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Developing? Not Really

Sam Merten has a solid piece in this week’s Dallas Observer about Fairfield Residential’s fight to tear down the dilapidated, crime-infested Signature Pointe Apartments and replace the complex with a mixed-use development (with retail, restaurants, and residential). Trey wrote about the dust-up in our March issue. City councilwoman Angela Hunt, apparently, was not a fan:

“The developer is well-represented by PR people who can contact folks in the media, can frame this a certain way, and can get photos and stories in D magazine. Neighbors with concerns about it aren’t represented by anybody.”

That is Angela’s reasoning as to why it’s not a big deal that she met with the opposition, but hasn’t yet met with supporters of the necessary zoning change. Let’s go ahead and jump, because this is long and about to get longer.

I think Angela has been on the right side of a lot of city issues, and she’s one of the few watchdogs on the council. But I think she’s wrong here. Sure, it may be smart to look at every potential development as “guilty until proven innocent,” just so you can make sure all the t’s are crossed and all the lower-case j’s are dotted. Better to be wary sooner rather than later, right?

But that only works if the system allows some developments to actually be proven innocent. In this regard, Angela is starting to fall prey to same thing that always bothered me about Laura Miller: wanting to be right rather than wanting to do right.

As a consequence, I think this is yet another instance where the city is shooting itself in the foot. Think about the three biggest zoning battles in the past few months: the Fairfield deal, the Andres brothers’ failure to redevelop the old Carnival site on Henderson, and Whole Foods’ decision to revamp the existing Minyard’s instead of going with a brand-new design. Call me naive, but I see one thread uniting all three: developers trying to do right by the city and the specific neighborhood in question while eliminating a long-time eyesore in the process.

Now, I’m not one to argue for change simply for the sake of change. I think the city gets out the bulldozers too often, in most cases. And I think there are plenty of times where redevelopment is looked to before reconditioning and reconfiguring is given a fair shake. I’m sure someone will come back with, “Oh, that’s just the rich folks at D trying to help their rich buddies.” I drive a beat-up car with a driver’s side window made of packing tape and homespun ingenuity, and sweat my two-drink bill at the Monk more often than I like. I do okay, but I’m not rich.

My only stake in this is simple: if we want to grow as a city, if we want to prosper, some change is necessary. The failure of these deals (and I’m assuming that Fairfield is going to strike out) is going to set back that growth, if not stunt it completely.

“Well,” you argue, “Whole Foods said they did it for the money, not because of neighborhood pressure or the planned development district.” You really think so? You think they spent that much time, effort, and money coming up with a plan for the site, and then at the last minute decided, “Oh…look at this. We can actually save money by not tearing it down. Huh. Throw that other thing in the garbage.” That, my friends, is a description of me doing my taxes, not a multimillion dollar corporation doing business.

Let me say, for the record, that I think the City Plan Commission does a good job on one of the most contentious battlefields this city has to offer. But it seems like, more often than not lately, neighborhood busybodies aren’t letting them do it.

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  • Hmmm

    I find it interesting that John Allegro lives in Forest Hills (check out DCAD). Why is he so interested in a development that is 8 miles away from his house?

  • Interested in Neighborhood Harmony

    Perhaps the best use of this space is to figure out what people on both sides want in place of Signature Place.

    Both sides want something new, right?

  • UniversityMeadows

    I am embarrassed that Allan Liebel is a leader in the LANC. As a resident of University Meadows I think it is very unprofessional to use your position of power to influence those in our neighborhood. Let me be VERY CLEAR on this point – if the president of the University Meadows Neighborhood Association had come forth and publicly told the Association about his participation I would not be so upset. But, to allow LANC propaganda to litter our neighborhood is an embarrassment to the UMNA. Especially since he gave inside information on how to place a proxy vote to deny the support of the UNMA to Fairfield. I apologize to all who support Fairfield on behalf of University Meadows!

  • Katie

    Just to be clear, in the meeting at Ozona’s, Angela Hunt asked if everyone wanted a walkable neighborhood… not do you want the 10 ft + sidewalks with the retail right on the street. A neighborhood is as walkable as you make it… and our neighborhood is one of the most walkable in the area. Me and my family walk everywhere… to the grocery store, to petsmart, to Starbucks, to go out to dinner, to the dart rail… for everything. Having the retail set back (70+ ft. as previously requested by the opposition) will not stop anyone who truly wants to walk from walking to a store. It sounds like a poor excuse for laziness.

    When Angela Hunt asked if the neighborhood wanted the development like it is designed now, with teaser parking… I would say 65 percent of the people or more raised their hands.

    I too am disappointed that the opposition didn’t bother to invite me to their meeting. The meeting at Ozona’s was pretty highly publicized through the various articles written about the project. I am closer to this project that just about anyone (less than 35 ft), and I didn’t even receive a flyer. So much for voicing the concern of the neighborhood… it is sad to me that my neighbors aren’t willing to invite me to a meeting regarding my home and to hear my opinion. Instead they go about blissfully ignorant that the whole neighborhood sees things the way they do.

