While discussion continues on Transwestern’s potential development of a six-story luxury apartment community at the northeast corner of Preston and Northwest Highway, a much larger project is underway in the same corridor, and the re-zoning application already is headed to the City Plan Commission.
At 8215 Westchester Dr., on what is now a three-story medical office building, Crosland Group plans to construct Highland House, a 27-story residential tower with around 250 units, marketed toward empty-nesters. It’s the “highest-end residential in Dallas,” says chairman and CEO Luke Crosland, who also was behind the luxury iLume in Oak Lawn.
The entire Preston Center area south of Northwest Highway is a planned development district (PD 134). This project needs re-zoning approval to allow for greater height and density, affecting only this particular site within the existing PD, which historically has catered to commercial uses.
“The zoning isn’t residential-friendly,” says Rick Williamson, Crosland Group’s director of development.
If approved, Highland House would be the tallest building in Preston Center by 30 feet but still lies within the residential proximity slope. The site is near the center of the commercial district, surrounded by other office buildings, so the tower wouldn’t cast its shadow into neighborhood yards, developers say. The zoning change would allow for up to 29 stories.
District 13 Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates — who recused herself from engaging in the Transwestern project over a major conflict of interest — has been actively engaged with neighbors on Highland House. The developers have hosted two public meetings, and the reaction to the height and density increase hasn’t been nearly as contentious.
“I’m not getting much opposition,” Gates says. “I do believe that some type of residential is wanted in that area.”
The units would range from 1,200 to 1,400 square feet with rents starting around $4,000 a month. The building design includes five stories of parking garage — 30 percent more than what the city requires — and 19 stories of residential, which also includes climate-control storage, a dog spa, a private club and other high-end amenities.
Crosland has officed out of Berkshire Court in Preston Center for decades and watched very little change happen when it comes to creating a true urban lifestyle.
“Twenty-seven years, and nothing has changed,” he says. “The one thing the area’s missing is residential. We want to create a 24/7 presence at Preston Center.”
What about all the traffic?
The traffic study that Crosland Group submitted to the city suggests Highland House would actually decrease traffic in the area, compared to what’s there now.
According to projections from Deshazo Group, the engineering firm that conducted the study, the existing medical building generates 1,666 cars daily, and the proposed residential tower — which would house around 400-500 people — amounts to 1,181 cars entering and exiting each day. That’s 29 percent less traffic.
Williamson and Crosland say office buildings have a more intense impact on traffic than residential buildings. And the residents of Highland House would be retired folks, people who spend half the year at a second home, lock-and-leave types. Plus, they’re likely to walk to most retail and service businesses within Preston Center.
Crosland insists that the back-up seen along Northwest Highway each day comes mostly from through-traffic — drivers avoiding LBJ and other congested freeways at rush hour. He says he has just as much of an interest in relieving traffic as concerned neighbors.
“It’s a daily thing for us,” Crosland says.
That’s why he has worked with TxDOT, University Park and the City of Dallas to install left turn lanes at Preston and Northwest Highway, which should be happening very soon (more on that in a future story).
A warm reception — for now
In its two public meetings within the notification area, which includes residences south of Preston Center, churches and business owners, Crosland Group has fielded a few questions about the design of the building, parking and green space, but no concerns have resulted in any opposition.
However, Preston Hollow East — the homeowners on the north side of Northwest Highway — have expressed concern over Highland House for the same reason they oppose the Transwestern project: traffic.
The Highland House zoning case should be heard at the plan commission sometime this month. It also will need approval from the City Council.
Transwestern still has yet to file its zoning application.
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the number of stories of the proposed tower. The plan includes 27 stories, including the ground and penthouse levels.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.