Windmass Capital’s Vision for Colorado Blvd at Marsalis Ave in North Oak Cliff

After over a year of meeting with neighbors, stakeholders, and City of Dallas staff, the WindMass Capital development team has thrown in the towel just before this Wednesday’s City Council meeting where they would have been on the agenda to move forward on a very complicated deal.

WindMass owns the Founders Square Apartments. Over the decades the building became surrounded on three sides by Oak Cliff‘s Founders Park. Long story short, they hoped to swap their 1.37 acres for the adjacent 1.37 acres on the corner of Colorado Blvd. and Marsalis Ave., build a new mixed-use apartment building with retail on the ground floor, then demolish their old building, give it to the city all cleaned up like park land should be, and give a half million dollars to the city for additional park improvements. Sounds pretty crazy amazing, doesn’t it?

As Willis Winters, Director of the Park Department, said at the last Park Board meeting, the city has tried to purchase this property for years to make Founders Park more contiguous, but hasn’t been able to afford it.  This project would essentially accomplish that goal for the Parks Department.

Even neighbors and stakeholders were in support, a rare feat in itself!

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Community residents attended an information session regarding the authorized hearing process that could completely transform the neighborhood surrounding Hampton and Clarendon roads.

By Michael Amonett
Guest Columnist

An authorized hearing has been set in motion to rezone an area in Oak Cliff at the intersection of Hampton and Clarendon roads.  The area was once a small farming community settled in the 1870s called Jimtown. Clarendon Road was Jimtown Road, and was built along the old Santa Fe Railroad right of way.  Historic buildings and car repair shops dot the area, including the Sunset Theater built in 1922 at 1112 S. Hampton. The theater partially burned in 1957 and today is part of the M.S. Lumber Yard.  Oak Cliff was annexed into Dallas in 1903, and Jimtown was annexed later in 1915.

Authorized hearings can be initiated by an applicant, the City Council, or can start with the City Planning Commission.  This particular one was authorized by the CPC and former CPC member Chad West at the behest of some of the area commercial property owners.  The area fronting Hampton is currently zoned Community Retail (CR). Clarendon is also zoned CR as well as Community Services (CS). There is a small parcel adjacent to the CS zoning on Clarendon that is zoned exclusively for parking and approximately 45 single-family homes in the southwest corner are zoned multi-family.  

These zoning classifications are outdated and unstable.  The single-family homes can become apartments or shared-access condos by right at any time.  The one- and two-story historic buildings that sit directly on Clarendon and Hampton roads can be torn down for a CVS or a Wells Fargo and pulled back away from the street with parking in the front.  Not only would you lose irreplaceable historic resources, you’d lose the current urban streetscape forms that interact with pedestrians and cyclists and replace them with parking lots that break up the historic block-face.  The businesses inside these buildings currently are stable mom-and-pop businesses; most of them Latino.

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Map of PD-15

For those just joining our story, the Pink Wall is pocket of multi-family condominiums bordering the mansions and McMansions of Preston Hollow located at the northeast corner of Northwest Highway and Preston Road.  Within the area is Planned Development District 15 (PD-15) that includes the buildings above and fronts Northwest Highway between the Preston Tower and Athena high-rises.

Because PDs operate differently than straight city zoning, a task force has been formed by Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates and includes Plan Commissioner Margot Murphy with representatives from each of the PD-15 buildings as well as buildings in the neighborhood outside the PD.  The group is addressing the development issues facing the area since March’s Preston Place fire and a developer’s interest in the Diplomat property.  PD-15 began in 1947 and, as you can imagine, needs some updating to reflect the realities of this century. You can get up to speed here, here, here, here, here.

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Last night marked the second meeting of the Pink Wall PD-15 task force gathered together to address increased density in the area. As a reminder, the Pink Wall is essentially the northeast corner of Preston and Northwest Hwy.  PD-15 is roughly the space between the Preston Tower and Athena residential high-rises. If you missed last week’s roundup, click here.

This second meeting began to tackle the issue of density and what the neighborhood’s desires are for the area.  Of course before we got there, we heard more on the shifting sands of how this could play out procedurally within city government.  I’m not going to go into detail here (again) because questions remain and I want to be crystal clear versus continually negating what was said previously.  It’s annoying that city officials just don’t know this. Do we need to lock them in a room until their story is straight?

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