An effort to rezone the 1,200-acre innovation district east of US 75 is in full swing.
The primary goal of the initiative is to remove barriers imposed by current zoning regulations so that area can transform into a thriving center of business and innovation. Consultants are also proposing some residential development.
As of now, 90% of the district is zoned for industrial purposes, according to Planning Project Manager Doug McDonald.
McDonald was joined by members of the consultant team at a July 29 joint briefing, where members of City Council and the City Planning Commission gathered to hear an update on the effort.
Over the course of several months, staff has heard feedback from residents, stakeholders and business owners on what they envision for the area.
Outdoor dining, coworking space, events and festivals, hike and bike trails, art and sculptures, dog parks, natural amenities, restaurants facing Duck Creek and internet hubs were some of the wishlist items expressed by the public, according to consultant Karen Walz.
The rezoning initiative is broken down by four areas: the Duck Creek Subdistrict, the Greenville Avenue Subdistrict, the Dart Station Subdistrict and the Employment Subdistrict.
In each subdistrict, consultants are proposing zoning changes that would make the areas more business friendly, livable, walkable and bikeable.
Duck Creek will be positioned as the primary amenity of the innovation district, according to members of the consultant team.
Uses allowed under the new zoning will include retail; indoor and outdoor dining; wineries, distilleries and microbreweries; and food trucks with a special permit.
A 1.5-mile extension of Duck Creek Trail is also underway, which will allow visitors to access new businesses and restaurants by bike or foot.
The area will be employment focused, but some council members also expressed an interest in seeing high-density housing added to the area.
In the area surrounding Greenville Avenue, consultants are proposing to expand the current uses of office and industrial by adding residential.
Specifically, the team is looking to accommodate workers who may wish to reside in the area, Walz said. All forms of high-density housing, including apartments and town homes, are being considered.
New zoning will also allow for retail and restaurants.
The Arapaho Center Station will serve as the gateway to the district, so zoning should accommodate as many different types of uses as possible, Walz said.
Housing within walking distance of the station is a high priority for consultants. To ensure support for Dallas Area Rapid Transit, Walz said her team is proposing minimum densities of 40 units per acre for multifamily and 10 units per acre for town homes. Adaptive reuse of buildings would not be subject to a minimum density requirement, she said.
The area is already home to many office and industrial uses, but consultants would like to enhance the area by zoning it to allow for commercial amusement venues, such as movie theaters and bowling alleys; retail and restaurants; wineries, distilleries and breweries; and food trucks with a special permit.
The 730-acre Employment Subdistrict makes up the bulk of the project area, McDonald said.
Many business owners said they want to improve their facilities but are unable to because of stringent zoning restrictions related to parking, building heights, setbacks and floor-area ratios. All new zoning would serve to relax those guidelines, Walz said.
The consultant team looked to council and commission members for feedback on whether residential uses should be allowed in the Employment Subdistrict.
Council Member Steve Mitchell was in support of residential uses for area employees as well as retrofitting existing buildings to become housing. He said this solution provides the “greatest flexibility” for the area.
Others thought the area should be relegated to commercial uses in order to remain competitive. Mayor Paul Voelker said he would be in support of building retrofits only with a special permit.
“The mixed-use residential we already have on the books, I want to protect those … so that they get completed without putting additional market pressure on a new area that doesn’t have the purpose of an innovation district,” he said.
“I don’t need more apartments to compete with the build-out at CityLine or Northside of the Galatyn area,” Voelker continued. “What I need is the type of use-case scenario that will support the type of commercial development I want to see happen in the innovation district.”
Consultants agreed allowing residential uses could jeopardize the affordability of startup space.
Over the next several months, consultants will meet with stakeholders and the public to gather more input.
A community workshop will be held Aug. 21 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Travelers Insurance on Collins Boulevard. The public is encouraged to attend.
Consultants will brief council again Sept. 16. A public hearing and potential vote is scheduled for the Nov. 11 City Council meeting.