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Despite Unhappy Neighbors, Replacing Old Lochwood Church with Apartments Is One Step Closer to Approval

Ojala Holdings won City Plan Commission approval for its Garland Road mixed use development Thursday, but neighbors vow to fight them as the matter heads to the City Council.
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Ojala Holdings' proposed development, The Standard Shoreline, would place 300 multifamily units on the Garland Road property formerly owned by Shoreline City Church. Courtesy Ojala Holdings

Ojala Holdings, the developer that plans to build a 300-unit apartment complex on Garland Road where Shoreline City Church was located, got its first win last week. The Dallas City Plan Commission voted unanimously in favor of rezoning the property from single family residential to a planned development that would allow for multifamily apartments and mixed use. 

Getting to a unanimous vote took nine months, 60 discussions (some in the form of community meetings, some in the form of conversations with residents), and a lot of finagling. The project, dubbed The Standard Shoreline, can now advance to the City Council. Some of the public meetings were packed with neighbors who shouted at public officials and alleged that the development would attract crime and allow renters to see into their properties.

All told, Ojala Holdings is proposing 300 units, 282 in the form of a four-story apartment complex, and 18 townhomes. The developer has agreed to provide 51 percent of the units as workforce housing, meaning it would be rented to people earning 60 to 80 percent of the area median income for Dallas—people like teachers and first responders. (For a single person, that would be between $37,380 and $49,850; a family of four would need to earn between $53,400 and $71,200.)

It also has plans for an art park, office space, an enclosed parking garage, and 25,000 square feet of greenspace.

The project would be a partnership with the Dallas Public Facility Corporation. The city of Dallas would own the land and Ojala would own the buildings. If previous PFC partnerships are any indication, the city will give Ojala a 75-year property tax exemption and require a flat structuring fee. Past arrangements have been in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million dollars. Ojala would enter into a lease agreement that would be a percentage of the taxes it would have been responsible for without the incentives. The percentage will increase by about 3 percent annually, and, based on previous deals, will likely start at 25 percent of the total.

Other protections can be built into the contract. For instance, Dallas could allow city crews to fix maintenance problems if they aren’t addressed by the developer in a timely manner, for which the city could then bill Ojala.

On Thursday, the number of people speaking for and against the project was about equal. On one hand, affordable housing advocates argued that the desperate need for workforce housing in Dallas made this project desirable. But many residents were unhappy despite the changes to the original plan, citing issues with stormwater retention, increased traffic, the 60-foot height of the 282-unit multifamily apartments that will be built in addition to 18 townhomes, and the way the project is financed. 

The latter, CPC chair Tony Shidid reminded speakers, was not something the commission was charged with considering. Commissioner Michael Jung, who represents District 9—including Lochwood and the church property—acknowledged the concern about the financing, but added, “That is not a land use consideration, and concerns about that aspect of the project should be directed elsewhere.”

Speakers opposing the project Thursday were adamant that they weren’t against it because they disliked the proximity to affordable housing. “This is not about keeping low income families out of our neighborhood,” one speaker said, adding that she and her neighbors would be happier with a three-story building because the Lochwood neighborhood “cherishes its treeline view.” Other commenters insisted that developers would be able to make the project work financially and keep the structure to two or three stories. 

“The original plan for this project has changed radically based on the comments, desires, and suggestions of the public, the staff, the Garland Road Vision Task Force, and several members of this commission,” Jung said. “The project is a much better project because of that participation.”

Jung said Ojala changed the development to protect existing trees, added an extended 15-foot landscape buffer, and improved its orientation to offer more options for pedestrians thanks to a public art park and a creative office space and artists’ studio. The development will also ban short-term rentals. In addition, it will plant new trees that reach 40 to 80 feet when mature.

In previous discussions, Ojala Holdings said it couldn’t make the project work as an affordable housing option without the four-story structure. The development positions the four-story building adjacent to an existing area zoned for multifamily housing. It places six two-story townhomes and a retention pond closest to the adjacent homes. The impacted part of Lochwood is currently bordered by commercial zoning (which allows for a height of 54 feet, which is about five stories), single family residential, and multifamily zoning.

The four-story structure would be nearly 60 feet tall, but Ojala had agreed to a 3-to-1 residential proximity slope that would provide more distance between the taller building and the property line of the homes closest to the project.

The site is actually situated well for the kind of project Ojala is proposing, Jung said.

“The site is on a commercial corridor along a six-lane state highway that is a major arterial thoroughfare. It is long and narrow, and I think multi-family use is a reasonable and appropriate use for the property,” he said. “The project will provide much-needed housing, will serve as a catalyst for improvement to this part of Garland Road, which is sorely in need of investment and renewal.” 

The commissioner said he asked Ojala early on to consider a three-story project. 

“Their response was that the project would not be economically viable at three stories,” he said. “I then asked the applicant to approach the property owner about a renegotiation of the land sales price that would make a three-story project viable. The applicant did that but was unsuccessful. The question is not three versus four stories. The question is four stories versus denial.”

Commissioner Melissa Kingston addressed the neighborhood, empathizing with their concerns. “In my community, which is single family like this one, there was an eight-story apartment building built, and it was not well received by the community,” she said. “But I will say this, now that it’s there and you get to know some of the people who live there, and you see some of the benefits of having that density in terms of support for local businesses, it really isnt as bad as it may seem today.”

Kingston agreed with Jung, adding that Ojala did a lot of work to talk to the community and take their concerns into consideration when revising its original plan.

“There are no guarantees that you will retain a view or retain use of a neighboring property unless you purchase that property,” she reminded them. “We desperately need housing in this city, and this project has a substantial amount of workforce housing that we desperately need.” 

The matter will likely go before the City Council for the first time next month, and the Lochwood Neighborhood Association is already preparing for a fight.

“The claims that we are using height to indirectly oppose affordability are completely false,” the association says on its website. “If this complex was 100 percent market rate, we would still oppose a 60 foot, four-story complex … It’s not over. Council ultimately decides whether or not this is approved.”

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson

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Bethany Erickson is the senior digital editor for D Magazine. She's written about real estate, education policy, the stock market, and crime throughout her career, and sometimes all at the same time. She hates lima beans and 5 a.m. and takes SAT practice tests for fun.

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