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.