When word spread that several mature cedar elm trees in Casa Linda Plaza were not long for this world, neighbors rallied, making calls to the property owner Edens and City Councilman Mark Clayton. After an appearance by Clayton at the plaza, a change.org petition and many calls to Edens, a meeting has been arranged between the developer and neighbors to see if a compromise can be reached.
Casa View neighbor Taylor Slovak saw a post about the tree removal on NextDoor and began to organize. She started a petition, which now has over 500 signatures, and reached out to other neighborhood leaders to see what could be done.
“Yes its only five trees,” she says. “But it speaks to a bigger message to other developers.”
Edens, who owns the property, went through the proper channels to remove the trees, and is by law allowed to follow through with their plan. But after receiving pushback from the community, Slovak says she has a meeting scheduled with Edens for next Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Edens couldn’t confirm the timing of this meeting, but says they are working with Councilman Mark Clayton’s office to find a time to meet with the community to further discuss the plan. The original project timeline did not call for the trees to be removed at this point.
In conversations with Slovak, Edens Managing Director Tom Kiler discussed their vision for the shopping center. Most of the improvements are welcome, but the conflict is over the mature trees in the middle of the plaza, which Edens says need to be removed in order to make the center more pedestrian friendly. They are also planting more trees than currently exist in the area.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Mark Clayton wrote, “The developer indicated to me today that the plan is to pull the parking out closer to Buckner in order to widen the sidewalks and make the entire space more pedestrian friendly…Obviously, it looks bad when the first thing you’re doing is pulling out five trees and landscaping. However, the redesign of the complex and parking will add 20 additional trees that aren’t there today and more landscaping.”
Clayton continued, “The City has a tree mitigation plan and they are doing more than the City even requires them to do. They could do just the bare minimum and that’s all the City can require. However, these developers are long term holders and have done really, really nice projects around the country. You’re not going to get a concrete skating rink.”
Slovak is assembling a team of neighbors to meet with Edens, and hopes to bring an alternate design for the plaza on the southeast corner of Buckner and Garland that achieves Edens’ goals while preserving the trees in question. Patrick Blaydes, co-president of Little Forest Hills Neighborhood Association and project manager at Better Block, plans to help with a new design along with other professionals in the neighborhood. They hope to present Edens with a compromise acceptable to all parties.
“That little area is a little piece of history,” Slovak says. “Our landscape is what makes us so unique.”
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