Preston Center: Photo by Fernando Rojas

Preston Center’s existing garage and the Preston Center Pavilion: Photo by Fernando Rojas

Update:

The City Plan Commission on Thursday approved the specific use permit to build a skybridge in Preston Center. The request will head to City Council in a few weeks for the final say.

Original post:

Following an intense year of zoning battles, the anticipated Preston Center land-use study — meant to create a new vision for the troubled area — is beginning to take shape.

And so is another hotly contested zoning proposal.

Crow Holdings wants to install a skybridge from its Preston Center Pavilion building — which houses Marshalls and CVS, among other tenants — to the adjacent two-story garage at the core of Preston Center.

The move aims to attract a grocer, possibly Tom Thumb, to an available 50,000-square-foot space inside the Pavilion, “which is kind of unprecedented in Preston Center,” says Anna Graves of Crow Holdings. No lease has yet been signed.

The skybridge would help grocery shoppers safely cross Westchester.

“Preston Center has always been vibrant, and that’s not going away,” she says. “We think it’s a new step into today.”

The grocery store is allowed under current zoning. The skybridge requires a specific use permit. That’s what the City Plan Commission will vote on during its March 5 meeting.

If Crow Holdings is denied the permit, plans for the grocer will be thrown out, Graves says, and the space will be split up among smaller tenants.

 

Opposition to the skybridge proposal includes former mayor Laura Miller, real estate investor Leland Burk and the Crosland Group.

“It’s more support for the city-sponsored land-use study than it is being against the skybridge,” says Crosland Group president Rick Williamson, who previously was at odds with Miller over the Highland House proposal last fall.

He says several stakeholders invested in the study agree the skybridge is a bad idea right now. The study’s task force of neighborhood leaders and business owners recently formed and has its first meeting March 2.

Many might agree that the city-owned parking garage to which the skybridge would connect is a problem area itself. The Dallas Observer pointed to it as one of the reasons “why Preston Center sucks.”

If the garage were to be redeveloped, the skybridge would not get in the way, Graves says. It’s a moveable “self-sustaining structure” that can accommodate changes.

“It will have no impact on future development,” she says.

But Williamson says, “The fact is, that’s what will happen,” because the proposal allows one business owner to monopolize Preston Center.

The garage can hold up to 800 cars. It’s often full at lunchtime and mostly empty at night and on weekends when people typically do their grocery shopping, Graves says. The Tom Thumb in the Plaza at Preston Center is always packed, and it’s too small for neighborhood demand. (Although we can’t know for sure, logic leads us to believe that store would close if the larger Tom Thumb opened across the street.) The Preston Center Pavilion also has a garage of its own that holds 314 cars.

There is no official traffic or parking study associated with the specific use permit application because there is no change in use. If the permit is approved, Crow Holdings also has promised to spend $1.1 million to improve the garage with new paint, lighting and other upgrades.

Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates, who has spearheaded the launch of the land-use study, says she hasn’t determined whether the skybridge would hinder her efforts.

“I’m vetting it out and working with all sides,” she says. “I’ve made it very clear that I don’t want to support any zoning request that will have an impact on the usage of Preston Center,” she says.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Rick Williamson’s title.


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