Packed House at Park Cities Baptist Church

If you’ve been following along in your prayer books, you know that over a year ago the Preston Place condos burned. You may also know about the failed attempt at negotiating an area redevelopment plan. I’ll even toss in bonus points if you’re aware of the Athena and Preston Tower working with former mayor Laura Miller to stymie everything.

All caught up?  Good …

Last night, Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates assembled the neighborhood to discuss the history and next steps in the process. What was a surprise to most was that the authorized hearing, first mentioned last summer as having a two or three year waiting list, had been bumped up in the schedule and was beginning immediately. Gates made available applications for representatives on the authorized hearing committee.

But I get ahead of myself.

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In Part One, I explained how I’d put my thoughts into an envelope to be opened once the PD-15 process was complete. However, my surprise resignation opened the envelope to share now.  In that first column, I faced the hard truth of the economic viability of redevelopment and how the buildings that might be built within zoning were not profitable for buyers or sellers. I also touched on the aging demographic the area attracts and their less likely bent towards renovation and the ability to play catchup on years of deferred maintenance in some complexes. Finally, I wrote about how in real dollars, the past 15 years have been a wash (punctuated by Recession-driven ups and downs). If you missed Part One, catch up here.

The overall endpoint being that if the area wants to attract new buyers for the long-term (not just because Dallas is skint of housing), who have the money and willpower to uplift the area, PD-15 is the last hope.

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With the two antagonists from the last meeting otherwise engaged, last night’s PD-15 meeting went smoother and accomplished more than the prior meeting’s tit, tat, and tut-tutting.  Tiff-free it wasn’t, but patience, we’ll get there …

In a change of pace, the meeting was run by council member Jennifer Gates and while she mostly missed the prior meeting, she was able to guide us through a discussion sprouting from some discussion points provided by the absent Scott Polikov.  I think most felt the group accomplished more agreement and offered more of a civilized Q&A session between the members. The added clarity was welcome.

I almost groaned as we headed to the Preston Road area plan yet again, but thankfully we swiftly agreed its recommendations could guide but not limit our work … and essentially avoided being pulled into the vortex of its (in my opinion) flawed assumptions (stay tuned for that breakdown tomorrow – shameless plug).

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What makes PD-15’s gyrations different from many other upzoning cases is that there is no blueprint to follow.  The Toll Brothers building in Oak Lawn largely fits within its MF-3 zoning. Sure, some complain whether MF-3 is appropriate for the area, but it’s there. Other projects have MF-2 and want to move beyond those controls. But PD-15 has none of that to act as starting point.  The PD documents essentially state a total number of units in the PD that is derived by the number of units per acre. There’s also a bit on parking and interior street right of ways. But that’s pretty much it.

If you’re talking about traditional city zoning, there are categories for setbacks, density (units per acre and size of units), height, lot coverage, primary uses and any special standards (like a minimum lot size or proximity slopes).  Proximity slopes protect neighboring buildings from being too close to radically taller structures by forcing them to literally step back from those neighbors (think of stair steps back).

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PD-15, slightly east of Preston Road bounded by Northwest Highway, Pickwick Lane, Baltimore Drive and an alley.

Last night marked the first meeting of the newly-formed PD-15 task force, begun as a result of development pressures within the area of the Pink Wall known as PD-15. It went as most initial meetings do, trying to find its feet. The task force members from surrounding buildings were brought together by Dallas City Councilwoman Jennifer Gates and assisted by her plan commissioner Margot Murphy.

It began with a review of what had brought us there, namely the pressure to redevelop the fire-ruined Preston Place and the Diplomat.  The two are unconnected except in current timing with the Diplomat having worked on a potential sale for over a year prior to the March fire at Preston Place. Given that two out of the four buildings within PD-15 are in play, it’s safe to assume developers’ wagons are circling the rest.

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PD-15 boundaries along Northwest Highway

I’ve written tons on the Pink Wall and its Planned Development District (PD) 15. I’ve spent many an hour trying to understand the loosey-goosey definitions found in the decades-old paperwork, even talking to a city attorney. It’s nice to finally have some official clarity … which was different from what I’d been told and I told you. So listen up …

There are 63 available units that can be built within PD-15. Period. (more…)

Istanbul’s Basilica Cistern has been holding water for over 1,500 years

Last week I got to thinking about flooding in southern Preston Hollow, particularly behind the Pink Wall and Northwest Highway … and it struck me.  There was a solution to area flooding staring us in the face since March.  Preston Place condominiums lot.

You see, currently we all know existing drainage can’t handle large, fast torrential rains, like the one we had yesterday.  In the south Preston Hollow area and Northwest Highway, there is enough flooding to lift and move cars a few times per year.  The thing with flooding is that first, you can’t change the rain.  So the only other options are to either increase capacity or to control the flow of floodwaters to keep water off the streets.

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Preston Place Nearly Cleared; Diplomat's Roof Repair

Preston Place Nearly Cleared; Diplomat’s Roof Repair

On May 10, Preston Place owners voted to engage a Realtor to sell the property to developers.  What I’m sure was a gut-wrenching decision likely came down to a lack of will by the majority of owners.  Let’s face it, many were older and the stamina required to rebuild was likely not there.  Compounding any rebuild would be the death of 1,000 cuts as owners sought changes to the original plans both large and small.

The property is completely demolished and just about cleared of debris.  There were several pauses in demolition when building- and owner-supplied scavengers were employed to seek residents’ belongings in the rubble.  Certainly a sad occasion for all, including the demolition crews dumping life’s remnants into trucks to be hauled away.

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