Gates Leads Study to Alleviate Traffic

Anyone who dines or shops in and around Preston Center knows how hairy the traffic can get.

That’s just one reason Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates is forging ahead with a land-use study.

“I would love to see Preston Center be more walkable, to communicate better with the neighborhood, and to not have the gridlock,” she said.

Gates first reached out to the North Texas Council of Governments in mid-August, and met with representatives on Sept. 18 to discuss scheduling a town hall.

At the time of print, a date for the town-hall meeting had not been selected, though Gates expressed her hope that it would be held sometime in October.

“I think it’s good that the city is looking at things,” Preston Hollow East Homeowners Association president Ashley Parks said. “It all depends on what they come out and say.”

In the proposed town-hall, Gates hopes to meet with influential community and neighborhood leaders such as Parks, as well as merchant groups and commercial owners.

As far as technicalities, the physical parameters for the study haven’t been determined yet, pending community input from the meeting.

She said a map would be presented at the meeting, partly in order to solidify those boundaries with community members in attendance.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about for a while, and I’m glad they’re looking at it,” Parks said. “I’d love to get some ideas and talk about what could be done there, what would look great, and what would be complementing the neighborhood.”

And though Preston Hollow East is one of the better-known associations in the area, Gates wants input from all angles — literally — not just “behind the pink wall.”

“They would need to be from both sides of Preston [Road] and also south of Preston Center,” Gates said. “I want the product to be not just what I want for the neighborhood, but what the community wants for the neighborhood.”

Lately, there have been whispers of change coming to Preston Center, but so far, some major projects have fallen through.

Take, for example, Highland House. The proposed 23-story apartment building by Crosland Group faced intense opposition from the community and eventually was tabled by the Dallas Plan Commission this summer, and the plans were withdrawn.

The land in question has since been sold to Gates’ former opponent, developer Leland Burk.

“There were a lot of issues, and not just the residential,” Parks said. “They were going to be double what the current zoning height was.”

Even though this specific proposition was shot down, it proves why zoning regulations need to be reviewed in the area.

“I would like to have a plan in place so that we can base any type of zoning changes on a relevant master plan,” Gates said. “Right now, the only master plan for Preston Center was from 1989.”

After all, developments are being examined in commercial pockets all over Preston Hollow, such as Preston Hollow Village, where Leon Backes of Provident Realty Advisors is looking to create a mixed-use development at Walnut Hill Lane and North Central Expressway.

“I don’t think it’s prudent to make decisions or change zoning when we don’t have good data to base it on,” Gates said.

Gates estimated that the study will take about 12 to 16 months once a task force is formed and an outside firm is hired.

“We’d get things moving pretty quickly,” she said.

She also expressed that fundraising will still be a major component in planning the study, though NCTCOG would contribute a portion.

Although plans are still being sorted out, neighbors are hopeful for the outcome.

“Instead of just saying ‘here are the things we don’t want,’ I’d rather see what would be good for this neighborhood,” Parks said. “It’s all in infancy stages.”

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