It Looks Like Trammell Crow Will Shove Another Sam’s Club Down Dallas’ Throat

Here we are, during a week that brought all of the country's mayors to Dallas, when the city played host to a bunch of talking heads yammering on about how cars are evil, green is good, and yadda yadda, and Dallas' plan commission flashes the green light for the development of a big box development in the heart of its urban core. It kind of puts all the urban envisioning and future of Dallas stuff in perspective. How did this happen?

The fact that it looks like Trammell Crow will have no problem going ahead with its plans to build at Sam’s Club in the heart of one of the most high-valued, successful urban real estate markets in the state has to be one of the most unconscionable real estate wastes we’ve seen in some time. But the situation is also telling. Here we are, during a week that brought all of the country’s mayors to Dallas, when the city played host to a bunch of talking heads yammering on about how cars are evil, green is good, and yadda yadda, and Dallas’ plan commission flashes the green light for a big box development in the heart of its urban core. It kind of puts all the urban envisioning and future of Dallas BS in perspective.

How did this happen? Well, I think Rudy Bush hit the nail on the head a few weeks ago when he played the blame game, throwing the plan commission, city council, city staff — even himself (he was the city hall beat reporter at the time) — under the bus for not properly exercising the checks and balances in the city’s tool kit to help prevent something like a Sam’s Club in Uptown. I also believe Bush was right to insist that we should not blame Trammell Crow. 

Here’s the problem. For Trammell Crow the Sam’s Club project is a cut and dry deal. Sure, they knew what they were doing. They made sure their zoning language left a door open for big box retail before they closed on the land. They also knew that, as their Timbercreek Sam’s Club project has shown, big box and pad site developments near major traffic arteries provide two things anyone who wants to make money loves: they’re lucrative and they’re easy. 

I happened to have a conversation with a developer yesterday who was talking about a few projects he had going on, one in Dallas the other in Austin. The Dallas project is trucking ahead. The Austin project, though, is going to take some time. He basically said that — and I’m paraphrasing here — in Austin everything is more sophisticated when it comes to development. The city staff, the zoning laws, the neighbors. You can’t just walk in and drop down something even if it is a project that, in Dallas eyes, looks “urban.” This guy isn’t planning on building a Sam’s Club next to UT. It actually sounds like the type of thing that, if it was going in where the Sam’s Club will be, we’d all be applauding him for urban progress. But even still, he knows he has to tread lightly, get his ducks in a row, and be ready because the city expects that whatever he builds it will have to be exactly right for Austin.

Mayor Rawlings has been blowing the Dallas trumpet all week, and he’s going to continue until the mayors leave on Monday. He’ll take them to various sites and show off our best side. But this kind of complete and utter failure on the part of the city to prevent something so ridiculously out-of-place, something that will disrupt Uptown development for a generation, is indicative of just how far Dallas still has to go. There should be a new rule for city staff: if you’re green-lighting something the mayor would be embarrassed to bring Rahm Emanuel to, then don’t do it.


  • Glenn Hunter

    Pleasing Rahm Emanuel should be the new standard? Tell me that’s a joke, Peter.

    • Peter Simek

      Ha. Not pleasing Rahm Emanuel, building a city you’re actually proud of.

  • RWP

    Sorry, Peter, but I don’t understand why you or other media organizations are letting Trammel Crow off the hook. Don’t they have a responsibility to help rebuild this city wisely?

    • Peter Simek

      They’re not off the hook with regards to that responsibility. I’m merely being pragmatic. There will always be lazy developers who will try to get the highest return off the land with the least amount of difficulty/risk. The city needs to hold those developers to account. But yes, Crow should be ashamed that they are moving forward with this project, but they’re not because the market, economics, and all of that. For Crow the development exists more as an abstract figure than as a physical environment.

  • Eric

    Oh, come, oh, come, Rahm Emmanuel,
    And ransom captive Cityplace,
    That mourns in lonely exile here
    Until the Son of Trammel appear.
    Rejoice! Rejoice! Rahm Emmanuel
    Shall come to you, O Cityplace

  • Steven Ray

    Great write up… However the fact remains that the zoning is only for MU-3 and only allows for structures of u pto 100k sqft. Also as much as Trammell Crow insisted that they never tried to bait and switch the community it. It is also very clear that they did exactly that. “Here’s a pretty picture of a building that happens to look like a place where you can sit and enjoy the neighborhood you live in. Don’t you like it?” 9 months later the rendering of the patio seating is a drive thru for a fast food restaurant. And the 3 hip looking stores are one huge discount warehouse. Yeah that’s the same thing right. Not to mention the gas station that’s conveniently hidden in the renderings. Trammel Crow Village

  • jmckee

    How will this disrupt Uptown development? Uptown is almost completely developed while this is an empty parking lot. Uptown zoning is completely different than the zoning in this case, the way district 2 operates is completely different than Uptown’s district 14.

