Count me as skeptically intrigued

If you head south on the White Rock hike-and-bike trail from Lake Highlands toward White Rock Lake, you’ll reach the trail’s intersection with Northwest Highway, where the most prominent landmark is Duncan’s Liquor store on West Lawther. You might not notice it if you didn’t have to stop for the red light before crossing the highway. You might not question whether it’s the best use for the land.

Did you ever wish there were 350 apartment units there instead?

If not, that’s the difference between people like you and me, as opposed to developers. A firm called Winston Capital has applied for a zoning change at that corner, from single family/retail to multi-family, with plans to build a high-density apartment complex to take advantage of the adjacent White Rock DART Station and proximity to the trail. When Advocate editor Christina Hughes Babb posted this news on our blog in February, it generated 68 responses from LH readers.

Catch up on coverage about the apartment proposal here.

The majority of comments were in line with the NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) reaction that we in Lake Highlands have perfected in recent decades, with good reason. Past mistakes have taught us to examine all new apartment development with a gimlet eye. If nothing else, citizen stakeholders in LH are involved and active.

But NIMBY is not the only song in our repertoire. Some comments indicate that a few LH residents are willing to envision a project that could be a win/win for the developers and the surrounding neighbors. It’s not such a far leap to imagine that DART access combined with green belt and bike trail proximity could make this project the one that will finally attract developers’ dream tenants — the young urban employed.

Gloria Tarpley, the Dallas plan commissioner for District 9, which includes this intersection, says she hasn’t reached a decision on whether to recommend the zoning change, and won’t make a decision until she sees more specifics.

“The property is very steep in slope, and narrows down quickly. The proposal is creative and could be very good for a difficult piece of land,” Tarpley says.

She also emphasizes that city planners and District 9 Councilman Sheffie Kadane will listen to community input at a plan commission public hearing at City Hall, expected to take place in April.

More than one commenter pointed out that the property is part of a flood plain. Tarpley says this will require a flood-plain study to determine what portion of the property falls in the flood plain, and what areas the developer might be able to re-claim by shoring up.

Another red flag may be the history of the developer. Winston Capital owned Northwest Terrace at Northwest Highway near Plano Road, a complex plagued by crime and bad management until it was razed in 2006. These memories are fresh enough that we should demand specifics about how the new complex will be managed. Will it be like Northwest Terrace (bad) or The Village apartments in midtown (good)? At The Village, managed by Lincoln Property, updates and maintenance are built into the management plan.

If it turns out to be Village-like, some neighbors are fully on board.

“This is an under-utilized piece of property and this is one of the best uses for it,” says commenter Eric Clay. “All that disposable income only a bike ride or short train trip away [from the future LH Town Center] has to be good.”

Adds R. Croysdale: “We in the loop need to get used to the idea that Dallas will continue to get denser, that new single-family housing is in the past, and that new multifamily should not always be judged by the rundown messes that we see elsewhere in Lake Highlands.”

Perhaps, but developers with Winston Capital’s history have earned our scrutiny if they want to build near our well-traveled bike path and greenbelt.