Thursday, August 6, 2020

Upzoning Galatyn Park Station

Galatyn or Khrushchyobka?

The Richardson City Plan Commission unanimously recommended approval of an upzoning request for 140 additional living units over and above what the current zoning permits for a new development next to the Galatyn Park DART station.
This is a freebie the City is giving to the developer. The City didn't ask for anything in return. The developer didn't offer anything. Certainly nothing like an agreement, say, to build some of the additional units at a lower price point to increase the supply of more affordable housing in Richardson. Certainly nothing like building some sorely lacking retail next to that DART station.

Not only were no concessions asked for, but some concessions might go against the City's plan for this property. The City staff report says the upzoning is "consistent with multiple objectives established with the creation of the existing Planned Development when it was approved in 2014." The City staff conveniently summarized that 2014 vision:

Transit Villages are nodes of mixed or multiple land uses within a development and/or a single building, often in a vertical or "stacked" format, built around small-scale pedestrian-friendly blocks. Uses include medium- to high-density residential (townhomes and multi-family), retail, entertainment, hospitality and offices. The intensity of development within Transit Villages can range from medium to high based on the proximity of the rail transit facility, the adjacent roadway infrastructure, and surrounding land uses.
Here's what the City staff says the upzoning request does to support that vision:
  • provide continued support of DART light rail ridership;
  • ensure delivery of a higher quality multifamily product; and
  • contribute to the greater vitality to the Galatyn Park Urban Center.

The first bullet is supported only by offering more bodies for DART, not by offering those bodies any amenities other than bedrooms.

The second bullet is worded in a nice way ("higher quality"), but it can be translated as "higher priced," masking the unspoken goal Richardson has of limiting the amount of housing available to those with a median income or below.

The third bullet strives for "greater vitality," but the proposed development is simply a stack of apartments, with none of the "retail, entertainment, hospitality and offices" called for in the 2014 planned development. Was that "transit village" promise just a bait-and-switch?

In the City's own words, transit villages should have "mixed or multiple land uses" "built around small-scale pedestrian-friendly blocks." What's planned for Galatyn Park Station are three honking big apartment buildings (two of them already built). There is nothing "small-scale" about them. There is nothing "pedestrian-friendly" about the honking big blocks they are plunked down on. There's little or no "retail, entertainment, hospitality and offices" that a pedestrian might even want to walk to. Get off the DART train and think of popping into a convenience store to buy something to take home to eat or drink? Forget it. Or look around for a restaurant or bar to enjoy a pre-show dinner or drink before going to the Eisemann Center? Forget it. There's no "vitality" in this new addition to our "transit village."

Even the architecture has the feel of a Soviet era housing development. Knowing that there are expensive apartments hidden inside those Khrushchyobka-looking building exteriors does not compensate for the opportunity missed here. But sure, approve this request 7-0 to give the developer everything he asks for and ask nothing in return. It's the "Richardson Way."


glbeach said...

Hi Mark,
In fact, the city did work with the developer on this and is getting something in return - a level of additional parking spaces that will be open to the public and on a separate level from the residential parking spaces. These are to be operated as the City of Richardson deems proper, i.e., they may be free parking or may be for fee parking depending on the situation - sort of like the parking structure at the Eismann Center.

Best Regards,
Gary Beach

Mark Steger said...

Gary, thanks for that correction. I consider this concession to be almost nothing. If the City had asked for some retail fronting the DART station, the developer would have added parking himself or faced difficulty in leasing that retail. Eastside has a floor of free public parking in its tenant garages. Brick Row has a floor of free public parking in its tenant garage. I also find it ironic that the one concession that the city wrested from the developer for a "transit village" of "pedestrian-friendly blocks" is to make it more car-friendly.