    This would have never happen in Uptown in a million years, it would be basically impossible in PD 193, I would say it would be unlikely in most of district 14 if not all of it. There is a lot of stuff going on here about Dallas being forward thinking but this is an empty parking lot in an area with a lot of public housing and large store that sells expired food, it’s a bit much to make broad statements about how an area like Oak Lawn is and can be developed based on this.

    • Los_Politico

      Chillax, he’s talking about how the market forces building Uptown are spilling over Central and down towards Ross.

    • Chris

      While we’re speaking of making broad statements, obviously you don’t live over here based on the fact that you think this Sam’s is being built on an arbitrary and empty parking lot, which is completely false.

  • Jonas Park

    I’m one of the organizers of No Megastore Uptown movement. As Steven Ray commented, the notice sent out was faulty letting the neighbors know it is a mega box store they were planning. As channel 8 news pointed out, the elevation the crow company and the lobbyist Dallas Cothrum sold to the residents calling it “east village” had 3 anchor stores with fibrous names, Trine, …Goods and Solstice, now it is a huge single Sam’s club. Some residents specifically asked them at the reservation if they plan any box doors such as Costco out Sam’s, they were told “no”. In December 2013, a resident (I’m keeping his name private) called one of the crow people who ere at the meeting if they knew what does were going in, he was told Crow’s didn’t know. But the elevation CROW’S submitted to the city dated stamped August 2013 specifically shows Sam’s club logos ask over. If this isn’t a lie, what is? What we saw at the hearing yesterday, the city lawyers and zoning commissioners lack of sense of civic duty to look after their citizens not working on their conscience. We were even accused of being racists and bigots when ask we wanted was to have a fair hearing be given to public. As Crow’s Kirk Williams claimed that over 70% people surveyed wanted Sam’s club, having a fair public hearing would actually help them quieting the oppositions. Guess how many prop crow’s were at the hearing. 5 crow’s officials and a civilian who lives in Addison! While we had over 100 people wanting a fair hearing that they never got. Thus kind of unjust didn’t not deter us, it only galvanized us. Yesterday’s hearing was just a hiccup and we are here for a fight all the way to victory.

  • imagirl2

    Perhaps they should build it in HP or PH.

  • Chuck Marcelo

    thank you for continuing to shed light on this and holding officials accountable for this urban planning disaster. I hope it galvanizes home owners associations to be stronger, more united and vocal.

    Companies are ultimately motivated by profit and should be treated accordingly despite the image facade they develop for public consumption.

  • Greg Brown

    Fascinating. In an article last month, D-Mag completely trolled the Lake Highlands residents that decried the use of public park space for private development. How is this current issue different? Mindless development is mindless development.

    Let me put it in D-Mag speak: Trammel Crow just wants to be able to buy a beer in this area (and make a load of money while doing it). Why are all these liberal NIMBY residents against Mr.Crow buying a beer? They need to look at the bigger picture and embrace development so that their neighborhood doesn’t, um. . . .er. . . .decline? Sure. Let’s go with that.

    Really looking forward to Mr. Celeste’s “insight” into this matter in the next issue.

  • Jonas Park

    I should have spell checked. Typing a long response from a phone always has that risk.

  • TheSlowPath

    You do realize this was written by Peter Simek, not Celeste.

    It’s almost as if D Magazine employed individual writers and they wrote individually with individual ideas and were not part of some monolithic thought-factory.

  • David

    Agree with everything stated in the article and your comment. Having lived in the area, I witnessed the growth that was gaining momentum in 2005 that was stagnated by the economic downturn in 2007-2008. With so many projects recently completed and in process in the area, that momentum was only recently regained. Dropping this eyesore on that site will similarly devastate the continued responsible growth. FYI, Kirk Williams is not actually with Trammell Crow:

  • Petra K

    The headline says, “Trammel Crow will shove another Sam’s Club down Dallas’ throats.” Later in the document, you reverse course and say, “I also believe [Rudy] Bush was right to insist that we should not blame Trammell Crow. ”

    First, these are clearly mixed messages. Second, this is how you played the restaurant at Winfery Point. That is, saying that the developers are not the bad guys. Third, its perplexing why this is the first post about Sam’s Club. Afraid of making your patrons mad?

  • jmckee

    Let me preface this by saying as a property owner in Uptown I am completely opposed to a Sam’s club in the area but…

    The demographics of Sam’s Club are actually surprisingly decent, relatively high income and educated, the site is currently home to a parking lot and an abandoned building and right down the street is DHA and a home to all of your expired food needs, Big Lots. Even without the SUP permit for a big lots you could still build a 99,000 sqft store, actually under current zoning you could build lots of not desirable stuff like a Big Lots.

