Cypress-Current-site-rendering

Lake Highlands Town Center developer Cypress Real Estate Advisors is asking the city to change zoning in the southernmost section of the property, south of the Haven and north of the Everwood apartment homes (Block E in the above graphic), so it can build roughly 60 townhomes on 4.2 acres.

Currently, the zoning allows for up to 175 multi-family homes but the plan was always to build townhomes or garden homes in that area, says Bill Blaydes, the former councilman who oversaw the Plan Development District for the Lake Highlands Town Center. (Bill Rafkin of Cypress declined to be interviewed.)

Blaydes, a longtime commercial real estate broker, says the townhomes will be standalone, for-sale, 1,700 to 3,600 square feet for $450,000 to $600,000, and “very dense.” David Weekley is the builder named in the zoning request, and Blaydes compares the proposed Town Center project to the Villas of Lake Highlands Weekley is selling on Plano Road behind Kroger.

Demand for such housing at the town center has always been high, even during the recession. In our September 2009 cover story, former Town Center developer Prescott Realty noted that it had “received a number of inquiries about the future for-sale units on the southern end of the project,” but at the time, builders were having difficulty getting loans for large projects involving single family homes. Since then, however, Lake Highlands has seen a resurgence in single-family home construction, including large projects not far from the Town Center, first the White Rock Place Addition at Walnut Hill and Audelia then the Bordeaux of Lake Highlands at Skillman and Church.

Our neighborhood’s historically warm reception to single-family housing means this zoning request likely won’t be controversial. The harder sell for Cypress will be at this Thursday’s Plan Commission hearing, where Cypress will ask for approval of a revamped Lake Highlands Town Center retail area that includes roughly the same amount of multi-family units as the original plan but “a lot less townhome-type retail,” as Blaydes describes it.

“The townhomes, I’m delighted to see because that’s exactly what had been planned for that end of the project,” he says. “Everything else, they’re in a hurry to get the grocery store, and in order to get that built, they say they’ve got to do the retail the way they’re planning it.”

Blaydes isn’t so sure, however. City staff is recommending approval of Cypress’ new plans, and plan commissioners will have a chance to vote yay or nay before the changes go to city councilmembers. Cypress is no longer asking for $30 million in tax dollar reimbursements, so that won’t weigh into the decision. At this point, it’s a land use issue compounded by any political pressure from the neighborhood — and with a tax-incentivized project almost a decade in the making, plenty of politics are involved.

“If we’re in that big of a hurry, I would encourage the Plan Commission to go for it and let’s it get started,” Blaydes says, “but if it were my choice alone, Lake Highlands doesn’t have any other place they can build a town center like that in the core of the community. We just don’t. We’d have to tear a lot of stuff down to find another 70 acres we can build on.

“Are we in a hurry or are we willing to wait? The Plan Commission and the council are the ones who have to make that decision based on what people want to see.”