Councilwoman Jennifer Staubach Gates and the Preston Center task force want you to know no decisions have been made on the long-disputed Northwest neighborhood development. That was the message they repeated over and over during Thursday night’s community meeting where consultants Kimley-Horn made a presentation on their work exploring palatable ways to redevelop the neighborhood.

“What you see tonight is just a work in progress,” promised Peter Kline, a real estate investor and member of the task force.

The project area was split up into zones, which basically broke down to the retail apex at Northwest and Preston, the multi-family housing behind the pink wall and single-family neighborhoods that surround the area. Mark Bowers of Kimley-Horn says we could see the most change in the retail sector, not surprisingly, which will definitely begin with parking.

The current garage with its 800 spaces is “a major impediment” to retail growth. They propose building one perhaps double the size that would likely be underground, perhaps covered by green space. There would be an orchestrated effort to make the neighborhood more walkable to reduce traffic, including the addition of pedestrian and bike trials from surrounding neighborhoods into the center.

“I would like to reiterate that the project is still a work in progress,” Bowers added, repeating the night’s mantra for the umpteenth time.

Bowers also discussed the desire to bring more housing to the retail area to create a space where people can “live, work, shop and be entertained.” Several models were presented, showcasing potential design options, all of which are supposed to be posted in the project website today (they weren’t up when I posted this).

In Zone 4, which spans the multi-family housing along Northwest, developers would like to increase the density, but by exactly how much is still up for debate. Plans to replace some aging buildings and add 1,200 to 1,800 units, including a mixture of townhomes and rental units, have been discussed.

The others zones would see minimal changes in an effort to protect the character of the single-family neighborhoods. The only changes could come from “traffic calming” additions like speed bumps or street narrowing, sidewalk improvements and walking trails, but those would be directed by the residents.

“That would only happen if the neighbors requested it,” Bowers said. “The city wouldn’t just do it.”

The crowd of more than 150, who braved sheets of rain to hear the presentation and provide feedback, had mixed reactions. As always, parking and traffic were of serious concern to many, who questioned adding more cars and other types of transportation to already congested roadways.

“The idea of a bicycle lane on Preston Road just scares the dickens out of me,” commented one man to a round of applause. “I think that’s a serious hazard waiting to happen.”

Those in attendance were asking to fill out a questionnaire critiquing each proposed zone and providing other feedback on the plans thus far. Kimley-Horn plans to take that input to the task force’s meeting on June 13, where site plans will continue to be refined.

Kimley-Horn is planning to find a palatable design very soon, with the hope of having an area plan approved by City Council by September. But that’s only after the neighbors have their say.


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