Drive-thru, grocery store, snore

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.

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  • Dawn

    Agreed William. The smart folks at Good 2 Go and Goodfriends have tapped into the East Dallas energy and given us what we want, finally! AND they are reaping the financial rewards of understanding their customers, as any good brand planner would do. This section at Gaston and Garland has SO much going for it that it is a shame the best they can come up with is a grocery store and UPS. Truly sad given that this property sits on the southern edge of Dallas’ most coveted park system, White Rock Lake. Don’t even get me started on the possibilities of the Arboretum.

  • Anonymous

    The problem is that it’s a drive through development that wont last one generation, much less the multiple generations that truly loved places last.

    The specific stores will come and go, but the asphalt will be with us a long time.

  • Claysetsfire

    So getting a Starbucks in bad, but both  West Village and Mockingbird station have one. Useable services like UPS and other stores are a bad thing? I am really at a loss to see how redeveloping this area with good space for business to open and grow is a bad thing? Also this area needs a grocery store that isn’t WholePaycheck or a run down-miss managed Albertsons. Sometimes the price of “mixed use” make it hard for start-ups to move in and thrive. I just find it odd to say its a yawn and need to be more like West Village or Mockingbird station when those are exactly what you don’t want with some overpriced apartments and a movie theater. Okay a movie theater would be nice, as long as its not one of those that serves food

  • Clay

     new signage I get, but if the business fails because it had to buy new business card or update a few lines of code on their website, they weren’t doing to good to start with

  • leia

    1.That area needs a grocery store, and the YMCA space would be perfect to remodel for that. 

    2. Anything that gets rid of that nightclub is good for that area. 3. The Starbucks in Lakewood is constantly overflowing, so the area obviously needs another one. 4. Maybe they are moving stores like the UPS store that way to make way for better places in the Lakewood Center, more of a town square than the triangle area ever could be?4. All in all I think the current plans are appropriate to the area, and alleviates some of the congestion in the heart of Lakewood. I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

  • EastSideAg

    This is at least an improvement from the current state of the property, but I too expected more from this.  There is just so much space there in the current parking and building footprints, and with the demand for residential in the area and Lincoln’s experience I’m surprised they aren’t incorporating at least some mixed-use into the project.

  • William Holston

    The best development in the area is Organic. Watch Good 2 Go Taco, Goodfriend, the new place Goodfriend’s will open, Lucky Dog Books, that’s all very cool, succesful and not a chain. I don’t care about name change, with one caveat, name change costs small business owners money. If Lincoln wants to do that, they can pay for the new stationary, signage and website updates.

  • wolfpack

    Annoying – Dallas never ceases to disappoint.  I was about a month away from leasing a spot for a restaurant in that center and I backed out because I wanted to see what Lincoln was going to do with the space.  Glad I didn’t do it.  I am starting to think that Mockingbird Station and WV were just flukes and it’ll never happen again.  

  • Hollywoodian

    What does “Too bad Sheffie is who they have to answer to on the Council”

  • Bubba

    That drive-thru Starbucks will be appreciated by all the Highland Parkers on their way to Arboretumland to learn about nature.

  • Robbie Good

    A very good point, Jeff. This could potentially be a humongous missed opportunity. I thought Lincoln was planning something special given the property backs up to Santa Fe Trail…

    I thought developers had learned the value of public spaces and amenities demonstrated by the Katy. Dallas leaders need to step in and do some zoning work that maximizes land use. 

    WE HAVE TO GET DENSER. There is no way around it. We need mixed use to be the new standard land use. Particularly within certain portions of the city.

  • Anonymous

    Too bad Sheffie is who they have to answer to on the Council. I also have no faith that most of our neighbors wouldn’t rather see strip malls than mixed-use