  • Betty Culbreath

    Neil Emmons city plan commission member is the problem he will organize opposition and make the applicant think he’s ok with their plan and wait until meeting day and slam dunk them. I served with him and saw it happen time and time again. I even spoke with Ms. Hunt whom I respect and support about him.

  • Birchbrook Manor Homeowner

    Come on 75206 & 75214


    Hello everyone! If you live in Angela Hunt’s district, in 75206 or 75214, we need your support! Please go to the website below and click on the tab “show support”, a letter will pop up and you just fill in the blanks and send it. Let’s welcome this 130 million dollar project into East Dallas! The hearing and voting will take place next Wednesday MARCH 26TH at City Hall. Thank you for your time.

  • Lovers Lane DART station

    We must not forget how VITAL this Fairfield project is to the Lovers Lane DART station. This project is 2 blocks away from this DART station! We have NO new urban developments to support this station . On top of the Lovers / Central bridge we have 3 FLAGS: one is for University Park; the State of Texas flag and then there is the City of Dallas flag! This shows the 2 cities coming together! On our side, wouldn’t it make sense to have a NICE NEW REDEVELOPMENT? This area could use this new development! Let’s not foget this area! Everyone is so preoccupied with the growth in Lake Highlands, Victory Park and West Village. We need to be heard over here, as this Fairfield project goes along with the future planning of Dallas!


  • http://NA Stacey

    Wow, I just got back from the council meeting today. That was incredibly intense! Has anyone ever seen it get that heated before? Thoughts?

    I personally would like to thank the all of us who came out (took off time from work and other responsibilities of such) to be a part of democracy in action! Also, thank you to those council members who spoke out on the issue. “Thank you” to Angela Hunt especially, who has really put in the efforts at this point to “hear” the neighborhood!

    I must admit that my husband and I walked back to work from the meeting feeling frustrated that we seem to have been misinformed at the last Ozona meeting about the purposes of the PD. I appreciated the council member next to Angela and the mayors concerns about the decision to move the project back to PD. But, are we now just caught up in a legislative nightmare that could have been easily fixed at the meeting this afternoon?

    Here is what I got from the concerns expressed:

    1) Worst case scenario – We won’t see this resolved in front of the city council until August because any random member of the opposition can pay $150 dollars to have this stalled in front of the planning commission and again in front of the city council. But it is important to note that Angela clarified to the room that the deal she has worked out with the developers will be supported by her from here on out. Does this mean we can stop taking off all these hours from work to attend the next 4 meetings, while we are stalled????

    2) The developer will likely spend another $1.5M on an investment while it sits for the next 5 months tied up in legislation when the consensus has already been made to move on the deal Angela has cut with the developer. (Granted the developer “is a big boy”…. But what if financing falls through before then?????)

    3) It was pointed out that all of the reasons why Angela wants a PD (height, density, setbacks, ect.) can be regulated most effectively by a Building Permit… Angela – please explain why a PD is needed at this point. I’m still confused; it appears that both the proposed Deed Restrictions and PD would have both ended us up in the court system (which I thought was your reason for the PD). I understood during the meeting that with a PD we (the neighborhood) can go after the owner with criminal charges if a PD restriction is broken and only civil charges if a Deed Restriction is broken. What else?

    If you had passed this with Deed Restrictions today and Fairfield sold tomorrow, would this still have to go through a building permit? Would the risk have then been that the next owner can propose anything in a building permit that they want (as long as they follow the loose Deed Restrictions)???

    4) This sets an awful precedent that Dallas is a city that makes progressive and council supported development wait in the face of millions of lost dollars. Waiting for what reason? At what cost? I’m not a developer, but I am in business and that sounds like a huge mistake. Uncertainty is the Death of Business Decisions…. Just look at our clumsy economy at this point. Everyone in my line of work is holding their breath in the boardrooms and currently making no decisions because there is still so much uncertainty in the market.

    5) Speaking of Economy — We all know the economy is soft. Will Fairfield loose financing or commitments from retailers in the next 5 months? The Mayor seemed to feel strongly that this is a possibility. What will we be left with then?

    Wow these are a lot of tough questions thrown out there. I’m interested to see your (Angela and the blog) responses. Unfortunately, the decision has already been made and I do acknowledge that we are now just playing Monday Night Quarterback.

    And, what about that guy who yelled “CORRUPTION” during the meeting? That was awesome! …I was secretly hoping someone would get dragged out of there by security… 🙂 Craziness I tell you! If you didn’t show up today; you missed a great meeting!


    Thank you Stacey! That was well said and such an honest post coming from another supporter. I felt and feel the same way. Thank you for putting it in letter form.

  • Snoop Dizzle

    I’m a new addition to the area and obviously late to the game.

    Can someone clarify exactly what is proposed for parking for area? Is it a West Village type area, with internal parking and buildings right up to the street? Or is it an Old Town type development, with parking in front and the shops/apts set back?