Brent Jackson, the owner/developer of the mixed use development Sylvan |Thirty in West Dallas, recently made a not-so-successful pitch to the City Plan Commission to expand the project by 1.8 acres.
Commissioners found his concept promising, but refused to vote on an amendment to a planned development district. The consensus opinion at the May 18 meeting was that Jackson’s concept had not yet come together fully, and attendees opted to keep the public hearing open until June 22.
Sylvan|Thirty, at 1818 Sylvan Avenue, is at the southeast corner of Sylvan and Fort Worth Avenues in a neighborhood with a number of recent high density residential projects, due to its proximity to downtown’s Reunion District.
Opened in 2014, Sylvan|Thirty was the first of this new wave of residential development west of the Commerce Street bridge. Los Angeles-based Arc Capital Partners purchased the apartment portion in May. The development boasts an organic grocery market, local retailers, and more than 200 studios and lofts.
Jackson, president of Oaxaca Interests LLC, also owns the lot across the street, between Sylvan and Chappell Street. There is a large brick office building at the corner of Chappell and Fort Worth occupied by a Chase Bank branch. Due to the asymmetric shape of the lot, the east side is much larger, and it’s upon that side that Jackson wants to add three new buildings.
“We’re looking to add additional retail that we feel strongly will be a credit to the neighborhood,” Jackson told the commissioners.
The concept Jackson wants would include architecture complimentary to Sylvan|Thirty, and encourage crossover pedestrian traffic between the two sides. “We really are trying to create a district,” he said.
The proposed three new buildings are small, relative to what’s already around the project site. The existing Chase Bank building is 32,434 square feet. Jackson wants to add a 3,382-square-foot office building, a 3,216-square-foot retail building, and a 4,101-square-foot restaurant building.
The project was opposed as presented by the Fort Worth Avenue Development Group. FWADG President Deborah Carpenter had a few concerns, but the main issue was the 90 percent metal facades of the three buildings.
Jackson said the high percentage of metal exterior in the design was at the suggestion of city staff. A staff member said this metal percentage should be seen in context with the dark brick of the Chase Bank building, and the spacing between the newer buildings that would open up the lot’s interior. That layout is similar to Sylvan|Thirty, which spaces the retail and residential so that views from the street allow onlookers to see the interior plazas.
However, the percentage of metal panels on facades allowed at Sylvan|Thirty is 50 percent. The commissioners appeared confused with staff’s explanation and argued that 90 percent metal paneling was too drastic a contrast.
There was also reluctance to go along with Jackson’s request for a reduction in the required number of parking spaces. He wanted to limit parking to 91 slots, leaving a 65-car deficit. Jackson claimed he owned an additional 10 acres nearby and wanted to construct surface parking off-site to further encourage short walks. He also said he had surplus retail parking space at Sylvan|Thirty. But the commissioners were not swayed.
Commissioner Paul Ridley joined a chorus of “nays,” adding that he was also refusing until Jackson submitted a development plan. Ridley noted that Jackson retained the San Antonio architectural firm Lake|Flato and had conceptual drawings, albeit ones that were “demonstrative only,” and he was far advanced in tenant negotiations. Yet Jackson had only submitted a conceptual site plan.
“The appropriate action today would be to hold to allow for discussions with Fort Worth Avenue Development, and to discuss with staff how to make some of the adjustments necessary to address issues raised,” Ridley said.
Post Publication Note: On June 1, Oaxaca Interests announced that Sylvan|Thirty had become the first commercial development in West Dallas to earn the U.S. Green Building Council’s coveted LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification. Sylvan|Thirty was recognized for rehabilitating a “brownfield site,” incorporating decomposed granite parking and a vegetated bioswale throughout the development to filter and reduce stormwater discharge in an effort to keep the Trinity River healthy. It was also commended for providing preferred parking for fuel-efficient vehicles and the use of low-emitting building materials to reduce indoor air contaminants.
“From day one, my goal has been to create a development that celebrates the community and the environment,” Jackson said. “This certification is a recognition of all the investors, residents and tenants who have come together to rally around local products, family businesses and green initiatives to make our community a better place to live.”