The latest plan from regional planners to solve the parking problem at Preston Center in Dallas went public Thursday night.
"Overwhelmingly we have heard people do not like the current garage as it is," Senior Project Director for North Central Texas Council of Governments Karla Weaver said.
"We've done surveys, had community meetings and people know they want a change. So it's important something happens and just figuring out the right solution is what we are trying to do here with everyone tonight."
Tonight was the final community meeting to show concepts for what the garage could look like.
People attending had mixed reaction to a plan that included a park and one that included a park and high-rise residential.
"It would be so awesome to go to dinner, get ice cream, walk in the park with your kids, your grandkids and to just look across the park and see trees," Maggie Murchison who lives nearby said.
"I think you need to have street side parking so people have access to the restaurants and retail all around there," Dan Harris who lives nearby said. "I don't think many people would go down below, take an elevator up, walk across street. They need to be able to drive, park and walk in."
The old two-level parking structure has 800 spaces to serve the popular office, retail and restaurant district at Preston Road and Northwest Highway.
A 6 p.m. meeting at the Walnut Hill Recreation Center in Dallas to reveal the plan to residents was full with more than 80 people attending.
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Thursday's presentation from the North Central Texas Council of Governments was a change from their January plan that called for a larger underground parking facility to replace the garage with a park on the surface.
Many neighbors liked the park plan.
"There's a lot of people that work around this area. We walk to lunch all the time. So, I think people would appreciate that," said Preston Center office employee Audrey Lawson.
But property owners that surround the parking structure have won authority in lawsuits over the years over any changes.
Robert Dozier, the President of Ramrock Real Estate, said restaurant and retail businesses opposed underground parking.
"If you take away the at grade convenient parking, it's going to be to the detriment of all the retailers and restaurants that are there," Dozier said.
The property owners support a revised plan for 1,500 public parking spaces in a structure that is partially below ground.
To reduce street congestion, the new structure would eliminate the need to return to surrounding streets to move between rows looking for a space.
"All the internal circulation will be kept and confined to the garage as opposed to coming out and going on the street and back in," Dozier said.
The property owners plan calls for smaller parks at the surface and on top of the parking structure and 300 new apartments.
Some neighbors strongly oppose apartments being added to the site.
"There's so many people around here. It's very congested. So, I think apartments would just add to that," said Preston Center shopper Nicole Giese.
Former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller lost a May City Council Election campaigning against the new apartments. Incumbent Jennifer Staubach Gates, who has been open to the apartment plan, beat Miller.
The new plan from the NCTCOG included the option of apartments. It had more park space than the property owner renderings but moved away from the agency's January plan that was entirely parks space on the parking site.
Dozier said the apartment plan is a benefit to the cash strapped city because it will add $1 million annual tax revenue from the apartments that the city would not receive from a parking structure alone.
But the parking structure could cost $50 million and the neighboring property owners still expect the city to pay that cost. The 2017 public improvement bond referendum approved by voters included $10 million. The NCTCOG has promised another $10 million. The rest of the money is not lined up.
After decades of talk about how to solve the Preston Center parking problem, Gates said finding a solution is a high priority for the final two year term that she has just started.
She will face term limitation after 8 years in office.