Part V: Sub Area Three Vision: South Urban Center
General Intent and Identity
Sub-Area 3 encompasses the majority of the current Las Colinas Urban Center and represents some of the best development opportunities
in the entire Corridor. While the best visibility parcels along SH-114 are mostly already developed, the area east of Lake Carolyn has attractive available land with good traffic access and prime views to both Lake Carolyn and the Trinity River/Campion Trails.
The vision plan intent for the South Urban Center is to create a a compact transit mall district, using the light rail line as an unifying amenity and taking advantage of the sub-area’s unique site geometry, road access and waterfront proximity. The proposed gridded street system and recommended road enhancements will promote easy circulation in support of the envisioned mixed uses and dynamic activity patterns. The overall built environment and landscape treatment of open spaces should reflect an “urban feel” unique to the Urban Center and indeed much in keeping with the original Las Colinas master plan concept.
A retail and entertainment district is envisioned for the landmark Williams Square, fully capitalizing on its condition as the physical and symbolic “heart” of the Urban Center.
Physical Plan Recommendations
The street layout as currently proposed for the undeveloped land in Sub-Area 3 is substantially modified in the transit-oriented land use plan. The following changes are proposed:
Las Colinas Boulevard (west) is proposed to extend eastward to form a “T-intersection” with Rochelle Boulevard.
Las Colinas Boulevard (east) which is not yet constructed will be re-platted in a straightened alignment from a T-intersection with Las Colinas Boulevard to O’Connor Boulevard as a special street referred to in our recommendation as “transit mall”, serving light rail and local vehicular traffic (described later). This represents an unique naming opportunity that would take advantage of the new identity created by the transit mall and reconfigured roads.
The intersection of Rochelle Boulevard and O’Connor Boulevard will be reconfigured to a special intersection feature (a T-intersection, a traffic circle or ellipse), allowing a good flow between Rochelle Boulevard and O’Connor Boulevard while also providing a visual punctuation point. Care in the design of this feature should be taken in light of the number of lanes that need to be accommodated.
O’Connor Boulevard between Las Colinas Boulevard and Rochelle Boulevard will be reduced to four lanes with 2 lanes of parallel parking. The parallel parking lanes may be restricted to non-peak hours if necessary.
Curb cuts will be allowed along O’Connor along parcel 0-0 of the Urban Center in order to facilitate development on this tract.
Other improvements which have been planned are necessary to the development plan such as the widening of California Crossing and Rochelle Boulevard to six lanes.
The result of these proposals is an access, circulation, and pedestrian plan which supports the proposed land use plan.
The transit mall is envisioned to combine vehicles, rail, and pedestrian traffic into an integrated urban environment defined by small setbacks and streetscape activity. As such, a large amount of special paving and other pedestrian-oriented streetscape elements should be integrated into its design. The street section should be defined as containing a total of four lanes, with an 11’ vehicular and 11’ parallel parking lane in each direction, (with parallel parking restricted to non-peak hours).
It is intended that the vehicular lanes are primarily for cars which are accessing adjoining property or serving passengers. Access to the mall traffic lanes is intended to mostly be from Las Colinas Boulevard or O’Connor Boulevard rather than by turning from the short cross streets. Left turns from the transit mall (across the light rail line) will be limited to only a few locations or prohibited altogether. The designed elimination of the need to turn left from the transit mall will considerably enhance the safety of this facility, since safety and operations are enhanced by avoiding the conflicts with oncoming traffic and light rail vehicles.
Access to the development sites along Lake Carolyn will be provided by the cross streets which allow traffic to cross the transit mall to or from Rochelle Blvd. Vehicular access to property adjacent to the transit mall will be provided from the cross streets except for short-term parking, located on the transit mall section.
The operation of the Rochelle/O’Connor intersection will aim to “clear” O’Connor Boulevard between the transit mall and Rochelle Blvd. to avoid traffic obstructions to the light rail vehicles. Intersection geometry and advanced traffic control and monitoring will be designed to maximize the capacity of this key intersection.
Light Rail Alignment and Station Area
The Las Colinas Transit Mall is the most important feature of the transit-oriented development vision. The alignment leaving Sub-Area 2 and traversing the south end of Sub-Area 3 near Teleport Boulevard is critical to the development of the transit mall.
