Dallas: Episcopal Diocese Gets Approval for Mixed-Use Commercial Development
Feature Photo (above): The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas plans to construct several office and residential towers on land that is used today for surface parking and a playground. Image: Google Streets.
by Eileen Pace
Dallas (Dallas County) — The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas, after several months of negotiations, received a recommendation for a mixed-use development from the City Plan Commission.
Upon the third public hearing at CPC, held Nov. 7, the commissioners agreed to a rezoning of 13.1 acres for a Planned Development District that will bring new office, multifamily and retail uses to the St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church campus.
The new PDP on the north side of Colgate Avenue, between Douglas Avenue and Lomo Alto Drive will have three subdistricts:
Subdistrict 1–a 7.95-acre parcel–is where the church, a school and child-care facility are currently located.
Subdistrict 2–a 3.49-acre parcel–has been used for the St. Michael’s Farmer Market and includes open space with a children’s playground.
Subdistrict 3–a 1.68-acre parcel–has a two-story office building constructed in 1983.
The Diocese proposed to develop Subdistricts 2 and 3 with a mix of office, multifamily and retail. Subdistrict 1 will be connected to them via an internal drive and sidewalks.
Above: The area within the red boundary is owned by the Diocese. The area in blue is planned for redevelopment. Below: This is the concept site plan. Courtesy: Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.
Owen McCrory of HKS Architects and the project architect noted that by right the existing zoning would allow a broad assortment of uses, including developments with higher densities than was being requested.
“If we were asked by owner or developer to develop a building on that property that would fully build out the allowable FAR, we could do that,” McCrory said.
By-Right Allowable Maximum Development: 1,586,000 square feet.
Combined Requested Development: 828,000 square feet (242,000 SF in Subdistrict 1; 455,000 SF in Subdistrict 2; 131,000 SF in Subdistrict 3).
Instead of the 293,000 square feet of office space allowed, McCrory said the applicant proposed to limit office space to 242,000 square feet on the Subdistrict 2 parcel. It would have a maximum height of 14 stories, (or 180 feet in height, plus the mechanical penthouse). The Diocese is also requesting a second building with a max height of 200 feet, in exchange for mixed-income housing.
On Subdistrict 3, the request is for a 180-foot-tall office building, plus mechanicals.
Above: The potential development allowed under current zoning. Below: Aerial perspective of the proposed development. Courtesy: Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.
Other condition submitted as part of the PDP further restrict uses by eliminating custom business services, general merchandise of food stores greater than 3,500 SF, theaters, a helistop, and communications towers.
At previous hearings held Sept. 19 and Oct. 17, there was substantial opposition voiced by neighbors concerned about traffic safety.
Steve Stoner, a traffic engineer at Pacheco Koch Consulting Engineers Inc., said the concept submitted would generate fewer trips and the potential traffic from a by-right development.
“Trips could be less than 13,701 per day, but the proposal would limit those trips to 8,394 trips per day,” Stoner said. He added that a suggested alignment for the planned internal drive, connecting it to Weldon Howell, wouldn’t improve traffic, while maintaining the drive’s current proposed alignment would have no significant impact.
The Diocese agreed to pay for the re-striping of Douglas between Sherry Lane and Colgate, pending a city study now underway.
A Jackson Walker land use attorney representing the church, Suzan Kedron, said numerous concessions were offered by the Diocese in talks with neighbors.
“The resulting case is better than what could be built by right,” Kedron said, “and notably, there’s less square footage than allowed by right.”
Concessions of the Diocese include:
Traffic improvements and fewer car trips
Limited uses in Subdistrict 3
Improvements to the pedestrian experience along Douglas
Construction of underground parking
A cap on school enrollment
A constraint on the church’s footprint area
An increase in public open space
McCrory added that the church agrees to pave the Frederick Square Alley to at least 20 feet wide, an offer that was heartily supported by Commissioner Margot Brito Murphy: “The applicant is digging deep to underwrite the traffic improvements including the signal lighting and the striping and making the alley work. Right now, that alley does not function.”
Commissioner Murphy made the motion and included several conditions in addition to staff stipulations. She said residential density shall be limited to 365 units in Subdistricts 2 and 3, with the maximum units in S2 capped at 235. Murphy commended staff and the Diocese for the hard work put into the planning.
“There are items that the applicant was willing to give to some of the neighbors in exchange for their support, and at the end of the day support didn’t come purportedly for one reason and that is they thought it was still a little too dense. Nonetheless, a lot of those concessions, in my opinion, make the project better,” Murphy said.
Proposed view of park along Douglas Avenue. Courtesy: Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.
Adolfo Pesquera (Reporter/Editor) is a veteran news journalist. He has worked for Hearst Corp., American Lawyer Media, News Corp and Freedom Communications. His work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the USA. He is a journalism graduate of UT-RGV. He writes, edits and creates digital pages for VBX.