A Dallas City Council Committee Monday endorsed plans to build apartments on what is now a DART parking lot at Mockingbird Station with 20% of the units set aside for affordable housing.
It’s getting more expensive to live in Dallas every year. Affordable housing is a tremendous need in the city to help workers afford to live there.
The use of public property as a building site is a new approach to getting more affordable housing.
Councilman Chad West said it is a model of how affordable housing can be added in other little-used public land elsewhere in the city.
“We can work together as a city to close our affordable housing gap,” West said.
To connect with jobs, Andre Price rides buses that come through Mockingbird Station on Mockingbird Lane near Central Expressway. But he can’t afford to live in the expensive apartments in that neighborhood near Southern Methodist University.
Price said he moved to Dallas to find work in 2017 from Jasper, Texas where there were no jobs.
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“Dallas has a lot of work, but you're going to spend the money right back in your bills,” Price said. “A lot of people sleeping on buses and trains so that tells me nothing is affordable.”
The Mockingbird Station plan calls for a 429 unit apartment complex built in a little-used parking lot with a 99-year land lease to the developer.
In return, for the land and a $29 million investment from the City of Dallas, the $117 million project would include 86 units reserved for tenants with well under the average Dallas income.
The developer must also build a three-level underground parking garage to make up for parking lost in the surface lot.
Resident Roddy Gray uses the existing parking lot as a base for bike rides on nearby trails. He said he likes the lot as it is.
“Me personally, I’m not for it. It would be expensive, and it would be a little much, I think. We’re going to end up paying for it,” Gray said. “And I’m going to be parking underground, not going to be out enjoying the weather.”
Members of the Dallas City Council Economic Development Committee Monday unanimously endorsed the plan for a vote of the full City Council later this month.
“We are taking a surface parking lot that is 725 spaces and we are converting it into something we need in the city desperately,” West said.
The plan to add housing on what is now a parking lot could also add riders at DART’s Mockingbird Station, which Councilman Omar Narvaez said is the second busiest in DART’s network.
“This what we want to be seeing. This is what we want to do in the city of Dallas. This is an area where we have no workforce housing, no affordability,” Narvaez said.
Narvaez added there would also be environmental benefits by eliminating a hot parking lot and promoting more use of public transit.
“We want to make sure that this continues, and we've already got a place that's working and we want to help it become an even greater area,” Narvaez said.
The existing retail and apartment community connected to DART’s Mockingbird Station has grown quieter during the COVID-19 pandemic when several businesses there closed.
Visitor Judy Gunter said she stopped there Monday because it was so quiet.
“I was actually going to meditate. It's a nice spot. It's calm, relaxing,” she said.
Gunter said the additional homes at the station could be good for the retail complex and good for affordability.
“Housing is expensive in Dallas, so it would be great to have affordable housing,” she said.
The $29 million from the City of Dallas would come from a tax increment financing district set up to encourage transit-oriented development.
Cash is provided upfront as a cut of the increased tax value the new development will bring.
The Mockingbird Station area value increases also boost the overall Transit Oriented Development Tax Increment Financing District which allows investments near transit in other parts of Dallas.
The Economic Development Committee also endorsed plans for a hotel at the Redbird Mall redevelopment project in Southern Dallas near Interstate 20 and U.S. Highway 67.
It would be the first new hotel in Southern Dallas in many years.
“This is something that for many, many years, a decade, we’ve been saying why we could we not get a hotel south of I-30,” Committee Chairman Tennell Atkins said.
For the $31 million Courtyard and Residence Inn hotel, a city subsidy of $3 million from multiple sources is requested.
Council members supported the project but asked for additional assurances that 45 additional jobs to be created by the hotel will offer living wages in return for the city money.
“These dollars that are being invested in this area definitely need to benefit the community,” Narvaez said.
The committee also endorsed a new apartment project at the Dallas Farmers Market that will reserve 30% of the new units for affordable housing. On that Pearl Lofts project, the City of Dallas is asked to invest $6 million in tax increment financing dollars for a $33 million project.