CityPlace Neighbors Are Rallying to Fight Planned Sam's Club, But It's Probably Too Late

Categories: Development

SamsClub.jpg
Neighbors are, at this very moment, rallying opposition to the Sam's Club that Trammell Crow plans to build at CityPlace. They've launched the inevitable Change.org petition. They've booked Councilman Adam Medrano for a community meeting tonight. They are scouring the final development plan the City Plan Commission is scheduled to vote on tomorrow, hoping to find something that can derail the project.

None of it will do any good.

Sure, neighbors may be able to wring some concessions from Trammell Crow, a few extra trees here, a modestly rearranged traffic mitigation plan there, but the chances of killing the project are essentially nil.

"At this point, the zoning is there for ... big-box regional retail," says Neil Emmons, one of the hosts of tonight's community meeting. "The only thing left is the development plan, and if the development plan complies with the zoning ordinance," the Plan Commission has to approve it.

See also: Trammell Crow Wants to Build a Sam's Club at CityPlace

Emmons would know. He spent eight years on the Plan Commission and already has one Walmart scalp, having helped derail a 2002 plan to build a Supercenter at Mockingbird Lane and Lemmon Avenue. Neighbors may be able to score some amendments to the development plan, but otherwise the deal is done.

How did this happen? How did Trammell Crow manage to slip plans for an enormous warehouse store a stone's throw from downtown past the Plan Commission and City Council until it was too late to stop them?

Hard to say, but the original rezoning proposal was unanimously approved by both the Plan Commission and City Council in May 2013, with no one appearing to speak in opposition.

Had neighbors been aware of what was in the works, they would have showed up in force, says CityPlace neighbor Jonas Park.

The neighborhood, which occupies roughly the same real estate on the east side of Central that Uptown does on the west, is rapidly gentrifying. When Park moved in four years ago, the neighborhood was in decline. "I was more of a pioneer," he says. "No one on the other side was moving this way." Since then, he says, that more than a dozen new houses have been or are being built on his street and the adjacent block.

The Sam's, Park fears, will reverse that trend, dropping property values and driving away the urban types who might otherwise be attracted to a growing area so close to downtown. He's also not thrilled about the traffic, which is already terrible.

It's not quite that neighbors were unaware that a zoning change was in the works last spring. They were mailed cards alerting them to that fact as the city requires. But Park says that when they met with developers they were pitched a vision of an "East Village," a walkable, urban mirror-image of West Village. Most thought it seemed like a pretty good idea.

"When the news came out that it was going to be a Sam's Club with a big box in the middle, it caught everybody by surprise."

Now, Park, Emmons, and the rest of the opposition do little more than hope that the folks from Bentonville, Arkansas won't repeat past sins.

"Look at the old Sam's at Greenville and Park lane, and it is a drug dealer's paradise," Emmert says. "What they left us was instant urban blight."

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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89 comments
TrammellCrowCo
TrammellCrowCo

You are invited to a neighborhood reception hosted by Trammell Crow Company to discuss the future development of East Village. The reception will be held tomorrow (Thursday, June 5) in the fellowship hall at the Agape Methodist Church at 5111 Capital Avenue from 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm.

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

If it doesn't work out we can always turn into a mega homeless shelter.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

I wonder if the area residents raised a brouhaha when Target and Kroger were built on the other side of the CItyplace Tower.  Big boxes are already there. 

casiepierce
casiepierce

Wow. I really hate taking up for the Walton family Fortune here, but there are so many things wrong with this story.


First Sam's Club/Wal Mart look at rooftops and income. These wonderful "urban pioneers" who obviously saw potential in their neighborhoods east of Central have only brought this on themselves. They move in, complain about lack of amenities, and then complain that it's not the "right kind" of amenity.


Second, comparing it to Vickery Meadow. Stupid. Wal Mart looks at vicinity zip codes, population and average income. They know nothing of the nuances of neighborhood-centric identities, and they don't care- they're in business to make money, not to hip up a neighborhood. VM was a drug den when it opened- the Sam's Club didn't turn it into one.


