In Richardson, along the booming Central Expressway corridor, architecture firm Good Fulton and Farrell and developer JP Partners have teamed up on the Palisades project, a large mixed-use development they plan to put on 58 mostly vacant acres across the freeway from DART's Galatyn Park light rail station.
The folks who live in the adjacent Canyon Creek and Prairie Creek neighborhoods are, for the most part, fine with the 1.5 million square feet of office space and the 200,000 square feet set aside for restaurant and retail. They're even OK with the 65 town homes planned for the site and, to a lesser extent, the 250 condos.
Their beef is with the 750 high-end apartment units, which many are convinced will turn their pleasant neighborhoods into crime-plagued Vickery Meadow and their exemplary elementary schools -- Prairie Creek, Canyon Creek, and Aldridge -- into miniature versions of Lake Highland's Forest Meadow Junior High, "commonly known today as Forest Ghetto," as one man was keen to point out.
Those concerns were raised Tuesday evening before Richardson's City Plan Commission. At first, the opposition to the project was couched as concern that the already full schools wouldn't be able to bear the flood of additional children (GFF predicts that there will be 18 of elementary age). It soon became clear, however, that the root of their concerns came from a deep-seated phobia of apartment dwellers.
Below, we've excerpted some of the testimony:
Todd Franks (a former Vickery Meadow Public Improvement District board chair):
At the beginning it starts out as shiny, new nice. Vickery Meadows was developed out as a singles community, it's virtually all one-bedroom apartments..but there are a ton of children .that go to the schools there. We have had to tear down three large apartment communities to build three large schools. This happens over time. It doesn't happen overnight. Everyone says rents will be $1,600, $2,500. That is true today. It's going to lose its luster and at some point it will be more affordable housing
I'm not here to raise the specter of apartments, whether they're good or bad. My wife grew up in apartments so i don't perhaps have that same gut reaction that other people have, but she did rise above it; she married me, lucky girl.
Now we're talking about changing the zoning, adding more units, now I'm not going to be able to send my kid to the elementary school that's in my neighborhood, and I may be out $250,000 that it costs to send my kid to a private school, because my kid might get bussed to another school that's only academically acceptable or, God forbid, academically unacceptable. That's an issue for me....
You get this cycle with the elementary school. People come in, they avoid paying private school costs, increases demand for homes, increases the tax value of the homes and then it just keeps (going upward) now what you have is you can reverse that cycle and this type of development could reverse that cycle. You get like a bank run. You get fear. People leave. EDverybody puts their house on the market on the same time. Prices crash. Tax collections crash. Money for services crash and you basically just caused blight in the neighborhood and that's what we're trying to avoid.
To bring in high-density apartment complex is going to be a big issue... [We don't want] just a lot of transitional people who are moving into an apartment for a year or two, then moving out. We want somebody who's going to really care about the community, care about the schools and care about our policemen our firefighers, everyone who makes this a a home and not just a development.
There's a lot of talk about investment and there's a lot of money I'm sure in this but there's also a lot of people who invest a lot of hours --PTA moms who invest their heart and soul to make this a neighborhood people love and to make the Prairie Creek neighborhood a place that is beautiful and a place that can be a home and not just a place where you can find an efficiency apartment to live in for a year.
The high-denisty part of it is really what turns my family's guts in all of this.
I think the general feeling is that the model that's been applied [for estimating the number of school-age children] is perhaps less than what we believe is appropriate given Prairie Creek and Aldridge and Canyon Creek's status within the state. It's more appropriate to look at an area perhaps like the Park Cities where those apartments that are efficiency and one-bedrooms are populated by families with kids, because that is the entry point that allows them access to that education. That is what families compete for.
As far as Richardson is concerned, I think that two of our best resources are its low crime and its good school district, and I think that one of my concerns is, are we potentially jeopardizing that long-term. I moved my family from an area in Lake Highlands that had high-denisty apartments. Every year the crime got worse and worse and impacted the schools negatively. Looking at my neighbors, half were having to send their kids to private schools to get that education they were looking for.
The reason I moved into Prairie Creek was because of the scenery, the trees, and the people walking and running in our neighborhood, and especially the greenery of our trees. Our trees our just beautiful. I have two large oak trees that are probably about 75 years old. We take care of them like they were our babies, and I oppose these Palisades townhomes and apartments, and the reason for it is because they disintegrate, 10, 15 years from now, and it's going to devalue our home value...
Everybody moves into Prairie Creek is because of the fantastic school, and what makes it fantastic are the parents that volunteer, day in and day out. I alone volunteered more than 800 hours last year, and that's what makes it a great school. If we have any more students in the school, it would eliminate the education of our students....
Also, what are you going to do about the water, the supply water? No one has mentioned that. I mean, that's an important issue. I mean you put more than 1,000 units in there, what's going to happen to the water supply? That's a huge consideration. Also, I know Walmart has been talking about coming in, and my huge opinion on that is the grocery carts, they're going to on the part of every DART bus stop, it's going to clutter and degrade our neighborhood. All of that trash is going to go into our beautiful creek, we have a beautiful waterfall. I don't want that ruined. It would degrade our neighborhood.
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I have never seen [home] values escalate like they have [in Prairie Creek] and they are all driven by that little school. That school is why everyone wants to be there. It is like a private school in a residential development. The closest thing I can come to compare it is Highland Park, and I know that sounds crazy, but 10 or 15 years ago, residential lots were selling in the Park Cities for 400 or 500 thousands dollars and being torn down for new construction. That very same thing is happening right now in the Prairie Creek area. That is solely because of the school...
I just have two words for you: Spring Valley. Look at what happened to Spring Valley. Those apartments at one time were vibrant. They were the cat's meow of Richardson--and we all know what happened there. We're getting too many apartments in a too confined area, we're going down the same road again and making the same mistake.
I talk to friends who live in my nhood who live directly across teh street. I said, where'd you move from. They said Lake Highlands, and I said Lake Highlands is great--beautiful homes. They said, we can't send our kids to school in the Lake Highlands area.
Forest Meadow--commmonly known today as Forest Ghetto. You go there on a Saturday or a Sunday, great neighborhood, I want to move here. But during the school day it's unbelievable, because of the apartments, there's tons of apartments. Nothing against apartments, people have to live in the apartments, but when you have a whole bunch of them, and you've got a neighborhood that's a very very proud neighborhood...