Tomorrow, At Last, Sylvan Thirty Zoning Goes to Plan Commision With City Staff's Thumbs Up

Tomorrow, At Last, Sylvan Thirty Zoning Goes to Plan Commision With City Staff's Thumbs Up

Brent Jackson posted a note this morning headlined: "City Approves Sylvan | Thirty Zoning Application." Well ... technically, no, that's not true. Nothing's been approved for Jackson's controversial mixed-use development at Sylvan and Fort Worth Avenue where the Cox Farms grocery store's supposed to take root. City staff has, however, recommended the City Plan Commission approve the zoning application tomorrow, when it finally goes before the CPC. Read all about it here, beginning on Page 402 of the PDF prepared for tomorrow's meeting.

I also asked Brent Brown, head of the CityDesign Studio, if he's good with the revamped application, which Jackson outlined last week. To which he responded this afternoon: "Staff made recommendations to advance the West Dallas Urban Structure and Guidelines, and if they're incorporated and adopted in the new zoning application," then, sure, that's a good start. But he too cautions against the use of the word "approves," since, again, those are just staff suggestions. Brown is also sure to make it clear: Richard Brown, the city planner sheparding this case through Sustainable Development, "has worked very hard on this in terms of securing performance" from Jackson.

A few of city staff's thoughts on the development follow. But here's one, concerning the so-called Gateway Plaza facing Sylvan:

Staff is continuing to work to define an appropriate menu of amenities to be provided in the area delineated as Gateway Plaza on the conceptual plan (Permissible Building A). As noted in the attached conditions, a varied setback is permitted in what could be an angled building façade for development at this corner.

The intended result is to create a strong presence at the intersection of Sylvan Avenue and IH-30 that becomes a marker for pedestrian traffic approaching from the south as well as vehicular traffic at the intersection. This could be accomplished through the use of amenities such as public art, building design, or other landmark elements that create a sense of arrival.

At this time, the applicant has agreed in concept to this designated area and is working with staff to establish the final design requirements.

Interestingly, this isn't the only West Dallas project on tomorrow's CPC agenda: Noted Sylvan Thirty critic and Belmont owner Monte Anderson is also bringing back his West Commerce retail-office RV park (which, ironically, staff will only recommend approving if he puts in "additional sidewalk and pedestrian enhancements"), as well as plans to "remodel the existing single family home" behind Smoke and "construct a 4,620-square foot photography studio," with which city staff also has some issues.

STAFF ANALYSIS:

Comprehensive Plan: The request site lies within an area considered Urban Mixed- Use. The Urban Mixed-Use Building Block incorporates a vibrant mix of residential and employment uses at a lower density than the Downtown Building Block. These areas are typically near Downtown, along the Trinity River or near major transit centers. Examples include Uptown, the City Place/West Village area, Stemmons Design District, Cedars and Deep Ellum. Urban Mixed-Use Building Blocks provide residents with a vibrant blend of opportunities to live, work, shop and play within a closely defined area. Buildings range from high-rise residential or mid-rise commercial towers to townhomes and small corner shops. Good access to transit is a critical element. Similar to Downtown, the Urban Mixed-Use Building Blocks offer employment and housing options and are important economic growth areas for businesses. People on foot or bike can enjoy interesting storefronts at ground level with benches, public art, on-street parking and wide sidewalks, creating an appealing streetscape. Large parking areas and other auto-oriented land uses are typically located at the edges.

Land Use Compatibility: The site is undeveloped with three street frontages (two thoroughfares and the westbound access road for IH 30). The expansion area (zoned for IR District Uses) represents approximately four acres of the approximate 6.27 acre request site. The applicant proposes to create a new subdistrict (Subdistrict 1C), in lieu of a simple expansion of the existing Subdistrict 1A uses and development standards, for consideration of the following: 1) addition of certain uses; 2) alternative development standards; 3) alternative off-street parking regulations; 4) alternative landscape regulations; and, 5) alternative design standards. The site possesses unique topography (approximately 15'-18' grade changes) in that the highest area is in the center portion of the property with a subtle drop towards the Sylvan Avenue frontage and more pronounced drop towards the eastern property line.

In creating the vision for PDD No. 714, various subdistricts were created to establish a basis for the balance of development and the co-existence with the built environment along the corridor. The request site (and the abutting expansion area zoned for IR District Uses) is considered within Subdistrict 1: This subdistrict is for medium density mixed-use development that respects existing businesses but gives incentive for new mid-rise commercial and residential development. Development should support West Commerce Street as the gateway from downtown into the area, and strengthen the Sylvan Avenue-Fort Worth Avenue intersection as a retail anchor.

New development should support future light rail along the northern edge of the subdistrict. Preserving historic buildings through adaptive re-use is a priority. This subdistrict will be the most densely developed urban subdistrict due to its proximity to the Trinity River and downtown. The mix of uses should lean more towards commercial, although residential development is essential to the success of the mixed uses.

Buildings should front the street with broad sidewalks. Street trees should line the street edge. On-street parking should be parallel parking along West Commerce Street and Fort Worth Avenue. Off-street parking should be provided behind buildings or in parking structures and shared between adjacent lots. This subdistrict should have an overall urban feel, but still provide pedestrian amenities. Subdistricts 1A and 1B have maximum building heights and maximum stories that reflect the rising topography and protect the downtown view. Buildings should have minimum or no setbacks, with commercial and retail uses at the ground level and office and residential above. Pedestrian protections from traffic, such as street trees, planters, and crosswalks, are desired.

The predominate land use in the area lends itself to development of office/retail/commercial uses. Significant private investment has been made in development/redevelopment projects along Ft. Worth Avenue. To serve existing and future private development in the immediate area, various roadway improvements are planned for Sylvan Avenue and Ft. Worth Avenue (see Roadway Improvements, below).