Third, you can get concessions from the Walton Family Fortune. A Wal Mart Neighborhood store recently opened in Garland, on Garland Road and Miller, at the site of the iconic (okay "iconic" to Garlandites anyway) Garland Shopping Center and the city councilman there negotiated some concessions, like they can't tear down that old Garland Shopping Center sign, and they can't use it for advertising, and they can't hold onto that property into perpetuity whenever it fails and closes, etc.  So, Neal Emmons, blame the city council representative for not doing his/her job here. That is, unless you agree that they need $100k a year to, ya know, actually do their jobs.

BobLowlaw
BobLowlaw

I can see that area from my office window.  While it isn't exactly "blighted" it's been pretty bad for many years.  It is directly across from a Target, Big Lots, and Office Depot and it is next to a Kroger (not to mention 3 or 4 office towers). It isn't in Uptown. And of course, it's right next to a busy freeway.  It seems like a perfectly appropriate use.  But I'm sure that if the neighbors want to buy the property from the developer, he would be happy to sell it to them for a fair return.

ignorant
ignorant

I guess I am pretty ignorant to the process but why do they have to approve it?  Can't they just say a simple no we've changed our mind... it does happen everyday in all walks of life afterall. 

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

The old bait and switch, a project sold on lies?

Suck it up and move on. They won.

anonymous
anonymous

Let's see, this new development will be north of an area that is already scarred by the Target shopping center and a slightly better Kroger/LA Fitness complex, so I guess I'm having a hard time understanding the issue.

As far as the neighbors, those owners or families living closest to this area are praying to the sweet baby Jesus that their homes will be the next to be purchased and bulldozed for new construction, much like what has finally occurred off of Peak and Cabell.

So, I guess it will lie with Adam Medrano to make any substantial changes, so folks should start lobbying him. Like now.  

kduble
kduble

@casiepierce  Big-box retail is simply incompatible with a subway station, and with the entrepreneurial millennial neighborhood springing up around it.

theslowpath
theslowpath

@casiepierce  Although some seemed to be opposed to the tenant, I don't have a problem with Sams Club. But the site plan is awful and straight out of McKinney or Plano. Which is great for Plano but doesn't belong in the city (or at least the city part of Dallas, as a small as that is). 

The concessions that Sam's needs to make are these: a store front that addresses the street. Less surface parking (either because of less parking or by using structured parking). Smaller block size, which means smaller store footprint. Finally, a mix of uses. 

kduble
kduble

@BobLowlaw  After spending billions to develop a rail system, you think negating the benefit of our state's only subway station with auto-dependent, big-box retail "seems like a perfectly appropriate use"?

lakewoodhobo
lakewoodhobo

@BobLowlaw  West Village was blighted once, and look at it now. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@ignorant  

It is an allowed use under its current zoning.  It is specifically listed as an allowed use in 51A of the Development Plan, City of Dallas.  It is why Wal-Mart bought it.  If the council arbitrarily denied a building permit despite the warning of the City Attorney, Wal-Mart would eventually get a free site AND building at taxpayer expense.  The City has actually blocked a similar use a multi-screen cinema company bought for a big complex.  It cost the taxpayer millions and we didn't even get a "thanks!" from the movie house people.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

@anonymous Yes, we are all for the mixed development use (the new kroger/la fitness/apartments) and we were sold that this was going to be the same...in fact the phone conversation was a mixed use with a central market and/or restaurants "we want to make a east village, like the west village - not a SAM's club. No way in hell had they sold a SAMS club to the residents over the phone when asking for support would they have got it.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@anonymous This is probably one of the more accurate depictions of what is happening that I will see. 


But I get a kick out of how our views on property rights depends on whether we own the property or someone else owns the property.

Daniel
Daniel

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz  Well, and also because there was precisely zero new urbanism in Dallas. Zero. How long have YOU been here, honey?

