The square block from Skillman to Matilda and Lovers to University has been creating quite a buzz in recent months. It's the block with Tom Thumb and the Village apartments to the north, and Central Market to the west.
The landscape is old and new apartments and condos, with the newer ones consisting of old apartments and condos that have been either renovated (as in the case of the Veneto, which I'll discuss Thursday) or torn down (as in the case of The Plaza on Lovers Lane, which I'll discuss Friday).
The biggest buzz-creator is the Signature Pointe project at the corner of Lovers and Matilda. The developer, Fairfield Residential, has been creating and re-creating mixed-use zoning proposals for more than a year, with its first proposal denied by the City Plan Comission. Fairfield's revised proposal made it through more recently, and City Councilwoman Angela Hunt, in whose district the project is located, tells me she plans to vote for approval at today's City Council meeting because she has "been working hard with the developer to ensure that the plans accommodate the neighborhood’s concerns, as discussed at the previous council meeting."
Fairfield's plans are to tear down the apartments at Lovers and Matilda, and in their place, build four stories of upscale apartments (roughly 430 units) as well as two-stories of retail and restaurants. The retail — which would include the likes of Corner Bakery, Potbelly Sandwiches, Starbucks and Chase Bank, as developers pointed out in a meeting last spring — would be situated squarely opposite of Central Market and Tom Thumb. Fairfield also agreed to build a row of 20 townhomes on the south side of the project as a buffer between the parking lot and the existing condos on the other side of the street.
Two groups of neighbors have been battling over this development for months. One, calling itself the Lovers Amesbury Neighborhood Coalition, is opposed to the project because of reasons such as height, density and traffic. The other — which rode in the Lower Greenville St. Patrick's Day parade carrying "Signature Pointe 411" signs — feels like the project will improve property values and be a boon to the neighborhood.
Of course, like all good neighborhood zoning fights, this one has devolved into accusations of who-lives-where and therefore has the most say about what happens, or what specific kind of stone the developer plans to use on the facade, etc. You can read a lengthy piece about the two sides in this Dallas Observer story. At that point, the project's supporters were upset with Hunt for not giving them enough attention; this week I received an e-mail from the opposition calling for people to inundate Hunt with e-mails before she makes the wrong decision.
The opponents of the project are likely correct that building this four-story, mixed-use apartment and retail complex will impact future development in the rest of the neighborhood, but whether that is a good or bad thing depends on how you view it. D Magazine made a good point that the property is located a quarter mile from a DART rail station, and the ForwardDallas! plan calls for denser projects near transit hubs.
I live in the PowerProperties condos at University and Matilda, and am torn. On one hand, I don't think the project will be worse than the apartments already on that corner, and I like the idea of being able to walk to Corner Bakery or Potbelly. On the other hand, has anyone ever tried to get through the intersection of Lovers and Matilda on a Saturday afternoon? Nightmare. And more retail will only make that intersection worse. Plus, Tom Thumb picked the most horrible spot possible for its gas station, but that's a post for another day ...