Dallas city staffers agreed with the town of Highland Park’s persistent objection to a proposed high-rise apartment complex along Cole Avenue, adjacent to the Katy Trail and across the street from HP’s southern border.
The city’s plan commission, however, did not share the sentiment of Highland Park officials and residents who visited the council chambers at City Hall on Thursday. Commissioners voted against the recommendation of staff and supported the project, which would replace the existing Saltillo Apartments.
“I think this is a project that is in the best interests of Dallas,” said commissioner Paul Ridley, who added that such taller, higher-density apartment structures are one key to future development in the city. “We have to look at appropriate places that can support higher-density development, or else we can remain mired in the past. I think this makes sense.”
With the plan commission’s blessing, which came with only one objection, the proposed rezoning will be forwarded to the Dallas City Council for its approval.
The development would include a maximum of 258 luxury units and a building height of up to 84 feet. The multifamily zoning restrictions currently on the property allow for only 240 units and 36-foot buildings. The current two-story complex, which would be demolished, has 58 units.
It would include an underground parking garage and fitness center,
“We feel uncomfortable with the maximum number of units and the maximum height,” said Warren Ellis, a senior planner with the city of Dallas, explaining the staff’s recommendation for denial of the planned development subdistrict.
Dozens of Saltillo supporters wearing green stickers were on hand at the meeting, far outnumbering detractors including HP Mayor Joel Williams. There was a hint of provincialism in some of the comments by the handful of speakers on both sides.
“It’s my belief that the recommendation for denial is based on outside interests,” said Brenda Marks, president of the Oak Lawn Committee.
The project was proposed more than a year ago by a group headed by Otto Maly, who owns a commercial real-estate firm in Columbia, Mo., along with Dallas-based Provident Realty Advisors. They purchased the 2.4-acre property under the name Travis Cole Apartments LP.
“The way we attract people back to the city of Dallas is to create density in urban areas,” said Jerry Jackson, Provident vice president of development. “Our design respects the trail as a front yard.”
Many in opposition to the project spoke about protecting the integrity and beauty of the Katy Trail, a popular 3.5-mile pathway that winds though the Uptown and Oak Lawn neighborhoods.
“The trail is one of the most utilized and successful parks in the city of Dallas,” said Wayne Smith, a board member for Friends of the Katy Trail. “We need this park to exist as an urban oasis. The proposed increase in height and density is not compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.”
The application was filed with the city in February 2013, and in September, the HP town council passed a resolution against the development. Since then, it has openly encouraged its residents to lobby against it, citing increased traffic near Abbott Park and a negative impact on property values, among other issues.
“We need to protect the Katy Trail,” said Highland Park resident Ken Elmgren. “We cannot sacrifice our natural resources for the sake of development.”
After initial objections last fall, the developer revised its plans to increase the setback on the side of the complex facing the trail, and to offer a stair-step approach to building height, whereby only a portion of the complex would be eight stories. Jackson admitted the building would cast a shadow over the trail at certain times of the day.
In 2005, a different developer lobbied to build an eight-story apartment complex on the same site, but was denied by both the plan commission and the Dallas City Council.