Construction in Snider Plaza

The beleaguered Park Plaza project is underway in Snider Plaza.

It may be the only construction site that threatened the University Park mayor’s seat, but it will not be the only one disrupting the peace and quiet of the Park Cities in the next two years.

At press time, the new Snider Plaza mixed-use development was set to kick off June 19 with the demolition of the long-vacant former Chase building at the corner of Hillcrest and Daniel avenues. Eight weeks have been allotted for the demolition, according to University Park public information officer Steve Mace, with construction set to be completed in fall of 2018.

“This level of construction is really unprecedented, in terms of our city’s history,” Mace said. Demolition of University Park Elementary school, right across Lovers Lane from Snider Plaza, was set to begin the same week.

“Then in fall, we’re going to have major renovation going on at the middle school,” Mace said. “It’s probably the most active time in the city’s history.”

HPISD’s middle school and all four – soon to be five – elementary school rebuilds will also coincide with the new Seay Tennis Center being built on the Highland Park High School campus. That’s without including the Tolleson Family Activities Center at Highland Park United Methodist Church, the city of University Park’s Holmes Aquatic Center, and major renovations at Highland Park Village.

“Then the town of Highland Park threw in some road construction on Preston,” Mace said. Livingston Avenue, Mockingbird Lane, and Dallas North Tollway will also be affected.

“These are all pretty major [undertakings] that will be truly influencing the drives through the Park Cities for the next 18 months [to] two years,” Mace said.

“Some of these projects are on, or in close proximity to, Hillcrest, Lovers, Preston, or Mockingbird; and any time you mess with those roadways, traffic problems ensue.”

The city of University Park, the town of Highland Park, SMU, and Highland Park ISD sent out “pardon our dust” mailers in mid-May to all Park Cities constituents’ mailboxes, while also informing residents of upcoming projects and impacts on social media.

Developer Jim Strode, who purchased the former Chase building in 2015, crunched the plans for the Park Plaza project through the UP City Council in October 2016, following months of battling neighbors who resisted the mixed-use development.

By the developers’ reckoning, it would bring a potential traffic increase of 4,800 cars per day.

The neighborhood group “UP Residents for Neighborhood Friendly Development” even called for University Park Mayor Olin Lane to step down, insisting that their voices were not being heard by the city council, and that the Park Plaza project was not in line with the character of the neighborhood.

The plans outline a building that is not to exceed 86 feet tall — lower than the original plan, but still 26 feet taller than what previous zoning allowed — and will cover 119,000 square feet.

According to Omniplan’s website, plans provide for “a state-of-the-art office building … complemented by high-end retail stores, restaurant space with outdoor balcony seating, below-grade parking for 700 cars, and an outdoor pedestrian plaza.”

Mace said another mailer would likely go out January or February 2018 to update residents on the progress of various construction projects.

The Park Plaza office and retail project will replace the former Chase building. (Rendering courtesy Omniplan)

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