Things have been relatively quiet since developers proposed razing the 40-year-old Forestwood Townhomes at the northwest corner of Forest and Inwood to make way for a new mixed-use center. It includes retail, apartments and practice fields for Jesuit.
Last night the Daniel family, who has owned the property for over 160 years, presented some important updates to the proposal and addressed the major concerns neighbors still have about the project, with Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates in attendance. They have not yet filed for a zoning change. Here are the highlights:
The proposal has been scaled back.
It now calls for increased setbacks, a smaller grocer, fewer apartment units and a lower height for the apartments abutting the neighborhood. In two areas along the back of the property at the creek line, the current setbacks would increase by 47 and 26 feet, respectively, and in another spot remain the same. The apartments on that end of the property have gone from three stories to two. The grocer dropped from 50,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet (the size of, say, a Trader Joe’s or Fresh Market). The number of proposed apartment units went from 350 to 325.
Traffic will increase.
Bill Dalstrom, the land-use attorney working with the developers, presented a long-awaited traffic study examining all four corners of Forest and Inwood. The study found that on average, drivers wait 73 seconds in the mornings, and 71 seconds in the evenings to get through the intersection. The study also showed that between 2007 and 2014 traffic increased by 21 percent on Forest and 14 percent on Inwood — presumably because of the construction of LBJ Express, diverting traffic to the neighborhood. Once the freeway is completed in late 2015, that increase should go away, Dalstrom says.
“Any development is going to increase traffic,” he says. “The question is, is it worth it? We believe it is.”
Some neighbors were unconvinced by the numbers, and Councilwoman Gates noted that these studies almost always show what the developer wants them to show.
The plan includes wider sidewalks, pedestrian gathering spaces, patio areas and preserved trees.
Neighbors expressed concern over ripping out trees that screen the property we see there today. Dalstrom says that trees are “critical” to the plan’s success and “set the tone for the development.” The idea is to build the structures and parking lot around as many existing trees as possible.
There also would be a walking trail along the creek behind the project.
“We think it make sense in terms of the connectivity and bringing people into the community,” Dalstrom says.
The Daniel family will not consider allowing the property to remain residential only.
They would have to sell the property to an apartment developer, a notion that is “off the table,” and an alternative plan without retail would likely call for many more units than neighbors would want.
Jesuit’s fields would be after-school practice fields and not be lit at night.
Because we know how contentious that issue can get.
What’s happening at the northeast corner?
As we reported last fall, the Daniels
plan to redevelop are considering redeveloping the four acres occupied by the Forestwood Antique Mall, the old Kel’s Kitchen and the Forest Car Wash — which amounts to about 40,000 square feet of retail. The area will remain retail (as it’s currently zoned), and none of the access points to the shopping center will change.
And the southeast corner?
Comerica Bank has about a decade left on its long-term lease, so there are no plans for that corner at this time.
Developers will help each Forestwood Townhome resident relocate.
It was clear at last night’s meeting: the people who live in the Forestwood Townhomes are just as much a part of the community as surrounding homeowners. Many of the residents are elderly or single parents whose children attend the neighborhood schools. Pushing them out is not taken lightly, and neighbors urged the Daniel family to think of “the human side” of this development.
Many neighbors were pleased with the updates to the proposal. Restauranteur Gene Street of Liberty Burger says he’s excited about bringing more restaurant competition to the corner. “I hope to have a new concept that can go in there if I can afford it. Restaurants always make the neighborhood better.” Al Daniels of the Glen Meadow neighborhood, which is seeing the construction of a new Walmart and Sam’s Club right now, voiced support for the project on behalf of the HOA.
Robert Hart of the Forestwood neighborhood, which backs up to the property, spoke for the homeowners who’d see the biggest impact of this development — and who have been the most vocal opponents. “We’re pro-development, we’re pro-Jesuit,” he says, but there is still concern about the future of the northeast corner. He doesn’t trust the results of the traffic study, and 300 people have signed a petition to eliminate the retail component from the proposal.
The Daniel family plans to have smaller neighborhood meetings over the next several months. After the zoning request is filed, it must be approved by the City Plan Commission and then the City Council. In the end it’s up to the neighborhood council representative to make sure the developers stay true to their intentions, and that the pretty renderings reflect the reality of the projects. “That’s my responsibility,” Gates says.
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