New construction in Preston Hollow has slowed, but not abated entirely, and a recent issue of this magazine revealed the strong emotions associated with the topic of new construction in an established neighborhood. As with any type of development, commercial or residential, people feel strongly about the bricks and mortar that make up their environment. They know what they want to live in the midst of, and their overriding concern is always protecting the value of their property.



Yet residents who live in the neighborhood’s older homes often resent the newcomers and their French- or English-inspired dwellings, which are often triple the size of surrounding homes. They often overlook the fact that the very desirability of their properties for new-home construction benefits all who live in the neighborhood, older home or not, by increasing every resident’s property values. So the Preston Hollow ranch home with no distinguishing architectural features is worth a really ridiculous amount of money because the land it sits on is close to downtown and also large enough to construct a home that appeals to the millennium family’s tastes and needs.



I’m not particularly fond of the architectural style of the new construction, and I do not relish the thought of a three-story mini-chateau going up in the lot next door to me, towering over my one-story home and overlooking my pool. But I do recognize that the reason my home cost what it did, and appreciates at the obscene rate that it does, is because a developer wants my lot to build someone’s dream home on. 



Recently, one Dallas neighborhood took steps to end this trend of erasing the past and enacted a conservation district that restricts certain types of development. Residents in the M Streets neighborhood decided that what is charming and valuable about their neighborhood is not the postage-stamp lots the houses sit on, but the 1930s bungalow and Tudor architecture that was slowly being destroyed by new-home construction that did not reflect the prevalent architectural style. Their fear is that if the neighborhood loses its characteristic architecture, property values will fall accordingly. 



Preston Hollow also is faced with the choice of creating a conservation district to protect the architectural integrity of our neighborhood. Mitchell Rasansky, city councilman for the district, has proposed to the Preston Hollow East Homeowners’ Association (PHEHA) that it schedule a meeting to educate the neighborhood on requirements for setting up such restrictions. The PHEHA board of directors feels that neighborhood residents, and not the board, should decide if a conservation district is of interest to them. The issue promises to be contentious as homeowners who are just beginning their tenure in the neighborhood are likely to have different priorities than longtime residents about to reap the benefits of riding the construction boom by cashing in to developers. One solution is perhaps that residents on each street or block decide amongst themselves if they would like to pass the restrictions, not involving the neighborhood as a whole.



My husband and I fall into the category of established homeowners who worry about what impact development will have on our property value. Yet even within our household, we don’t always see the subject the same way. I believe the interest by builders in our neighborhood protects the investment we have in our property, while my husband worries that too much new construction will erode the value we have invested.



Both of us were dismayed recently when the new owners of a lot that backs up to our home razed the existing house, along with a 100-year-old tree whose branches reached over the alley and shaded the back corner of our yard. While we are resigned to the idea that development will happen around us, we didn’t expect it to be so painful. We mourned the loss of that tree as if it had been in our own yard.



But we have also been pleasantly surprised that our new neighbors have chosen to construct a more contemporary, one-story home that features the large rooms, tall ceilings, walk-in closets, his-and-her master bath vanities, whirlpool tub and guest house that are currently de rigueur in new construction, all without towering into the air that our homes share.



Watching this new home emerge, I have come to wonder if some type of development compromise is possible, one that challenges developers and architects to create homes that maintain the architectural spirit of the neighborhood while still providing the amenities that today’s families need in their lives.



Could it be possible to manage the growth in Preston Hollow and protect our property values at the same time?



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