Also, the owner-occupied structures are still almost exclusively Hispanic. The apartments attract young and by definition transient renters (lots of 20-something SMU-ey types) who don't give two shits what goes on that plot of land.

WylieH
WylieH

It's an interesting case... Appears that the developer, working with city staff, may have disguised this project as an urban village and misled the City Plan Commission as part of a scheme to sneak a big box project into the area (it wasn't) allowed under prior zoning.

mavdog
mavdog topcommenter

Walmart didn't buy it, Trammell Crow Company purchased the property and will be a landlord to Walmart.

As long as the site plan meets the requirements of city code the City cannot deny the application or it will be liable for damages, as you point out.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@whocareswhatithink @TheRuddSki The one line you needed to know from that article:


"The North Central project would be Crow’s biggest such development in Dallas since it built the Timber Creek Crossing shopping center on Northwest Highway at Skillman Avenue."


You know what anchors that shopping center right?

Dub919
Dub919

@whocareswhatithink @anonymous  Let's be clear: I despise Walmart, Sam's, etc. and will not shop there.  That said, it's the build-out I have a problem with here.  Build it out to be a walkable, pedestrian friendly development, and I can live with the fact that it's a Sam's Club.  

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@whocareswhatithink @anonymous That's why they didn't tell you.  But it used to be a really large ACS facility.  So it probably wasn't too difficult to get zoning for a mega square foot retail store.  The developer is going to go for the "highest and best use" which means whatever makes them the most money when they flip the place.  Just wondering, but did anyone ask for limits on square footage of buildings? 

WylieH
WylieH

@becoolerifyoudid  They didn't have the right to develop this... they obtained the rights from the City Plan Commission by telling them they were going to build a variation of West Village but needed some zoning adjustments to accomplish that.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@holmantx Unless of course this is being dictated from council down to the troops.  I find the whole "controversy" fascinating, but the shock and disbelief is laughable.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@WylieH Yes, but wouldn't the CPC have to look at it, notice nothing prohibited a big box with the new zoning, think hmm what happened last time Trammel Crow did a large development, and then go along with everything?  If big box was so objectionable, couldn't there have been stipulations to limit square footage. 


If everyone is truly this naïve, then well God bless them all. 

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

@WylieH  

If true then deny the permit on that basis.  In fact, how could the plan commission approve a building permit (or recommend to the council) for a discount store based upon a submitted urban village plan set?

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@primi_timpano Yes, but the Crows hold more money and power than the city staffers.  The Timber Creek deal seems much dirtier in that they bought the land when it was zoned residential and deteriorating but they had a wink-wink nod agreement with Council to get the zoning changed. 

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

No, but they could gut it up and tell the Crows future Dallas developments may not be looked upon with kindness. Then there are the code inspectors, maybe increasing residential water prices to extremely high levels for usage a mansion consumption rates.

pak152
pak152

@whocareswhatithink @becoolerifyoudid@TheRuddSki  

tthey are going to fill in a whole
https://www.google.com/maps/search/sams+club/@32.8094477,-96.7931903,20663m/data=!3m2!1e3!4b1

see where the current Sams clubs are. I highly suspect that Walmart has been doing some heavy data analysis from the currrent Sams Club and realizes that a large portion of the buyers come from that area and south of downtown (Sodo). the only Sams SODO is on IH20 near 67. putting this one on Central means that folks from South Dallas will be able to come north of Downtown to shop

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

@becoolerifyoudid @whocareswhatithink@TheRuddSki But its not the same formula, that has walmart/sams club/jc penny/bank/smaller shops and known fast food restaurants


The formula is great and south dallas could use something like that now.


A urban SAMS club, from what I can tell has not been done before, urban walmarts, yes but a big box store with no mixed use now according to the plans I have seen is backwards of everything we have been told that the city is shooting for...how knows maybe one of kingstons and medranos bike sharing stations would do great with someone carrying a 50 inch flat screen.


