Lawther/Northwest Highway development, Winfrey Point parking and DART safety addressed at Lake Highlands meeting

Our Live Local writer Meghan Riney just sent over notes from tonight’s Lake Highlands Area Improvement Association meeting, where highlights included  representatives discussing the hotly contested multifamily development near the White Rock DART station and Mayor Mike Rawlings addressing the state of the city and commenting on the Save Winfrey Point thing.

Apartments near White Rock Station

We’ll start with the one that’s ruffled the most feathers, based on our experience. Karl Crawley with Masterplan consultants and Alex Condos of Post Investment Group addressed residents concerned about a planned development district at Northwest Highway and Lawther that would allow developers to build about 350 apartment units. Here in Lake Highlands, because of high crime rates related to the vast number of existing low-rent apartments, we are pretty gun shy when it comes to density. Here’s how that discussion went down (from Meghan Riney, adapted to blog by me):

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The guys say the new development would replace a lawnmower store, liquor store, convenience store and a house owned by the Duncan family. The Duncan patriarch is dead; the mom is in a nursing home. The kids don’t want the house, they inform the crowd.

They announce that Post Investment Group will be the new developer of this project.

The vision, they say, is a multifamily development with a small retail allowance. There will be a maximum 350 units and 4.5 acres. That means about 700 people and a big parking garage. The residents of the development would feed into Dallas ISD schools.

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A zoning request submitted in January is now on hold at city hall due to unresolved physical issues with the site, the speakers inform the attendees.

The developer, Alex Condos, works mainly in Austin and has had control of the site for approximately one and a half months. He says he sees the property as desirable due to proximity to White Rock Lake. His partners in the project are Dallas professionals Will Cureton and Scott Rogers. Their background? Ten years developing in California Austin, Montana and Dallas (Westside Condos on Cedar Springs, Brownstones at Southlake Town Square, Tribeca on Cedar Springs, 1999 McKinney, 2011 Cedar Springs).

Scott Rogers is at the meeting and says, “We have never done any low-income projects. We will be on the top end of the market cost to make it worth the land and development cost.”

Cureton is also there. He adds: “We’re only interested in doing high-end, high quality, boutique properties.”

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They say they are working on creating a new conceptual plan of the development. When they are done, they will be happy to meet with neighborhood organizations to review and discuss.

Timetable: They are hoping for zoning approval end of June/early July and for construction to start in mid 2013 and to complete the thing by end of 2014.

Neighbors voice concerns. Condos says he doesn’t believe oversaturation of apartments is a concern in the area where they are building.

Crawley says, “This development is not dense for a property near a rail station. It is not dense for Uptown. It is dense for this area.”

Concerned resident asks, What precautions are being put in place to assure Lake Highlands residents that 20 years from now we won’t have another situation like the deteriorating 80s apartments that surround us now?

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“Those were garden apartments. These are not garden apartment quality. There will be a structured parking garage, and it’s a Type 3 building which is a higher class than most apartments, which typically fall in Type 5,” responds David Demarest, who is an architect on the project.

Concerned resident asks, You give examples of this type of property being successful for decades in Uptown, but you fail to mention that those developments killed the neighborhood in Uptown. You would never do this in Lakewood or Highland Park. Don’t hurt our neighborhood. What makes you think that young adults are going to want to move into these in LH, the way they do in Uptown … with no restaurants or nightlife?

Crawley replies, “We grew up watching Leave it to Beaver on the TV and seeing families in homes with yards, but kids now don’t want that. This is a Seinfeld generation who grew up watching families live in apartments, and they want to live in a neighborhood like LH without the house or the yard.”

(This is where our Meghan, a young Lake Highlands homeowner who has both a yard and a golden retriever, almost let the guy have it.)

 Mayor Mike Rawlings on Southern Dallas and Winfrey Point 

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In other topics, Mayor Rawlings offered a basic overview of the state of the city. He says he has implemented the Grow South initiative (a three-year, 10-part plan focused on building Southern Dallas). He says he is initiating a “culture of clean” in Southern Dallas and working on appearance of Dallas when driving in from Austin, using billboards and the like.

Of course he was asked about the Winfrey Point saga, to which he promised, the ball fields aren’t going away. Over 2,000 signed the petition, he says, so that is something we will need to look at. (I assume here we are talking about the discussed permanent parking and not the temporary Arboretum parking — you can get an update about the whole thing here.)

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“The nature issue is not as important as the issue of parking in the neighborhoods,” the mayor told the crowd. “Someone is going to get hurt on Garland Road. We have to solve this problem and can’t just bury our heads in the sand.”

DART Safety 

Also, DART issued a safety update. Cameras have been installed at 55 stations. There will be increased uniform presence at all stations and on trains.

Use the new 41411 texting if you see something or someone suspicious on the train. You soon might be able to use “Where’s my bus?” and “Where’s my train?” apps to avoid getting lost or stuck in an unsafe or vacant area. Also, DART is looking into a SmartCard system for payment.

—Reporting by Meghan Riney, edited by Christina Hughes Babb

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