In a 6-1 vote, the council greenlighted plans for two four-story buildings along Central Avenue in Southlake Town Square. Council Member Ronnell Smith was the opposing vote. The project sparked conversations about bringing high-density housing options to the city’s downtown area.
While many residents and council members voiced opposition to the project's density, city attorney Allen Taylor Jr. emphasized that the council did not have the discretion to decide whether residences should be built on that property, as the zoning had been decided back in 2003.
The 2.2 acres are zoned as downtown, which allows for the construction of residential developments.
“We are required to follow the requirements of the zoning ordinance to be compliant with Texas law,” Taylor said. “And so the council really does not have the discretion at this point to reconsider this. We can address the design issues, but we are locked into the use.”
The concept plan for the Garden District located at 301 and 351 Central Avenue was first brought to council in 2011, with a proposed 10 buildings for a total of 140 units—130 residences and 10 brownstones. In 2013, the concept plan was revised, bringing down the number of buildings to three, for a total of 93 units—60 residences and 33 brownstones.
The 33 approved brownstones are now almost completed.
Developer Frank Bliss of Cooper & Stebbins told the council the proposed 58 residential units will appeal to the city’s affluent and active population through “world-class architecture.”
“[The site plan is] substantially in conformance with the concept plan, while at the same time allowing us to step up the quality of what we can deliver to this neighborhood,” he said.
The site plan includes a public park, known as The Grove, and a private amenity deck adjacent to the existing Stebbins Park, known as The Terrace. It also includes pedestrian walkways throughout the neighborhood for accessibility.
“We're not a developer that is chasing maximum density to see how much we can put on the ground,” Bliss said. “We are really all about creating places, creating experiences and really serving the community of Southlake.”
The developer was unable to give an estimated timeline for completion of the project, although Bliss did confirm the two buildings will be built in one phase.
Council Member Randy Robbins voiced his disappointment with the current zoning of the land.
“I guess the word that would describe me tonight is just disappointed," he said. "Disappointed that it took [the developer] 10 years to get here, and we're saddled with the decision from 2011, and disappointed that you won't commit to—even if we approve something—doing something in any kind of timely manner [and] that we may be saddled with for another five or 10 years without knowing what's going on."
According to the developer, once completed, the Garden District Residences are projected to be valued at over $60 million, or $1 million per residence. Alongside the nearly finished Garden District Brownstones, the total value of the neighborhood is estimated to exceed $100 million.
The Town Square residential program is expected to generate about $2.7 million in property taxes annually for Carroll ISD and over $800,000 annually for the city once the residences are completed, per documents presented by the developer to the council.
“This is one of those times where there is a vote that could be a politically easy vote, but it's not the responsible vote. We will always, as a council, do what we have to do to protect the city's financial responsibility,” Mayor John Huffman said.