Residential uses are developed on properties further north of those nonresidential uses fronting Ft. Worth Avenue, as well as south of the elevated section of IH 30 south of the site.

The applicant has spent time interacting with various property owners and groups interested in the continued redevelopment efforts within this portion of PDD No. 714. Staff has interacted with the applicant to address the proposed expansion of the PDD to ensure compatibility with the built environment in the immediate area as well as being sensitive to the vision for the West Commerce Street/Ft. Worth Avenue Special Purpose District.

Staff has determined that a mixed use development is appropriate at this location. With respect to the vision of this portion of PDD No. 714 (as noted above), herein lies some concern for staff. The development tends to 'turn its back' on the street, with all primary entrances and potential activity areas and required open space being internal to the development. Suggestions were made to remove that portion within PDD No. 714 and combine with the IR District parcel to create a new Planned Development District that would provide for much of the anticipated built environment but would also be sensitive to the applicant's design of a mixed use project. The applicant's desire is to remain in PDD No. 714.

As a result of this analysis, staff is supporting the applicant's request for mixed uses, subject to the attached conceptual plan and staff's recommended conditions. For purposes of clarity, the table at the end of this section represents (in general terms) the provisions specifically addressed in the attached conditions for those respective areas of where a compromise was not achieved.

Urban Structure: The West Dallas Urban Structure and Guidelines, adopted by City Council in March 2011, was developed using a collaborative community-based process under the guidance of the Dallas CityDesign Studio. The three primary objectives of the plan are to enhance and protect La Bajada, encourage incremental development, and foster new development that complies with the vision. This Structure was developed as an alternative to traditional local planning tools reflecting the organic nature of development while offering a clear public vision for change in the area.

The adopted plan is organized around three key regulatory areas to emphasize the importance of urban design and placemaking as development priorities: 1) defining street character; 2) organizing a network of open space opportunities; and 3) providing design guidelines for development that focus on addressing the public realm. Requirements that are placed on developments in each of these regulatory areas should make incremental steps toward transforming the built environment over time toward realizing the plan's vision and building a strong sense of place.

The site lies within an area identified as Belmont Crossing within the plan. This area's vision incorporates a focus on entertainment and retail uses, with the addition of office uses and a residential uses (multifamily and townhouse structures). Projected development will provide for development in excess of three million square feet and 800 residential units.

Key conditions included within the proposed planned development that advance these development priorities are:

• Setting streetscape standards that establish an enhanced pedestrian environment by maintaining 15-foot and 11.5-foot pedestrian zones inclusive of amenities that foster walkability; and limiting the location of drive-through uses;

• Providing publicly accessible open space by requiring a minimum of 4,000 square feet of open space on site; and

• Establishing design standards that emphasize an urban street frontage through the use of build-to zones and increased minimum frontage requirements; increased ground-floor transparency requirements; establishing a minimum number of doors on the street and ensuring their equal architectural treatment; and providing increased flexibility of materials to acknowledge the industrial heritage and architectural vernacular of the area.

Traffic: The Engineering Section of the Building Inspection Division of the Department of Sustainable Development and Construction has reviewed the requested amendment/expansion in conjunction with the required Traffic Impact Analysis and determined that the proposed development will not significantly impact the street system, subject to the following improvements to be completed prior to the final inspection for the 226th dwelling unit and prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for nonresidential floor area in excess of 49,694 square feet (see attached Traffic Impact Analysis-Exhibit A):

1) At Driveway 1, proposed ingress/egress along the westbound access road for IH30 will require approval from TXDOT;

2) Signalization at Driveway 3, with design and construction approved by the Director of Public Works/Transportation; and,

3) A dedicated left-turn lane into Driveway 3, with design and construction approved by the Department of Sustainable Development and Construction.

Roadway Improvements:

Sylvan Avenue

Sylvan Avenue from I-30 to Fort Worth Avenue is currently planned as a four lane divided roadway within a 90 foot right-of-way (from six lane divided within a 100 foot right-of-way). The street is designed to accommodate two dedicated bicycle lanes, onstreet parallel parking, a 14' median and five foot sidewalks in the public right-of-way. Traffic signal analysis shows that a signal is warranted at the proposed mid-block intersection to accommodate ingress and egress from the primary entrance of this development. Parallel parking requires less pavement area than angled parking and in this instance there is no difference in the amount of parking spaces provided. To provide angled parking at this location, additional right-of-way would be required so that sidewalks could be included in the City's capital improvement project.

Fort Worth Avenue

Fort Worth Avenue from Sylvan Avenue to Beckley Avenue is currently planned as a six lane roadway with 100' right-of-way. This cross section will accommodate on-street parallel parking adjacent to the development.

Landscaping: PDD No. 714 provides for specific landscaping and tree mitigation. At this time, the applicant has submitted a tree survey and is aware of required mitigation (see Zoning History, above, for current request for a special exception). With respect to landscaping, the applicant has worked with the chief arborist to provide for alternative landscape requirements while maintaining a commitment to streetscape requirements. Miscellaneous-Gateway Plaza designation: Staff is continuing to work to define an appropriate menu of amenities to be provided in the area delineated as Gateway Plaza on the conceptual plan (Permissible Building A). As noted in the attached conditions, a varied setback is permitted in what could be an angled building façade for development at this corner.

The intended result is to create a strong presence at the intersection of Sylvan Avenue and IH-30 that becomes a marker for pedestrian traffic approaching from the south as well as vehicular traffic at the intersection. This could be accomplished through the use of amenities such as public art, building design, or other landmark elements that create a sense of arrival.

At this time, the applicant has agreed in concept to this designated area and is working with staff to establish the final design requirements.


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