Neighbors unite over a mutual hatred of the residential project proposed on Garland Road

White Rock Community Church could be replaced with a high-density housing complex on Garland Road.
White Rock Community Church could be replaced with a high-density housing complex on Garland Road.

The neighbors around Garland Road are quick to tell you that they are not anti-development.

“We’re not like some East Dallas neighborhoods,” says Lou Simmons of Little Forest Hills. “We’re all for smart development.”

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But that, of course, is completely subjective. What appeals to one neighbor, another might find totally off-putting, like the hotly debated Panera project. Garland Road neighbors do, however, seem united in their displeasure of Lennar Multifamily Communities’ plans to build a residential complex that rises from four-stories at the street level, up to seven-stories in back.

“This is being done to the neighborhood,” says Patricia Gaffney president of Lake Park Estates Neighborhood Association, “without any thoughtful neighborhood input.”

Neighbors plan to give their input when the project heads to the Dallas Plan Commission next Thursday, when commissioners will decide if the higher-density project is appropriate for the busy thoroughfare.

The land at 9353 Garland Road currently houses White Rock Community Church along with a medical office building at  9335 Garland Parkway. Originally, Lennar touted plans for a mixed-use project with retail on the ground floor and residential up top. Neighbors could get behind that idea because it promoted walkability. During a community meeting in March, Lennar indicated it was dropping all plans for retail.

“Their theory is retail won’t be successful,” says Anita Childress of Forest Hills.

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At times, estimates ranged from 285-315 total apartments on the 4.33-acre site. Lennar did not respond to our calls for updated site plans or further information. Neighbors feel the number of units should be kept small.

“We believe [this project] would provide no real benefit to the neighborhood,” says Vail Fassett, president of the Little Forest Hills Neighborhood Association. “It will ruin the small-town feel of our neighborhood. And that’s why people move here, for that sense of community.”

Many are suspicious of Lennar’s authenticity when it seeks neighborhood input.

“They say, ‘Great, we’ll paint the building green instead of blue’ and call that neighborhood input,” says Patrick Blaydes of Little Forest Hills, who happens to be an urban planner by trade. “We reached out to [Lennar] and they didn’t want to consider our ideas.”

The neighbors know it might not be palatable to a national developer like Lennar, but they can’t help but pine for a project that would both be profitable and enhance the area. In general, they aren’t opposed to apartments, as long as it’s not a tall and looming building set right against the roadway.

“A developer can still make millions of dollars,” Blaydes says. He knows, he ran the numbers, although he admits it would be “a few” million each year in profit versus $10 million-$15 million.

In his ideal scenario, the church would be repurposed into a “Kessler-style theater.” The church hall is already equipped with a commercial kitchen, meaning it could become a “funky bar or restaurant,” he says.

“The congregation goes back to the 1800s, that’s something we should preserve,” Blaydes says. When it comes to developments, he’s most interested in “multipliers,” businesses that entice people to linger in the area by giving them the option to walk from, say, a nice dinner out to a live music venue.

Garland Road is becoming its own scene, drawing both unique independent businesses like Here Lounge, along with national chains like Chick-fil-A. With that added interest from businesses, neighbors have longevity in their eyes when they look down the street.

“We have to think of what this neighborhood will be in 20 years, 30 years or 50 years,” Blaydes insists.

That perspective, Councilman Mark Clayton says, is critical. While he thinks multifamily is an “appropriate use” for the property, he is not interested in signing off on a project that is largely unpopular.

“The look and feel and size need to reflect the neighborhood,” he says, “and what the people who live there want.”

Some neighbors have already made their voices heard behind the scenes, but plan to make it public during the project’s review next week. The plan commission meeting takes place at 1:30 p.m. on July 20 in council chambers.

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  • Michael Williams

    City staff said an extra 300-450 cars would not impact the area traffic, but a Panera would. I smell something rancid involving money, real estate and those who “are”. Please, guys, remember Mr. Hill and his buddies and where they went. You don’t want to join them and we don’t need the additional drama.

  • Michael Jung

    Estimate 6:30-7:00.

  • Michael Jung

    Not before 6:00.

  • Michael Jung

    5:00 at the earliest.

  • Michael Jung

    The case will come up no earlier than 4:00, probably later. More updates if possible.

  • Bring in Whataburger!

    Honestly, I don’t really give a crap what happens with that property. As long as the sun still comes up again tomorrow, and I can breathe in my first breath, who cares? Too bad we can’t get a strip club. 20 years ago, I had my choice of The Faire and PJ’s in East Dallas. Now I have to drive to NW HWY or Harry Hines for a peek at the good stuff!

  • plsiii

    haha, wait til you see the apartments and parking garage they want to build!

  • Michael Jung

    The case is the last item on a very heavy City Plan Commission docket that includes 19 zoning cases, 18 plats, 7 miscellaneous items, and 8 sign issues. It is very difficult to predict what time it will come up. I think people will be safe arriving at 4:00 to 5:00, and it could be later than that, but there will be increasing risk starting about 3:00. I will try to post updates on Thursday afternoon but may not be able to do so.
    It is very important that anyone with strong views on the subject appear at the hearing. (Not everyone has to speak.) Those who absolutely can’t attend can e-mail me their views at and I will forward the e-mail on to the other Commission members, but that is definitely less influential than showing up.

  • Bring in Whataburger!

    That’s got to be the ugliest church building ever.

  • plsiii

    Their initial plan was 285 apartments and 11,000 s.f. of retail… little has changed from that with the all the community “complaining.” Except for the got rid of the retail and gained 7ish more apartments. It’s not that there isn’t any ‘pleasing this crowd’ it’s that there has been very little movement on the developer’s end to please anyone but their profit margins.

    Save the trees, save the sanctuary, repurpose it. Provide a product that isn’t just more of the same apartments that are all around, as close as the adjacent properties! They threatened putting storage units here if the apartment deal falls through and a methadone clinic next door… personally I think their apartments are in line with the same land-hold tactics as storage units, they certainly have about the same design qualities and at least with a methadone clinic people will get desperately needed care!

  • WRLanger

    The reason Lennar probably got rid of retail is at the first community meeting everyone complained about traffic. The retail section of the developmebt created as many trip ends of traffic as the residential. So they listened to the neighborhoods demands fir less traffic, but now they want retail back? There is no pleasing this crowd.

  • Right?! I can’t imagine having another 500 or so people/cars in and out of there every day.

  • Yubnubeechop

    I’ve said it before: nobody is walking anywhere along Buckner and Garland. The area needs a Complete Streets overhaul or it’s never going to attain true neighborhood connectivity. “But muh traffic” doesn’t cut it anymore in an increasingly multimodal world.

  • Person

    “Hatred”? Really? Yeah, I know: “Yes, REALLY!!”

  • OxbowIncedent

    Thats already the busiest intersection in East Dallas there at Buckner & Garland Rd.

  • Los_Politico

    It’s a great idea, just not in my back yard!