A planned development at Gaston-Garland-Grand could be a mini-Timbercreek
Here’s a column I didn’t think I was going to have to write. Lincoln Property is perhaps the most reputable developer in Dallas, and their projects have included The Village apartments and the Old Town shopping center. That’s why I had such high hopes for the company’s new project at Gaston, Garland and East Grand.
Unfortunately, those of us who expected Lincoln to dazzle us with their vision for the redevelopment of the intersection will not need sunglasses. Lincoln’s plans are as disappointing as they are pedestrian, the kind of 1990s strip center that foresighted developers are trying not to build these days.
Lincoln had a chance to give East Dallas and Lakewood a real estate development to rival West Village and Mockingbird Station. Instead, it looks like they’re going to give us a drive-thru Starbucks as part of a mini-Timbercreek.
This is, of course, the company’s privilege. When Lincoln bought the land that’s home to the White Rock YMCA and the all-but-empty strip center across the street, they paid for the right to do whatever they wanted, zoning willing. And it’s probably our fault for expecting a real estate developer to do something other than the cheapest, easiest and simplest thing they could do to make money. This is Dallas, after all, where West Village and Mockingbird Station are the exceptions, and monstrosities like Timbercreek — with its traffic congestion, parking snarls and more traffic congestion — are what most developers aspire to.
But we had such high hopes. Lincoln, after all, was not supposed to be most developers. Its Village Apartments, in a town where apartment complexes get flipped more often than coins, is legendary for its stability and for being part of the neighborhood. Its purchase of the Lakewood shopping center last summer seemed to herald new life for this venerable property.
Instead, Lincoln’s big plan for the Lakewood center is to move the UPS store to Gaston-Garland-East Grand and bring in a Freebirds burrito restaurant. Because, of course, there aren’t nearly enough Mexican restaurants in and around that corner. Maybe they can bring in a liquor store, too.
Given this approach, it’s no wonder company officials think the drive-thru Starbucks, which they want to build across from the current YMCA site, is such a good idea. Or that the city should rename Garland Road to Arboretum Boulevard, which is so funny that I don’t even need to think of a joke to go with it.
Lincoln says the anchor tenant at Gaston-Garland-East Grand will be a grocery store, which by itself is not such a bad thing. But, apparently, that’s all that’s going to be there — no mixed use, no residential, nothing to make the corner any different from the strip centers anywhere else around here.
Which, in case anyone hasn’t noticed, are no longer the future of neighborhood retailing. Build a mini-Timbercreek, with its fast-food pad sites, messed up traffic and rotating tenants, and we stand a decent chance in 10 years of trying to figure out what to do with another failed strip center (as our friends in Lake Highlands can testify). And it’s not like this site hasn’t been a failed strip center before.
This analysis of Lincoln’s proposals is based on what it has told East Dallas neighborhood groups. Robert Dozier, who handles media inquiries for Lincoln about this project, didn’t call me back. But if this is all Lincoln is going to do, there was no reason to.
The only good news about all of this? That none of it is guaranteed. Lincoln may need a zoning change to do the Gaston-Garland-East Grand development, and those who believe our neighborhood deserves more than a mini-Timbercreek will probably fight that. In addition, Lincoln is probably going to ask the city for money to help pay for the project, which will entail another fight that could be even messier. At some point, even this city council will get tired of passing out tax dollars to every developer who can afford to build the project without the city’s help.
Those fights, at least, will not disappoint me. They’re exactly the kind of thing I expect from real estate developers.