Fifty years after last school bell rang for attendees, front rows are still last to fill

[Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for CandysDirt.com who lives in District 13. His opinions are his own.]

The community gathered last night to discuss PD-15, and honestly, I expected this to be a “bottle of rotgut and a bullet to bite on” kind of meeting. But it wasn’t. To be sure, when the public comment section came around there was no shortage of strong words on every side of this issue. Former Dallas mayor and District 13 city council candidate Laura Miller gave her 2-cents when everyone else had gotten one. (More later)

In a bizarre coincidence, earlier in the day I’d read about the jet stream’s current velocity pushing eastbound airplanes as fast as 801 miles per hour — which is about how fast city planner Andrew Ruegg zipped through 96 slides in about 40 minutes at last night’s second PD-15 community meeting. While some of the city’s all-important graphics could have benefitted from a few more seconds on the screen, it was a comprehensive overview of the draft proposal being delivered to city plan commission on March 21.

Note to city: Graphics of exactly what’s on the table are critical to comprehension. They should be there at the get-go, not batting clean-up.

But just as the Preston Road and Northwest Highway Area Plan didn’t take economics into consideration, the city’s PD document really didn’t either. It would have been helpful to have had a “likely outcome” section.

You see, while the land bordering Northwest Highway is proposed to allow 240-foot heights, It’s not probable that’s what will be built. Let me explain …

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[Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for CandysDirt.com who lives in District 13. His opinions are his own.]

I have to admit, had I been drinking milk, it would have squirted out of my nose when I was forwarded an email from a few Preston Hollow residents. It blared out:

CHANGE IS COMING to District 13!!! (and I don’t mean Staubach’s supersized version) Click the links below – AND: SIGN the change.org petition – AND: GO PARTICIPATE IN DEMOCRACY FEBRUARY 19th at 6:30pm at Hyer Elementary!!!!!!!!! SPREAD THE WORD NOW!!!!!
(three pro-Laura Miller links)
SORRY JEN: LONG LIVE DEMOCRACY!

Its poor grammar, bombastic language, and the accompanying misleading images reminded me of the sound of a group of seagulls hovering over a restaurant dumpster – or basically, the internet. I wonder if they’ll be yelling “LONG LIVE DEMOCRACY” if Laura Miller loses her race against council member Jennifer Gates?

First, the campaign seems to be run by the same people who delivered the recent towers meeting. Everything is assumed to be the evil plot of council member Jennifer Gates – almost like it were politically motivated.

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PD-15

The run-up to Wednesday’s tenth PD-15 meeting should’ve filled area residents with anger. The self-centered towers were at it again. On Monday, Athena management company ICI Real Estate sent residents an “URGENT!!!” call for Athena residents to attend last night’s meeting (Preston Tower did the same).

It said Bob Bowling from Preston Tower was going to make a motion to dissolve the authorized hearing and send developers directly to City Plan Commission. Athena representative Margaret Darden was scheduled to second the motion after which residents in the audience were encouraged to stand and applaud. It was so kindergarten, I’m surprised there wasn’t a warning about not eating paste.

Their argument consists of the same tired, disproven tropes as always – four high-rises, unprecedented traffic and 10 years of non-stop construction. Blah, blah, blah. If you want to sing that song, read this or this.

NOTE: ICI seriously overstepped their bounds by sending such a loaded, propaganda-filled email to residents under their own account. Darden and Dewberry should have sent their drivel opinions and plans from their own accounts. (Full disclosure: I send email wrap-ups and links to PD-15 stories to residents within the building under my personal account. I have never asked or even thought to involve the management company.)

You may recall back in July, I reported on an email Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association (PHSNA) president John Pritchett sent to committee members where he said they’re “not the A-Team in terms of zoning matters.” Apparently, Towers representatives Bob Bowling, Tatiana Frierson, Margaret Darden and Barbara Dewberry agree with the assessment, so hot are they to disband the committee. It’s almost comical, too. The Laurel apartments on Preston Road and Northwest Highway are pretty universally disliked and yet these representatives are in the same camp as Pritchett, who —to hear him tell it — single-handily led the negotiations for the neighborhood with developer Transwestern.

