Dallas: Plan Commission Approves Zoning for 21-Acre Salvation Army DFW Campus
Feature Photo (above): A Salvation Army cargo truck sits on a rear lot of the current Salvation Army DFW campus in the Dallas medical center district. The organization plans to build a new $95 million campus. Image: Google Streets.
by Adolfo Pesquera
Dallas (Dallas County) — By majority vote, the City Plan Commission approved a zoning change that would permit construction of a 21-acre Salvation Army DFW mixed-use social services complex.
City Council must vote on the zoning change before the Salvation Army can proceed with plans to relocate from a 7.3-acre campus in the Medical Center near downtown, a location that is adjacent to Parkland Hospital.
The proposed location was donated to the charitable organization by a former board member and it is located a few miles east of Love Field Airport. The boundary streets are Stemmons Freeway (I-35) to the east, Viceroy Drive to the south, and Empress Row to the west. It is near Regal Row to the north-northwest, but there are other commercial properties between the future campus and that street.
Google map with graphics by Adolfo Pesquera.
The neighboring properties are all industrial, office and hotel properties and many of the landowners remain opposed to the development. As a result, the Thursday vote was preceded by numerous comments from citizens that disparaged the Salvation Army’s community outreach efforts.
Angela Hunt, a former City Council member and currently a real estate attorney with Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, said the Salvation Army dedicated two years toward engaging neighbors and trying to reach a common ground resolution. The results of more than two dozen meetings included more than a dozen changes to the development plans.
Some of the revisions Hunt cited were:
Construction of a 6-foot tall metal and masonry fence around the perimeter. After further talks, the fence was upgraded to 8 feet.
An agreement with DART that there would be a bus stop inside the campus in order to avoid having homeless people walk off-site to nearby bus stops.
Limit access to the campus to a single point if ingress-egress.
Provide four security guards on site at all times.
The social services organization remained at an impasse with the opposition over many issues. Hunt cited four in particular. There was insistence that the shelter population be limited to 150 people. This would defeat the purpose of the shelter, which is to accommodate at minimum 600 people during normal conditions and expand to 700 during severe weather or natural disaster conditions.
Angela Hunt, (left), and Blake Fetterman speak on behalf of the Salvation Army DFW’s zoning request for the new campus Major Jon Rich is seated behind Fetterman. Courtesy: City of Dallas video archives.
Opponents wanted an after-hours curfew imposed, but Hunt noted such a curfew is unenforceable by city ordinance. She said there would be a curfew in place, but it has to be flexible. Some people coming to the shelter work late shifts, she said.
Opponents also insisted on a seven-year phase-in of the population, “based on unspecified metrics,” Hunt said. This was not feasible due to the cost of maintaining two sites, and it would lead to a loss of the sale of the Medical Center site, from which the Salvation Army expects to reap at least $20 million.
The estimated cost of the new campus is $95 million. The total square footage of structures on the proposed campus has not been determined, but given the number of buildings planned its apparent the Salvation Army will several hundred thousand square feet of new facilities.
The city staff summary of the project stated the development will provide programs, resources, assistance and shelter to at-risk, pre-homeless, and homeless individuals.
Some of the uses the campus will provide include:
Emergency and permanent supportive housing; overnight general purpose shelter; transitional housing; convalescent and nursing home; hospice care and related institutions; community service center; private recreation center; church; medical clinic; office space; indoor animal shelters; technical school; child-care facility; warehouse.
The current campus at 5320 Harry Hines Boulevard opened 33 years ago. Major Jon Rich, the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter commander, said the facility was already over capacity from the day it first opened and the problem has only gotten progressively worse.
The proposed site is zoned industrial and that would remain, but within a planned development district that will allow a community resource campus. Blake Fetterman, executive director of the Salvation Army’s Carr P. Collins Social Service Center, also asked that the parking ratio for a development of this size be reduced since most of those being served won’t have cars anyway.
The new facility, Fetterman added, will be able to handle 660 citizens that do not currently get help, and it will help 397 more people transition out of homelessness every year.
Commissioner P. Michael Jung questioned why the campus plan has no sidewalk on the perimeter.
“We were asked at the request of property owners to eliminate sidewalks,” Hunt said. “That was not our request.”
The conceptual site plan for the new campus. Courtesy: Salvation Army DFW.
The organization’s representatives were asked to respond to comments that their operations be more spread out across the city. Fetterman noted that attempts had been made to set up temporary facilities in residential neighborhoods, but this met strong opposition and the lesson learned was to avoid proximity to residential areas.
She also said there were economies of scale in pursuing a holistic approach where all the needed services were in one location. The proposed concept is very similar to the Haven for Hope campus in San Antonio.
“There is an over-concentration of homeless services in the central business district. As you’re aware, we are following the charge given us by City Council to provide geographic diversity for homeless recovery services by moving into the northwest region. We’re centralizing those services so that we reduce barriers that people experience when they try to get all of these needs met.
“So I would argue we are deconcentrating by moving things out of the medical district and the CBD,” she said.
The opponents, one after another, insisted on delaying the vote, but it became clear to the majority that they were not acting in good faith.
Hunt also noted that a vote had already been delayed twice, adding, “a delay today of 60 days would mean we are pushing this out by 120 days,” due to the city’s notification process.
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.