By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Just at the end of one of Love Field's runways is an apartment complex that appears to have been shipped to Northwest Dallas from Fallujah, brick by broken brick. This complex, a gargantuan compound of broken bottles and rusty wrought-iron fences and shattered windows and overgrown weeds, sits almost directly across the street from Bachman Lake, which is less a lake than an oversized puddle but nonetheless qualifies as a scenic getaway in a city woefully lacking in natural wonders. Built in the mid- to late 1960s, the 223-unit complex called Lake North has been bereft of tenants for years, but this is the kind of place that looks like it would attract squatters and junkies. All that keeps them out is a flimsy chain-link fence.
By April 1, according to documents filed with the city's Code Compliance Division and City Attorney's Office, this complex is supposed to be rehabilitated or demolished, and the former is simply not an option. Most likely, something will be done--but precisely when and by whom are questions that, at this moment, have no easy answer.
Last fall, the City Plan Commission and the City Council approved the rezoning of the area, converting it from multifamily residential to community retail. That was done at the behest of Granite Redevelopment and Cross Development Co., which were to partner on the site and build, most likely, a new shopping center anchored by a large grocery store. But Cross is no longer part of the deal, says Masterplan Consulting's Dallas Cothrum, who represented the parties before the city, and Granite is also looking to bow out or find a new partner.
"It'll house what you think, which is all sorts of retail uses and some office uses," Cothrum says. "You could have a bank or even a medical clinic or a pharmacy...or it could end up being a big box [such as a Wal-Mart or a Costco]. Since we did a straight zoning case, we didn't have to commit to anything specific."
The problem is, there's already a Target near the site, as well as both a Walgreen's and a CVS and two major grocery stores. And a shopping center directly across the street, called the Village at Bachman Lake, has been in a slow decline for years, having lost Sound Warehouse, Chili's and, most recently, a Burger House and Office Depot. And whoever develops the site will have to chop down or relocate dozens of trees or make a hefty cash deposit into the park department's tree bank.
"I thought this would be a controversial rezoning case," Cothrum says, referring to Lake North's proximity to the increasingly empty Village center. "But no one showed up at the plan commission or council votes. It went straight through. The staff's only question was, 'Why do you need more retail there?' and I said, 'You can tell me how many square feet you have across the street, and it might as well be zero. [Lake North] is a good site. Whatever happens there would be better than what's there now. I just can't say what will happen by April 1."