The point is, someone, somewhere either lied of dropped the ball and that's the real issue. If they had been honest, I doubt the plan would have been met with zero resistance.


I guess after you go and see your art show and wylie theatre you can stop off and pick up a 5 gallon jug of mayo. But have fun trying to get over to the exit while you do it.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@whocareswhatithink @becoolerifyoudid@TheRuddSki They need to be more concerned with the land on the north side of Henderson that is currently sitting vacant.  Can't remember if the Andres Brothers still own it, I think they sold it, but that one will be a much bigger issue when it comes. 


I think the Sam's at Bachman Lake is within 5 miles of the Sam's at Skillman, both on Northwest Highway.  So really we are talking 3 sams clubs.  But Trammel Crow made millions off developing and selling Timber Creek.  No surprise that they would try the same formula.

WylieH
WylieH

No. The problem is big box retail in that location... It is in gross violation of the City's officially adopted land use plan.

WylieH
WylieH

Yes. It should have been EXTREMELY difficult to change this from an office building to big box retail.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

@Anonymous I get that, but this was under Mama Medrano when this was happening and I had dealt with her and Hunt (Ilume, Goodwill, Walmart, Greenville ave project etc etc) a fair amount, some positive and negative adventures, so after many dealings and fairly honest relationship, to support the zoning at the time was not a reach

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

@becoolerifyoudid I understand that, we are all for growth and we were sold growth and I actually have nothing against walmart company - I was all for them on Greenville ave and Central and happy to see them (sams club  and walmart) going into NWHy and Skillman - but this is not the area for it.


Even the "suburbs" does not have 2 SAMS clubs within 5 miles of each other.


We are out 'Friscoing" our selves

Anonymous
Anonymous

That 'project' housing will not be there long. Bank on it. And if the economics of that area would support a Central Market, I'm sure they would have proposed one.But it doesn't, not at this time anyway. 

It's called the 'Poor Side of Central' for a reason....

And, no offense to you or your other neighbors, but nothing, and I mean NOTHING should ever be presented or decided over a telephone. Lesson learned, I hope.

Again, make Medrano do something about it. He has the ultimate say.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@whocareswhatithink @becoolerifyoudid@anonymous So the objections have nothing to do with the "use" but the "user".  I get that Sam's isn't the best corporate citizen and many would prefer to shop at Costco since they pay their employees better or Central Market. 


But saying that the "use" is ok, but the "user" is not generally doesn't get you too far under the law.

whocareswhatithink
whocareswhatithink

@becoolerifyoudid @whocareswhatithink@anonymous Its not so much the sq footage...its the use of the sq footage. We all knew something big was going to go in...(ala la fitness/Kroger - apartments) not a superstore and certainly no one thought of sams club considering the one on NWY and Skillman is less than 2 years old...We were told Central Market or something like that with restaurants - if we were told SAM's club, it would have been a HELL NO!


I guess they have done the market research, but another SAM's club in the middle of project housing is not going to go well, for anyone.


I especially feel for the people who have moved into the nice new townhomes they are building around there.


Oh well, guess the pan handlers who are currently at the gas station will have another gas station to go to.





kduble
kduble

@becoolerifyoudid @WylieH  The reason it's abandoned is because Trammell Crow has been clearing the tenants in order to demolish the building. A much larger office building a few blocks north was vacant for over a decade, but new owners bought it, they brought a marketing team in, and the building is now profitable.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@Schluderstrip @becoolerifyoudid  I would if the developer was Trammel Crow.  I moved out of the Timber Creek apartments less than a year before the apartments were torn down.  When the property was first sold there were plenty of assurances given to tenants and it was still zoned residential.  They were vague about what exactly was going to be retail at first (there was undeveloped land next to the property that was also bought).


In a sick way, I admire the brilliance of his play by Trammel Crow.  They get an old worn out campus in a part of town that is about to go gangbusters, but hasn't quite yet.  Develop it and then after a couple of years sell it and go count their millions.  Even better, they got in before the apartments in the area were finished and the bordering properties are already retail, mixed use, or a highway.