    As far as I can tell Medrano kept his mouth shut on all of this, I actually suspect he would be quite a bit happy to get a lot of low skilled jobs in his district, especially near DHA property.

    I guess my point is your beef seems to be with the underlying zoning which has been there for quite a long time, it’s terrible, you don’t seem to have the support of Medrano, what’s the plan here? I just don’t see the argument, protecting zoning you don’t really have for a walkable neighborhood? ForwardDallas is non-binding, Dallas loves nothing more than going up with detailed, sometimes unrealistic plans that they completely ignore. As I mentioned earlier in the point Simek brought up about this being bad for Dallas if you just cross the highway this is something that the zoning would never allow. Why attack this on what is basically a technicality of single store zoning in a sea of terrible zoning?

  • jmckee

    Oh, one more point, I assume you are the same Jonas Park…

    “Trammell Crow reps had seemed to listen eagerly to his proposals to urbanize the Sam’s Club by eliminating surface parking and creating a more “park-like setting” only to thoroughly ignore them. They preyed on his naive trust. His heart, he says, is broken.”

    You didn’t seriously think that they were going to eliminate surface parking, did you? You might as well have asked for a unicorn that pooped candy. Part of getting anything in a negotiation like this is asking for reasonable things, they can already build lots of terrible stuff under current zoning even without the SUP. TC knows what they are doing, if you want to battle with them you have to be reasonable.

  • Greg Brown

    Some publications prefer to take a consistent stand on issues. Others print whatever stand on the issue pays them the most. Which path do you believe DMag follows?

  • bealotcoolerifyoudid

    Isn’t the market just another term for people? If people didn’t shop at Sam’s they wouldn’t want a third Sam’s within 5 miles of each other. But people do, so they do. The monster isn’t Crow or Sam’s, it is us. They merely sell us what we want (in bulk).

    As for Crow, didn’t they make millions when they sold Timber Creek? Did people really think they wouldn’t want to reproduce that formula?

  • Stan Aten

    The bigger question is what happens when Sam’s Club closes their store? If you go up to Park Lane, you say a vacant Sam’s Club that they will not sell to anyone. Sam’s Club is not doing that well and it is entirely possible that this location won’t do well and then you could end up with a bigger vacant lot.

    • OxBowIncident

      I think this is true. I think an interesting comparison of similar demographics would be to see how the Walmart on Greenville Ave. and Belmont is performing compared to other Walmart’s, particularly outside the LBJ corridor.

      I do not think developers are the bad guys, just the developers and project managers that have no sense of class or ethics. Something tells me that the old Trammel Crow would have been more sensitive to this older, more historical, part of Dallas while this new, CBRE Trammel Crow now appears to be run by outside corporate interests with no concern about community and motivated by pure economic greed.

  • LindaUptown

    So, for the live of god. If everyone is opposed to this, why can’t it be stopped?! I’m sitting in a prime example of successful urban development right now — South Lake Union in Seattle — and if this is what we’re going for, a SAMs’ Club does not fit.

  • Mavdog

    First, Walmart (Sam’s Club) do not own the property at Park and Greenville where the former Sam’s Club is located.
    Second, the argument you make is falacious, Sam’s is doing fine financially (that’s why they are building new ones), and if the store were to close there is demand for the property to (again) be redeveloped. That’s when a true “urban development” that people seem to want could be done.

  • tested

    All this talk is fine…but pointless. This will wind up in court and a judge will decide if Crow broke any ordinances.

  • Eric Foster

    All this means is the City Place neighbors are being treated like everyone else in the 99% by having a Wal Mart or Sams or both in their neighborhood.

    How humiliating.

  • Organizacion Comunidad De Alviso
    This small town of 2,000 plus residence in Alviso California is not taking any crap from Trammell Crow.

  • Organizacion Comunidad De Alviso
    This small town of about 2,000 plus residence in Alviso California is not taking any crap from Trammell Crow.

  • Tex

    I, for one, would welcome Sam’s Club to Uptown. I believe Trammell Crow does have its finger on the pulse of the city, and Sam’s Club will be a welcomed addition to the area.

  • Tex

    “Yesterday’s hearing was just a hiccup and we are here for a fight all the way to victory.” – Jonas Park

    Good luck getting a court to order Trammell Crow to tear down the Sam’s Club after it is built and operating.

    Why not accept it and enjoy shopping at the new Sam’s Club coming to your neighborhood?

  • Tex

    Looking forward to seeing you at this new Sam’s Club after it opens for business… ;->