Preston Center is as out of place in Preston Hollow as a Hershey's Kiss on a Ritz-Carlton pillow.
The Preston Center parking garage, which sits on land owned by the city of Dallas, is the city's biggest chance to fix that. A 2016 plan recommended an underground garage with a park on top, and Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates has been working with the neighborhood, North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), and local landowners to move that vision forward.
But any momentum has been dashed due to the Preston Center West Corporation (PCWC), made up of the landowners who own the neighboring businesses and property.
To refresh, the garage is a textbook bad agreement worked out decades ago and reaffirmed by legal battles between the city and PCWC, who have veto power on everything. Any plan put forth by either party requires 100 percent buy-in – so it always ends in a stalemate.
In March, NCTCOG and Walker Consultants put together a new 145-page report for the city on the existing (deteriorating) conditions, with two options for redevelopment.
Option one is what everyone but PCWC wants – a fully underground garage with a park on top.
Option two is sorta what PCWC wants – an apartment tower on part of the land with a smaller park on top.
I say sorta, because the last time we saw Robert Dozier, PCWC representative and presumed developer of the apartment tower, he wanted to cover the entire lot with parking and a high-rise with zero green space outside a pair of earmuff parkettes on two corners of the 3.15-acre parcel.
The PCWC plan was developed by people who think trees are useless without actual cash falling from them. That is, unless it's their own home. Dozier’s 7,700-square-foot home on a half-acre lot in University Park has five mature trees in the front yard.
The new plan offers a possible compromise by conceding half the block for an apartment building. I think that's a mistake. As we saw two weeks ago, there are two residential high-rises, by Leland Burk and by Rosebriar, proposed for the Hopdoddy corner of the garage. Combined, they will bring 360 housing units and 245 hotel rooms to Preston Center – and 39 trees.
Should they face Dozier's high-rise or overlook a park? Mercurially, the garage tower is competition to Leland Burk's apartment tower, while Rosebriar's hotel and condos on the corner get blocked views and no benefit from more apartments.
Were I Burk or Rosebriar and members of the PCWC, I'd vote against the garage high-rise, killing it cold. Did Burk, a Preston Center task force representative for Preston Center's Zone One, know that the park written into the plan didn't have the support of PCWC?
Most of the information in the 145-page report has been hashed before, but there were some interesting tidbits:
- Regardless of whether option one or two is selected, the construction time is the same: 23 months.
- Both options require the entire parking garage be closed for the duration of construction. They'll need to find alternate parking.
Whether it's a full-park or half-park, it'll require the same timetable and the same inconvenience.
The other big consideration is money.
- The estimated cost for the full park is between $38.5 and $41.2 million.
- The estimated cost for the half park is between $38.1 and $39.7 million.
The potential savings by building a half-park are between $400,000 and 1.5 million (less for the half-park). Opperations and maintenance costs are identical.
With no time savings, no inconvenience savings, and virtually no money savings, why not be bold and go for the fully underground option with its full park?
The PCWC’s veto, that’s why.
City should wait it out
The PCWC doesn't seem to have ever wanted the full park – they're probably squeamish about the half-park. But the city is not on the hook for the crumbling garage's maintenance. PCWC is. Sitting on the land and waiting for the garage to die doesn't hurt the city, except for any insurance needed in case a chunk falls off.
Those wanting to breathe life into moldering Preston Center feel cursed by the PCWC's veto, but the option to do nothing is just as powerful. If those landowners are okay with their lower-rent tenants operating in a slum, so be it. Time is on their side. What can't be controlled is whatever the next D13 council person does. Gates is on her final term.
Her successor may believe in the PCWC's aesthetic wasteland vision. But I remind City Hall, nowhere on earth is there a city complaining about too much green space.
This assumes Dozier still wants that original plan of a single high-rise. But as we'll share in part 2 tomorrow, he's been hard at work to fully develop an ugliness that lines pockets at the neighborhood’s expense and the city’s dime.
A version of this story appeared on Candy's Dirt.