Come Saturday night, Lake Highlands will have a new councilman.
On Sunday morning, the intersection of Skillman and Walnut Hill will still have two undeveloped corners.
Lake Highlands Town Center, envisioned by community leaders in 2005 with the creation of the Skillman Corridor Tax increment Financing District (TIF), is still mostly a dream. A historical review up to the current status would be a long story already familiar to most of you, so I’m skipping ahead: Late last fall, landowner Cypress submitted a site plan to the city for the southeast corner showing a 28,000-square-foot Sprouts Market and 43,000 more square feet of retail in seven other smaller structures. That plan runs counter to the original vision of a more dense, more urban project inconsistent with the recent surface parking plan submitted by Cypress that sites most buildings set back from the street.
Ok, so what do City Council candidates Paul Reyes and Adam McGough believe is the next step?
Simply stated, should the city and the Skillman Corridor TIF Board accept the Cypress plan and alter the original vision of a project that was closer to West Village than Medallion Center in architecture and walkability?
Paul Reyes says he would accept the plan Cypress has submitted. While the revised plan may not be entirely consistent with the original vision, Reyes believes it’s not so much the surface parking that is the community’s concern, but the “big boxes that might come with it.”
A 28,000-square-foot Sprouts is not a big box. Reyes says “the look and feel” of the Cypress plan for the retail block is consistent with the community needs and wants. As councilman, Reyes says he would advocate that position with City Design Studio and Peer Review, the two city entities that have issues with the Cypress plan, and get it built.
Adam McGough says “one of the first things I would do as councilman” would be to host a meeting with the stakeholders, including City Design Studio, Peer Review, Cypress, community leaders and interested citizens.
“This is a negotiation,” McGough says, and there is “tension and emotion.” Drawing on his training in conflict management and mediation, McGough says he would try to find middle ground “somewhere between” the original urban vision and a suburban shopping center. However, McGough says that since the creation of the TIF and the 2005 plan, “circumstances have changed, and Lake Highlands has changed.”
There’s really not much daylight between the candidates on this issue, and they both agree on two other things, unprompted by questions.
First, City Design Studio and Peer Review need some review of their own. Established by the City to generate good design for projects that receive public support, Reyes doesn’t think they are taking “unique community needs into consideration.”
Second, the Lake Highlands community is “confused” about the status of the Town Center and needs better communication from City staff and elected officials about the project.
What’s not confusing is that between the Skillman Corridor TIF, City of Dallas bond money and investments from Dallas County, the North Central Texas Council of Governments and DART, $24 million of public sector capital already has been spent on Lake Highlands Town Center.
The TIF has committed another $40 million to the project if development targets are hit by 2019.
After 10 years with little vertical construction at the Town Center, will having a new councilman make a difference?