Schluderstrip
Schluderstrip

@becoolerifyoudid @Schluderstrip It really comes back to what the developer told the press a year ago, which LITERALLY included the phrase "...an upscale mirror of the West End development..."  

If you were a concerned citizen and that was the information presented to you, you probably wouldn't expect a massive 3 acre sized Sams Club to be a possibility.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@Schluderstrip @becoolerifyoudid You raise a good point "a smaller, more unique footprint is necessary."  All I am saying is that this could have been addressed a year ago by requiring restrictions to square footage to prevent any big boxes from happening.


I get the no big box argument, I just think it should have happened a year ago. People shouldn't be shocked that a developer whose last large development was TimberCreek would include a Sam's.


Others though, seem to be OK with a big box, just not this big box.  There is why my objection is.  (I don't question that Wal-Mart/Sam's is ruthless in their business practices, I just think the developer that owns the land should be able to do what he wants as long as their is not pollution, explosives, truly dangerous things emanating from their property).


I also question how unified the opposition is to this development.  This is a diverse neighborhood and many people might like having a Sam's nearby more than a Central Market they can't afford to shop at. 

Schluderstrip
Schluderstrip

@becoolerifyoudid @Schluderstrip  I sense that you're attempting to argue my point, but you keep confirming the concepts I'm listing (a company that doesn't care to better its employees, its neighborhood, uptown Dallas, or anyone outside its core investors).

To answer your earlier question to Wylie (why hate THIS big box store), Sams Club is a business whose strategy is to minimize costs to an extreme degree, such as making no variations to the physical design of its buildings from location to location.  This basically means we should expect the same, cheap looking, massive tilt-up-concrete building that is used at all other locations.  In reality, a smaller, more unique footprint is necessary to maintain an urban environment that would encourage the user to get out of their car.

As depicted this week, the development is shown as a "car centric" layout (which is extremely dated, including a motor bank...a dying concept), where you'd feel its necessary to drive....even if you live close, because lets face it, who wants to walk around 5 acres of tree-less surface parking in the Texas heat.

I would encourage you to look at other examples of development in this part of the city over the last decade, starting with Knox/Henderson and travel South.  You will see repeatedly, new developments that match the scale and size appropriate for this part of the city.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

Walmart is famous for closing stores and letting them go dark, damn the continuing rent.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@Schluderstrip @becoolerifyoudid @WylieH Sam's has been around for quite awhile selling household staples- so I wouldn't classify them as looking for a quick dollar but a long term sustainable business model (part of said model involves low pay for employees and is part of the reason I rather not shop at Sam's).


Has there been a poll of what the neighborhood wants?  This may very well be the exact kind of tenant they want (ie close and cheaper than Target or Kroger). 


Schluderstrip
Schluderstrip

@becoolerifyoudid @WylieH .... and you basically just described why it would be in the interest of the neighborhood to fight this.  People want a tenant that would have the interests of the surrounding neighborhoods in mind, not what makes a quick dollar.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@WylieH BS, the current office building is abandoned so there are no takers for an office space.  There is a 50,000 sq ft. LA fitness next to the Kroger which is across the street from the Target and Big Lots. 


I get it, you want hip and cool, but WalMart has learned something valuable in their time in business.  You make more money selling diapers and toilet paper than being cool. 

WylieH
WylieH

Another office building would have been perfectly fine. The area isn't full of large retail space... You have a supermarket and a SuperTarget.. Plus, we've adopted a new urban plan since then, and this is a gross violation.

becoolerifyoudid
becoolerifyoudid

@WylieH @becoolerifyoudid What was the zoning before the rezoning?  It used to be the ACS building, so I am pretty sure they could have thrown up another multi story office building with a large footprint. 


What would the argument be, no we can't have a large retail space in this area full of large retail space? 


Seems a little arbitrary and capricious when the real complaint is that the occupant will be Sam's not Central Market or Costco. 

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