Preston Center: Photo by Fernando Rojas

Preston Center: Photo by Fernando Rojas

After lengthy discussion, the City Council today backed Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates’ request to delay a vote on whether to allow Crow Holdings to build a skybridge in Preston Center.

The council is scheduled to tackle the proposal again Nov. 10 after the Preston Center task force gains its footing and fast-tracks a recommendation specifically on parking. There’s “an extreme amount of discord, and a lot of unknown,” Gates says.

The City Plan Commission approved the specific use permit in March, and both the CPC and city staff recommended approval at City Council today.

To recap, 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. They are luring a grocer, Tom Thumb, to anchor 55,000 square feet of available retail space already allowed under current zoning.

Problem is, the Gates also launching a land-use and transportation study of Preston Center, following the contentious zoning battles we saw last year. Neighborhood stakeholders have been appointed to a task force and have begun meeting and fundraising to hire a consultant to determine what kind of development is best for the area.

Opponents of the skybridge, including eight of the 13 task force members, say approving the proposal undermines the efforts of the study, threatening to increase the traffic and parking problems, while proponents believe the bridge and grocer that might come with it will improve the center.

The Preston Center study won’t be complete until at least a year from now. (You can read up on the study here.)

“[Crow Holdings isn’t] willing to wait that long, but they’re willing to give us about six months,” Gates says, “if we could address this particular area and the garage itself immediately.”

However, East Dallas Councilman Philip Kingston unsuccessfully motioned to delay the vote long enough for the task force to finish the study, saying that “neighbors are being subjected to battle of attrition.”

“I worry about the message we send to volunteers if we take flexibility away from them before they’ve been able to complete their work,” he says.

The North Texas Council of Governments is funding half the cost of the $300,000 study, but the community has yet to raise the rest from private donors. This concerned North Dallas Councilman Lee Kleinman who cautioned that these studies can drag on for years, although he supported Gates’ request.

“If this is just another way to get in the way of development at Preston Center, and rebuilding Preston Center, we have to be concerned about that,” he says.

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