’ unending salvo of scare tactics and misinformation targeting the other committee members and city staff.

I’m going to (again) break apart the distortions contained in her email (her words in bold, mine plain text) …

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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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