The Garden District project was first proposed to city council in 2011. (Courtesy of Cooper & Stebbins)
Southlake City Council approved a proposed site plan for 58 residences and open green spaces inside the Garden District at a meeting on May 18.
In a 6-1 vote, council gave the green light to plans for two four-story buildings along Central Avenue in Southlake Town Square. Council member Ronnell Smith was the opposite vote. The project sparked conversations about the possibility of providing high-density housing options in the city’s downtown core.
While many residents and council members expressed their opposition to the density of the project, city attorney Allen Taylor Jr. stressed that council does not have the discretion to decide whether residences should be built on this property, because the zoning was decided in 2003.
The 2.2 acres are zoned as downtown, which allows for the construction of residential developments.
“We are required to follow the requirements of the zoning ordinance to comply with Texas law,” Taylor said. “And so the board really doesn’t have the discretion at this point to reconsider this. We can fix design issues, but we’re locked into use.
The Conceptual Plan for the Garden District located at 301 and 351 Central Avenue was first presented to council in 2011, with a project of 10 buildings for a total of 140 units — 130 residences and 10 brownstones. In 2013, the concept plan was revised, reducing the number of buildings to three, for a total of 93 units — 60 residences and 33 brownstones.
The 33 approved brownstones are now almost complete.
Cooper & Stebbins developer Frank Bliss told council the 58 residential units on offer will appeal to the city’s affluent and working population with “world-class architecture.”
“[The site plan is] substantially in line with the concept plan, while at the same time allowing us to step up the quality of what we can deliver to this neighborhood, ”he said.
The site plan includes a public park, known as The Grove, and a private terrace adjacent to the existing Stebbins Park, known as The Terrace. It also includes pedestrian walkways throughout the neighborhood for accessibility.
“We’re not a developer looking for maximum density to see how much we can get down to the ground,” Bliss said. “We really want to create places, create experiences and really serve the Southlake community. “
The developer was unable to give an estimated timeline for the completion of the project, although Bliss has confirmed that the two buildings will be constructed in a single phase.
Council member Randy Robbins expressed disappointment with the current zoning of the land.
“I guess the word that would describe me tonight is just disappointment,” he said. “Disappointed that it took [the developer] 10 years to get here, and we’re grappling with the 2011 decision, and disappointed that you don’t commit – even if we approve something – to doing something in a timely manner [and] that we could be grappling with for another five or ten years without knowing what’s going on. “
According to the developer, once completed, the Garden District residences should be valued at more than $ 60 million, or $ 1 million per residence. Along with the nearly completed Brown Stones in the Garden District, the neighborhood’s total value is estimated to be over $ 100 million.
The Town Square residential program is expected to generate about $ 2.7 million in property taxes per year for Carroll ISD and more than $ 800,000 per year for the city after the residences are completed, according to documents presented by the developer to council.
“It’s one of those times when there’s a vote that might be a politically easy vote, but it’s not responsible voting. We will always do, as a council, what we need to do to protect the city’s fiscal responsibility, ”said Mayor John Huffman.