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, including retail, apartments and practice fields for Jesuit Prep. The Daniel family, who has owned the property for more than 160 years, last month presented some important updates to the proposal and addressed major concerns about traffic and over-development. The Daniels are seeking a zoning change at the historically residential corner and plan to file within the next several months. Here are seven things to know:
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 Jennifer Staubach Gates noted that these studies almost always show what the developers want 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 makes 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.
What’s happening at the northeast corner?
The Daniels are considering redeveloping the 4 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 would 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.