NOTE: If any member of any committee feels too stupid to do the job, resign and stop trying to crater a process everyone else is working in good faith to complete. (more…)

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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I am just so darn giddy with excitement, I had to go search and see if I really did tell you this, and I DID!!!, last November when Central Market was under construction at Preston Royal. I had heard from a reliable source that Trader Joe’s was going to plant its second or third Dallas store at the northwest corner of North Central Expressway and Walnut Hill Lane.

What fabu news for the neighborhoods! The famous West Coast foodie store that you have to drag me out of in Santa Fe or Cali will anchor a new development to be built on the vacant 42-acre property on that corner that is also to include an R.E.I.

Once upon a time, many moons ago, that corner was the Willow Creek apartments and shopping center, which were torn down starting in 2007, after a fire. Provident Realty planned to build a $300 million urban shopping and housing village on the tract. But the project stalled during the recession and bank credit crunch. Wells Fargo foreclosed on the tract in late 2009. I recall an auction where no one bought. Kroenke Holdings bought the land from Wells Fargo Bank in 2010 and formed a partnership with Provident Realty to continue development. Isn’t it nice that despite the bust, this project still came together?

Seems the stinkers at Provident Realty Advisors and Kroenke Holdings of Missouri have been covertly working with Trader Joe’s since last summer, planning a 14,000 square foot store as well as a variety of other developments on the corner, including several hundred units of multifamily residential at the same time. Keeping us in the dark, eh?

Trader Joe’s is opening its first two Texas stores on June 15 in Fort Worth and Houston; nine locations have been announced for Texas so far, including two more locations in Houston and one each in Austin and San Antonio.

According to Steve Brown, Trader Joe’s is “known for its value-priced store brands, kitschy interiors and zany marketing campaigns, Trader Joe’s has been in business since 1958. The company has more than 370 stores in 32 states.” Me, I like Two Buck Chuck, the ginger cookies and everything in the prepared food case.

The neighborhood is already AA Central: Houston-based Spec’s Wines, Spirits & Finer Foods has a 43,000-square-foot store (Good Lord!) near the southeast corner of Central and Walnut Hill, and is opening up another location at Preston-Royal where Blockbuster used to be. (Talk about the maturing of the community: it used to be a Toys R Us!) Then Total Wine & More, a Maryland wine and beer retailer, is opening a store in this quad. As my friend Wyman Elrod says:

“There will soon be large liquor and wine merchants on all four corners of this intersection. You should move to The Meadows or Glen Lakes and walk to get your wine! You probably can even have it delivered like Ozarka!”

Another coolio thing about this deal: the neighboring Homeowners Associations really worked with the developers on the site:

“As most of you know, the 42-acre property at the northwest corner of Walnut Hill and Central Expressway that was owned by Provident Realty Advisors was foreclosed on by Wells Fargo late last year. Because the Wells Fargo loan pre-dated the private deed restrictions (“PDR”) that The Meadows, Glen Lakes and Windsor Park had collectively negotiated with Provident, the PDR has been negated. However, the zoning that we negotiated remains in place (see www.themeadowsna.org for a copy of the approved zoning). Because of continued support from our City Council representative and the expectation that any future owner will likely seek changes to the existing zoning, we believe we will have reasonable influence in what ultimately transpires on the site. As a reminder, current zoning includes, among other things, a requirement that the western-most 385 feet (approximately 17 acres) be solely residential, with no more than 140 residences that must be townhomes (rather than condos, apartments, etc). Wells Fargo has recently opened up bidding for the site. The Joint Task Force (made up of representatives from The Meadows, Glen Lakes and Windsor Park) will continue to work with potential developers on behalf of our respective neighborhoods. The JTF is currently taking the approach that, rather than express upfront what our neighborhoods want on the site, we will wait and see what the future owner/developer has in mind.”