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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Lincoln Katy Trail divided the building. Too bad it’s 75 feet of concrete instead of green space.

Lincoln Property has done some work to change their Lincoln Katy Trail project. Arguably, these changes should have been the result of the first thumbs-down from the Oak Lawn Committee (OLC) well over a year ago. Instead they come much, much later and only after having exhausted their ability to cram the project through the Oak Lawn Committee and the neighborhood before hitting a Plan Commission brick wall. This project continues to be a manifestation of hubris.

Since Plan Commission kicked the project in August, there have been changes. For example, the single, unending block-long building has been split in two.  The Katy Trail no longer faces a fire lane and the ass-end of an underground exposed parking garage and loading dock. The trail also gets a proper entry from the property to engage residents.

But the question remains – Should a 307-unit, 70-foot-tall building (not counting above ground parking garage) comprising 80 percent one-bedroom units, now with 70 percent lot coverage, rear setbacks cut in half to 15 feet, and 600,000 square feet – giving back a miserly 15 affordable units – be allowed to blowout existing MF-2 zoning? That zoning limits a building to 36 feet in height, 60 percent lot coverage, and wider setbacks. It’s also worth remembering the current complex contains 115 market-rate affordable units in a rapidly unaffordable part of Dallas. More troubling still is that this case will be used as precedent for future encroachments into this still affordable area.

Of note, city staff’s recommendation when evaluating the neighborhood and factoring in the affordable units is for 230 units – 77 fewer than Lincoln is asking for, which is “a 152 percent increase, or deviation, in the current allowable density.” Staff also recommends shaving the project to five stories or a 60-foot height limit, calling 70 feet a “detrimental effect” for the Vine Condos on Carlisle. Sixty feet would restrict but not eliminate privacy and views of existing neighbors who comply with the MF-2 zoning.

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With luck, this is the last time we will see this rendering of Lincoln Property’s Lincoln Katy Trail project. Rewinding the clock, in February, the project passed Oak Lawn Committee by a single contentious vote after multiple unsuccessful trips seeking support. This scant win was followed in July by a disastrous City Plan Commission meeting where no commissioner would second a motion my Philip Kingston’s District 14 representative Paul Ridley – and several calling for Lincoln to return with a better plan. After that meeting I saw the city filing of neighborhood support and saw that aside from those cashing out and moving on, not a single entity was in support of the project.

In the ensuing weeks, Lincoln managed to get a letter of support from the Friends of the Katy Trail (more on that later).   However, a meeting last week at the Mayfair condos for its residents plus those of the Vendome and the Claridge resulted in no change of heart from the opposed buildings.

Couple all this with a fierce, largely unsuccessful lobbying campaign around City Hall, and even Lincoln had to finally read the writing on the wall.

At the CPC meeting, Lincoln’s chief opponent stated that there was a way for a redesigned building to move forward. I wondered why, when they were given an out, did they seem too arrogant to take it?

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(Editor’s Note: This column expresses opinion of the writer, and should not be interpreted as the editorial opinion of CandysDirt.com. We believe many voices uphold our core mission: a transparent discussion about North Texas real estate 24/7 )

Times change. Times change in city council representation. Back in 2007, then Oak Lawn council member Angela Hunt was quoted in the Dallas Morning News leading the charge against a proposed Gables development at Carlisle and Hall Streets bordering the Katy Trail.

Dallas City Council member Angela Hunt, who represents the area where Gables is proposing to build, says she’ll ask the council to deny Gables’ zoning request “with prejudice.”

“The overwhelming number of residents who will be affected by this change are opposed, and I am elected to represent them,“ Ms. Hunt said.

“I have not had a case come before me where such a large majority of residents are so vehemently opposed to a zoning change,” Ms. Hunt said. “There’s a reason we have zoning: so residents have some certainty as to what the future of the community will look like. To me, there’s a high level of proof needed to get a zoning change, and this project doesn’t cut it.”

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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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District 14 Dallas City Council member was officially reprimanded by the council after using his office to post a video on Facebook about a fundraiser.

By Ashley Stanley
Special Contributor

Dallas City Council members engaged in a lengthy discussion on Wednesday about the so-called “Kingston ethical lapse.” The body was charged with voting on a recommendation from the Ethics Advisory Commission to reprimand Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston for using his city office to film a campaign video — a clear violation of the ethics code recently approved by Kingston and his colleagues.

I was there hoping to come away with a story about economic development and performing arts because I attended a presentation at The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth the day before. I wanted to see how this meeting would go and what outrage might ensue, especially with the bond program vote concluded, which included funding to repair several cultural and arts facilities such as the Wyly Theater.  I missed the arts item, but I did hear enough to appreciate Dallas Observer columnist Jim Schutze’s bathroom-wall article posed early (4 a.m.!) this morning.

Schutze referred to his weekly paper as the dish. If that is true, then I write for the dirt! Councilmember Lee Kleinman called Kingston’s lapse “going too far” and said it was “just wrong,” according to a story in The Dallas Morning News by Tristan Hallman. I missed that part of the conversation, but I sat down in time to hear Councilman Adam Medrano (a personal friend of Kingston’s) say, “Philip made a dumb mistake.” Or did he? Who knows? Who cares? This meeting was all about Dallas City Council member Dwaine Caraway, and I heard every word from that dude. Council meetings with that guy in office are free, front-row tickets to the funny show.

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