"Food-Only Project". That's what The Dallas Morning News called the construction of a row of up to seven restaurants on Central Expressway just north of Spring Valley Rd. There was no hint whether or not that was meant ironically.
The original vision for this property was a mixed-use environment with ground floor retail and office with residential uses above, perhaps including a boutique hotel. Instead of that, developer Kirk Hermansen told The Dallas Morning News what we're really getting: "We’re all restaurants, no retail by design."
Who deserves the credit/blame for this?
The City Council deserves credit for getting this in motion by buying the old Continental Inn site for $2.2 million and demolishing the hotel, then providing an additional $1.2 million in grants to a developer for infrastructure development. So far, so good.
But to the council's discredit, they showed no interest in fulfilling the vision outlined in the planned development for this area. The council seemed more interested in getting something built here, anything built here, than in getting the right development for Richardson's long-term future. I don't know if Kirk Hermansen was the only developer the city negotiated with, but it's not a good sign that he was the developer the city chose. According to The Dallas Morning News, he was "a real estate director for Carrollton-based TGI Fridays in a previous life." Let's just say the result shows.
To its credit, the City Plan Commission rejected this restaurant project, but after revisions prompted by neighborhood objections, the council overruled the CPC and approved it, despite the fact that the final plan still didn't conform to the West Spring Valley Planned Development.
The nearby neighborhood associations deserve credit for applying pressure to get changes made to the plan. Without neighborhood opposition to the original plan, we might have ended up with a traditional 1980s' restaurant row. The revised plan is still a restaurant row, but a modern 1980s' restaurant row with a central plaza, a fountain, and a face to the neighborhood as well as the freeway in front. The modifications are not much, but it's something that wouldn't be there at all if it had been left up to the council.
According to The Dallas Morning News, Hermansen said, "The city hopes we will spark some development within that entire area. We hope we're the catalyst for that." After five years and millions of dollars, Richardson residents are still left with only "hope" that the vision of the West Spring Valley Corridor Planned Development might someday begin to be realized, elsewhere in the corridor.