After a lot of work by a lot of people under the leadership of City Plan Commission Chair Hector Garcia, progress is apparent on upgrading the Henderson Avenue area.

In September, a community meeting was held at the new John F. Kennedy Learning Center at Ross and Henderson to get the community’s input.

About 50 people – representing neighborhood residents, business owners and other stakeholders – showed up and in straw vote gave about 86 percent support to a future Planned Development District, or “PD,” for Henderson from Central to Ross.

As described by City staff, the PD would not make any existing businesses, residences and structures non-conforming. This is important, as any zoning change that makes businesses or buildings non-conforming, and thus puts them in danger of being terminated, and is usually subject to political opposition and City Council concern. Therefore, the PD would only apply to future development.

The PD would be divided into five subdistricts, two of which would be for residential uses only with the other three being a mix of business and residential uses.

In the three “mixed-use” subdistricts, the PD would not permit any new commercial uses not already permitted, although a few currently permitted uses that were deemed inappropriate for the area would be deleted.

The new PD would also provide for urban design standards for new construction or major remodeling. The design standards, which would have some built-in flexibility, would have as their purpose the creation of a well-designed, attractive and pedestrian-friendly environment.

In order to accomplish all of this, the Henderson Avenue Task Force and City staff will likely soon recommend the adoption of a zoning change to institute the Henderson Avenue PD.

This process works like any other zoning change, with public hearings before both the City Plan Commission and the City Council. One major difference is that the notification area is expanded to 500 feet from the proposed PD boundary.

The Plan Commission hearing was scheduled for last month, and the City Council hearing should be held soon. A PD should go a long way toward stabilizing and improving the quickly redeveloping Henderson Avenue area and the adjoining Vickery Place and Cochran Heights neighborhoods.

With all of the widely diverse stakeholders who live, work or own property in the area, to come up with such a constructive plan with such broad support is a testament to the leadership of Garcia and the work of the task force.

New Apartments Planned on Liberty

Upscale apartment developer JPI recently announced plans for a 428-unit complex to be built on Liberty Street between San Jacinto and Live Oak on the southwest side of Bryan Place. Continuing the trend of inner-city residential development ringing Downtown, the four-story complex would be built on some of the numerous parcels of vacant land in the area still held by Lentex, the original developer of Bryan Place.

As recently as a couple of years ago, there was substantial concern in the Bryan Place neighborhood over the fact that Bryan Place itself, built out with low-rise condos and houses, was mostly surrounded by more dense multi-family zoning with an obvious and continuing trend towards apartment construction.

However, while Bryan Place residents have expressed some concern about increased traffic and density in the neighborhood, JPI has a good track record of building quality projects and carefully dealing with adjoining communities.

In inner-city Dallas, JPI has done successful developments on Cedar Springs in Oak Lawn, replacing a well-known local eyesore, and more recently has successfully developed Gaston Yards in Deep Ellum.

The zoning to build apartments on Liberty Street appears to already be in place with replatting of the land into one tract and closure of parts of Allen Street, the only actions for which City permission is needed. Some Bryan Place neighbors seem to want the blockface on Liberty Street to be developed with townhouses, but the economics of the project may make this unlikely.

On the other hand, with any future backzoning of the area being unlikely given the City’s commitment to encouraging multifamily development in the inner-city, the neighborhood is probably much better off negotiating with JPI with its record of quality development and talking to communities, rather than taking potluck on whoever else might come along to do multifamily development on the site.

Brief Observations

A large vacant lot at Prospect and Hubert, tucked away in the southern part of the Lower Greenville area, looks like it will undergo development for townhome sites. A construction trailer was placed on the site recently, and a sign spotted in the lot indicated that a Board of Adjustment case (perhaps to adjust setbacks?) had been filed.

Secondly, with consolidation of the magnet high schools at Townview in Oak Cliff, the old Health Professions Magnet at Ross and Carroll has been turned into a big pile of rubble. Assuming that the land is owned by Dallas Public Schools, the question becomes whether the site will be used for another school-related project, held for awhile or sold to another user.

We’ll try to find out more about these issues for next month.