“It’s just too bad that — unlike seemingly every other builder in the city — Lincoln isn’t asking for a big handout to build a fancy, new mixed-use (retail and residential) project on what the City has previously identified as the gateway to White Rock Lake. … Here’s a site that most taxpayers probably wouldn’t mind seeing subsidized a bit because of the immediate impact it would have on development to the north, east and south.”

That was Advocate president Rick Wamre in his post last week about Lincoln Property’s Co.’s plans for Gaston-Garland-East Grand. Wamre also noted that he has done his share of complaining of taxpayer-subsidized retail projects in Dallas.

The best example of this was Wamre’s diatribes against Downtown’s convention center hotel. (Dallas voters didn’t agree with him, instead opting to pay for the hotel.) And in April 2009, in response to the city’s May referendum asking voters to approve $500 million in revenue bonds that would pay for a hotel Downtown, we published a story imagining how the city might instead use one-fifth of that money to redevelop a an intersection in our neighborhood.

Gaston Garland East Grand rendering AlstonWhere did we choose to focus our hypothetical $100 million investment? None other than Gaston-Garland-East Grand. Norman Alston of Norman Alston Architects, who is a Hollywood-Santa Monica resident, gave us his vision for that intersection along with a rendering so we could visualize it, too. (Click on it for a larger view. You’ll note that it looks a little different than Lincoln’s plans, based on Steve Brown’s DMN write-up. Those renderings and plans announced at last summer’s neighborhood meeting are all the information we have; several Advocate staffers have placed several calls to Lincoln Property Co., and none of those calls have been returned.)

Alston’s ideas were similar to Wamre’s — five to six stories of mixed-use development, with 200 units of housing and about 250,000 square feet of retail and office space. Reworking the intersection was part of his idea, too, as well as pedestrian bridges spanning Gaston so that people living nearby wouldn’t have to brave traffic to cross to one side or the other.

We called Alston after last week’s semi-reveal of Lincoln’s plans, and asked what he thought, given that he had given it quite a bit of thought four years ago. For starters, he didn’t think “Arboretum Village,” as Lincoln has proposed calling it, is an apt description.

“They should have called the complex ‘Frisco on the Lake,’ ” Alston says. “I’ve done retail in the past, and this is pretty much what we were doing in 1983. That site could contribute so much more than a parking lot out front and big–box and small-box buildings in the back.”

Because that property “has been down so long and been such a problem for so long, it’s exciting to have something else happen there,” Alston acknowledges. But being that it’s “kind of the gateway to East Dallas,” he says he’s disappointed.

“It’s right next to wildlife preserve, right near the trail — all of these things combined make it such an important pivotal location, and I had always hoped something would be done there to play that up and expand on that site’s natural advantages,” Alston says. “What I see from what’s been posted, that’s not going to happen.”

The thing is, Alston notes, once Lincoln updates the site, it won’t change for years, probably decades.

“They’re going to put a lot of money into it, and no one else is probably going to come in in my lifetime” and redo it, he says. “This is kind of the one shot we have for a long time to do something special there. I think it’s better, but I don’t think it’s special.”

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