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That’s a question many neighborhood residents want answered as developers eye the northeast corner of Preston and Northwest Highway for a new eight-story, high-density, luxury rental community.

“This is our community where we’ve lived for most of our lives,” said Ashley Parks, president of the Preston Hollow East homeowner’s association. “We want to keep that neighborhood feel.”

About 100 residents packed into the Preston Center Black-Eyed Pea Saturday morning to hear more from the developers at Transwestern. Parks says that 99 percent of the neighbors in the HOA oppose the project because it would significantly increase the density and traffic at an already crowded intersection.

The proposed site includes the small apartment complex of just 24 units on the corner along with the 12 town homes behind them. It all would be razed to make way for the new development of nearly 300 units.

The current zoning (MF-1) allows for three stories. The developers will submit a re-zoning application for a planned development district, which would allow them to customize specific restrictions such as height and setback.

They are considering eight stories because that’s the highest they can go under the residential proximity slope, a 3-to-1 height restriction meant to protect homeowners who back up to the project. For every foot of height, there’s a three-foot setback.

The idea is to engage and work with the surrounding residents and come up a plan that most everyone can support.

“We want to make this a collaborative effort,” says Mark Culwell with Transwestern. The developers have not filed an official application with the city just yet. First, they’re meeting with several homeowner groups to address the concerns before moving forward.

Many can agree that that corner needs an upgrade. It has become a haven for crime and abandoned vehicles. But, why not work with the existing zoning instead of pursuing such a dramatic change to the neighborhood?

“We can create something of much higher quality,” says Bill Dalstrom, a land use attorney from Jackson Walker L.L.P. who’s working with Transwestern. “We see it as an iconic location.”

The plan includes an underground parking garage, plus a community park on the north end that will act as a buffer for Preston Hollow East. A planned development district is what makes all that possible.

“We’re not trying to recreate something you’d see in Uptown,” Culwell says. “This is something that will appeal to a more mature market.”

They’re thinking empty-nesters — folks who aren’t on the same 9-to-5 traffic schedule. Rent prices would start at $2,000 and reach $5,000 or more.

The developers say the project would fit the surrounding area. On Northwest Highway, there’s already the 29-story Preston Tower condos and the 21-story Athena condos which may contribute to much of the traffic.

The city requires the developers to fund their own traffic study, but neighbors entertained the idea of doing one of their own. The current site plan — which is not set in stone — has the entrance on Preston. Some homeowners worry that those residents will use the neighborhood streets rather than fighting the traffic on Northwest Highway.

As one meeting attendee said,”I can’t imagine that kind of density can be supported with this infrastructure.”

The Townhouse Row HOA, which includes those 12 town homes on the proposed site, has been approached by numerous buyers over the years. The owners unanimously agreed to sell to Transwestern, said HOA president Pamela Smith.

“We can’t even agree on how to grow our grass,” she said.

She said the firm is willing to collaborate with neighbors, and that’s a better scenario that if someone rebuilt a project under the current zoning — which wouldn’t require them to talk to the neighbors at all.

“There’s no incentive for them to engage,” she says.

Even after the developers file their application, the debate continues at the city plan commission and eventually the city council.

The site is in District 13, but Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates has had to recuse herself from the process due to a conflict of interest. District 11 Councilman Lee Kleinman, and District 13 plan commissioner Margot Murphy are working to form a committee with neighbors to address issues going forward.

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