Real Estate

Highland Park, Fighting Luxury Apartment on Katy Trail, Insists It's Not Against Density, Just Tall Buildings

What kind of rich people would be more fun to have living along the Katy Trail -- family-oriented rich people who prefer short buildings, or fast-paced rich people in high-rises?

The current property on 4719 Cole Ave. is not habitable for any type of rich people. The Saltillo apartments building was built in 1970 and has been known to keep a loud and proud "all bills paid" sign out front and is beige.

Developers noticed and have unsuccessfully tried over the years to get it torn down and replaced with luxury high-rises, only to fail against Dallas' multifamily zoning restrictions that limit buildings on the property to no more than 36 feet in height.

But now the land is in the hands of Provident Realty Advisors, which is making some headway with plans to put in a luxury, 258-unit apartment building that would stand 84 feet tall and hide parking underground.

The Plan Commission already voted to support a height-zoning change to allow the development ago, and the Dallas City Council is scheduled to vote on it next week. Though the project and the zoning change would be in Dallas city limits, the Highland Park Town Council and Highland Park Mayor Joel Williams have been aggressively fighting it for the past year.

"Two main things is the height of the building, and the second part is that it does not comply with city of Dallas slope requirements," says Highland Park town administrator Bill Lindley.

Supporters of the project have accused Highland Park of just being NIMBY about having a a dense, urban apartment building adjacent to their town, even if it is one occupied by people who can afford at least $2,500 in monthly rent. The town's own website expresses concern that the new residents would make traffic worse and drive on Highland Park streets.

"Key intersections at Mockingbird/Central and Knox/Central are already congested," Highland Park's website warns, "thus approval of development may force additional traffic through adjoining neighborhoods."

The development is in Councilman Philip Kingston's district. "Their complaint about traffic is bogus, that's completely false," he said last week, though he hadn't decided how he stood on the project yet. He gave more credence to concerns that a big fancy apartment would mess up the look of the Katy Trail. "Their main concerns are about privacy and noise and preservation of the atmosphere on the trail, all those are valid concerns," he says.

The group Save the Katy Trail has raised similar concerns that the apartments would create canyon-like effect on the trail, though its president, reached by telephone on Tuesday, now says she's undecided.

The project meanwhile has gotten key support from the Oak Lawn Committee, a neighborhood group in Dallas whose stated mission is to monitor developments in Oak Lawn and preserve the neighborhood. When her committee saw an earlier draft of the development, they didn't like it, says Brenda Marks, the committee's president. The original design "was sort of a squat building with minimum setbacks and didn't have a good interface with the trail," Marks says. But over time, "the developer really worked, I think, well with us."

She described the project as something that would make Dallas more walkable and attractive, offering homes that are a short trip to the trail and restaurants and shops along Knox.

Highland Park's Lindley agrees that the project looks nice, and he didn't want to address accusations made by the pro-apartment people that his family-oriented town is afraid of density. "The density is a secondary concern," he said, and he was "not going there."

"Our focus is the height of the building," he says. "Our request to city of Dallas is to continue the three-story limitation on the property."

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Amy Martyn
Contact: Amy Martyn