The parking lot was full and the facilitators had to set up extra chairs last Thursday night, as LH residents crowded the Forest Lane Academy’s cafeteria to learn about re-design plans for the LBJ-Skillman intersection.
A committee made up of LH volunteers has been working for nearly ten years to make this project a reality. A key committee member, Tip Housewright, gave a presentation on the current state of the intersection and the committee’s goals: safety, beautification, and economic viability.
Housewright summarized some of the current problems: confusing traffic flow, awkward visibility of businesses, difficulty accessing businesses, no sidewalks, ineffective or non-existent crosswalks for pedestrians, and difficult access to and from the Dart Station.
The biggest proposed change will be an attempt to improve the traffic flow for the surface streets, especially Skillman and Audelia, and reduce confusion for drivers. Once that is accomplished, the committee hopes the area can become a place where people will want to go, rather than a place they want to avoid.
To help develop a vision for the future, attendees were invited to vote for their favorite type of designs and also to indicate their preferences. We broke out into small groups with facilitators to brainstorm about improvements we would like to see.
Optimism abounds for features like more green space, bike trails, better restaurants and better leveraging of the Dart Station. Ideas included a dog park and possibly a “pocket” police station. Some even suggested the area has potential to become a kind of “gateway” for people traveling from the north and east into Dallas. “Gateway” was also used in reference to attracting more people to our (still-planned) Town Center.
Skeptics were well represented. Some fear improvements at the Dart Station might make it easier for criminals to enter our neighborhoods. Some don’t believe it’s important to worry about parks or connecting bike paths. The familiar concern over apartments-gone-bad or going-bad was also discussed. One participant said he hoped the changes wouldn’t bring more traffic to Audelia, which is close to his residence.
So far responses to the on-line survey indicate that people are more interested in improving the residential and retail aspects of the area than they are with green space or improved Dart access.
The city and the committee will continue to gather information over the coming months. Tip Housewright’s architectural firm, Omniplan, is helping to conduct the study. Once the input from this meeting has been compiled, the committee plans a follow-up community meeting, tentatively scheduled for April (no date yet.) Presuming the project stays on-schedule, a recommendation may reach the City Plan Commission in late 2013 or early 2014.