Will Walnut Hill and Central Expressway be home to the city’s next West Village or Mockingbird Station?

That depends on how the City Council votes. Or if it ever makes it to a City Council vote.

Provident Realty Advisors has a contract to buy the intersection’s northwest corner, a 42-acre site currently developed with a retail center and more than 900 apartments. Its plan is to level what’s there and build a mixed-use development of retail, residential and office space.

“The concept we’re trying to achieve is sort of an urban lifestyle development, similar to something like West Village in that it has retail and multi-family combined,” says Kim Wise, development partner for the project.

If Provident’s plan become reality, demolition of the existing retail center and apartments could start in early 2005.

But the site’s zoning must first be changed, which requires a recommendation to the council by the City Plan Commission (CPC). And Bruce Wilke, the Preston Hollow resident who chairs that commission, is very interested in what the neighbors think.

“I have told neighbors that I am not going to vote for a bad plan, and I will give their opinions a lot of weight,” he says.

And that may be the fly in the developer’s ointment.

“The main thing we’re interested in is maintaining home values and making the access to our place relatively good,” says Bob Musgrove, president of Glen Lakes Homeowners Association. “It’s not that we want them to fail. We’d love to see a good, positive place go in there.”

But the plans his group saw were far from their idea of good or positive.

“They were gonna have a big retail strip, with the centerpiece being some big box and high-rise building,” he says. And that, to many homeowners, means more traffic and more crime.

“One major concern among the neighbors is the additional traffic, and there would obviously be some,” Wilke says.

In late July, Provident presented the CPC with a request including 400,000 total square feet of non-residential use, a reduced amount from its original proposal. But the commission and city planning staff considered the commercial usage still too large. So Provident went back to the drawing board and met again with area neighborhood associations.

“They have offered to reduce their request to 280,000 square feet of commercial, among other things,” Wilke says. “However, there is still significant opposition. More time might help.”

Provident, though, says it doesn’t have all the time in the world. “We need to resolve this zoning as quickly as possible, because the seller has given us a deadline, and it may very well be enforced,” says Wise.

Councilwoman Lois Finkelman, whose district includes the site has also weighed in on the issue.

“The apartment complex there has probably outlived its useful life,” she says. “I’m hopeful that the developer will reach a consensus with the majority of the homeowners, if not all of them. I don’t know that they’ll have 100 percent support, but I’m hoping they have enough that it will become an easy decision for me.”

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