Monday, August 8, 2016

Trails, Apartments, and Retail

At its July 25 meeting, the Richardson City Council approved a zoning change to accommodate the development of a 43-unit community of apartments and/or townhomes on 2.7 acres on the east side of Plano Road south of Arapaho Road.

Predictably, the neighbors were opposed. That required a super-majority from the council to approve the rezoning, which was delivered by way of a unanimous 7-0 vote. I was drawn to the statements made by council members before voting to approve. There's a lot to unpack in just the comments made by Mayor Paul Voelker.

Let's start with the mayor's memory of CityLine and Palisades.
CityLine is not the answer for everything. We have to have that option of density of condominiums, of apartments, scattered throughout the city, in my opinion. I remember the Palisades argument very well. They were screaming for us to allow condominiums versus apartments.
Quite candidly, we had plenty of people not happy with CityLine. And with Palisades. We had plenty of people not happy with Palisades and several other developments. Over time, my experience has been, they come back and say, you know what, it works.
What I remember is people screaming against multi-family residential in general, not just apartments. But memory is a funny thing. I could be wrong. Maybe the neighbors were fine with having condos across the street. Maybe those opposed specifically to apartments have since come back to the mayor and said it works. But I suspect that many in the opposition will never change their minds. I don't believe a majority of Richardson residents will ever come to believe that we need more multi-family residences "scattered" throughout the city, certainly not in their own neighborhoods. The opposition to this Plano Rd project is evidence of that.

To be clear, I was one who did change my mind, but in the opposite way from what the mayor experienced. I was an early supporter of both CityLine and Palisades, but now that construction at CityLine is well along, I say, you know what, it did *not* work. CityLine is a huge disappointment. Instead of a walkable, transit-oriented, mixed-use urban development, we ended up with a same-old suburban development largely indistinguishable from what was built in the 1980s at, say, IH635 and the Dallas North Tollway.

Moving on to the particular multi-family housing approved on Plano Rd...the mayor said something that suggests how Richardson will develop in years to come.
I do believe this supports our plan. I think this plan in having this happen at this point in time will help increase the likelihood that the retail aspects to the north will actually happen. I think if that actually happens then we'll see us be able to have some flexibility with the way we handle the trail moving from its current state up through this zoning case and into the retail to make it an even richer experience from a trail standpoint. I think the density, while this isn't tremendously dense, will help drive that retail success which will get us to a position where we're dealing with landowners on that entire end-to-end trail opportunity.
It's a little hard to unpack exactly what the mayor is saying here, but to the extent he's saying that increased density is part of the solution to dying retail centers throughout Richardson, he's absolutely right. He's also right that Richardson's extensive hike and bike trail system can be a lure for increased density along those trails. The synergy between our trails, new apartments and revived retail is realistically possible. A holistic view of development in Richardson can lead to a result where live, work, and shop all thrive together.

1 comment:

Mark Steger said...

One thing that struck me about Mayor Voelker's comments was the idea that Richardson's trail system needs people. I don't know if that's what he meant, but it's what I took away. Cities are creating infrastructure problems for future generations by building out instead of up. Sprawl adds miles and miles of highways and suburban streets. Richardson is bragging how it's adding $900,000 to its budget to repair our streets that our own sprawl built a few decades ago. Instead, maybe Richardson should be apologizing for screwing up by not building in a way that could support the same number of people with less concrete. Anyway, back to the trails. Trails are just another form of street. Unless there's enough density to make their maintenance sustainable, we are just creating another maintenance burden for the next generation.