First, its is important for the alignment to be at grade as it enters the transit mall area north of Las Colinas Boulevard. If the alignment is aerial over Rochelle Blvd. and Las Colinas Boulevard it will be difficult to develop the land east of Lake Carolyn to its full potential. This part of the alignment also affords the opportunity for a joint station to facilitate transfers between light rail and the APT.
The rail alignment in the median of a street with automobile traffic and pedestrians (passengers) presents a different set of issues and considerations from the majority of the system alignment. Fortunately, this configuration is not unusual and in fact it is considered an operational advantage of light rail.
It is envisioned that the transit mall be brick paved and heavily landscaped, with a well coordinated design that is integrated to the overall streetscape and not a separate element of the urban environment.
Two stations will be located within the transit mall proposed for Sub-Area 3: an APT transfer station at the southern edge of the Urban Center near Teleport Boulevard and a station a short distance north of California Crossing.
Station Location Alternative
The station near Teleport Boulevard could be relocated to the north if the APT system is upgraded to a self-powered system that could operate on both the APT guideway and the surface streets with traffic. This upgrade scenario could also include DART’s ownership and operation of the APT system.
A unique vehicle would serve all stops in the Urban Center. Ramps up and down would connect to the existing APT structures, avoiding costly extensions of its guideway. Grade separation could be used at some roadway crossings. Transfers to standard shuttle buses would be simplified.
The APT transfer station will utilize a central platform double-canopy design and will provide vertical access to a new elevated APT station. The California Crossing station will utilize side platforms with double-canopy design in the center of the transit mall, directly adjacent to a pocket park.
Detail design enhancements as seating, trash bins, light fixtures, signage and artwork to reflect a “downtown” character consistent with the Urban Center. Brick paved rail beds are extended across the roadway at platform areas to visually integrate the station to the street sidewalks.
The DART Design Criteria Manual Volume 1 -- Facilities Design shall be used to determine the appropriate site development layouts and access to platforms. All stations will be approximately 300 feet long, capable of handling a three-car train with provision for expansion to a four-car train. In all stations both covered and uncovered portions of the platform will be lighted.
Pocket Parks Adjacent to the Light Rail Platforms
Two gathering spaces are envisioned in Sub-Area 3 in the area around the two light rail stations in the transit mall (the APT/LR transfer station near Teleport Boulevard and the California Crossing station). These gathering areas should take the form of “pocket parks”, with a mixture of soft and hard landscaping treatments to comfortably accommodate the ridership population and even allow for small events to take place. Water features or references should be incorporated into the design of the pocket parks and take advantage of the fact that the two stations are close to the waterfront opportunities of Lake Carolyn.
Streetscape and Building Forms
The proposed street framework is a gridded system that, in conjunction with the compact building massing envisioned for Sub-Are 3, will lend a homogeneous setting along the spine between Las Colinas Boulevard and Rochelle Boulevard. Street sidewalks should be well landscaped with high quality finishes, street trees, planting at pedestrian scale, special paving areas at street crossings etc to provide a pleasant walking experience and be visual amenities when seeing from a train or automobile. Buidling envelopes and architectural finishes should lend an “urban feel” to the transit mall district.
A Continuous Pedestrian Promenade Along the Waterfront
Much in keeping with the original Las Colinas master plan, the waterfront of Lake Carolyn should feature a continuous pedestrian promenade within the current 10’ easement. Waterfront property owners should be encouraged to increase this width at key locations to take advantage of open space opportunities that will tie into the promenade.
Lansdcaped Open Spaces Along the Campion Trails and Trinity River
The enhancements along the Campion Trails and the Trinity River reservation should tie in with the public space framework of streets, sidewalks and parks of the overall transit mall district.
An Entertainment District at Williams Square
Capitalizing on the visitor population to Williams Square and comprised by a reconfigured waterfront, retail and restaurant uses at ground level, office, hotel and loft residential uses above.
Land Use and Zoning
Land Use Vision
Sub-Area 3 represents an opportunity for mid-rise and high-rise residential and office neighborhood. Higher density office and residential uses should be organized around the transit mall and at discrete points where the Lake Carolyn waterfront offers opportunities for additional water views and access. Area to be consumed by parking uses may be minimized through the sharing of spaces between office and residential uses. Retail uses should be limited to restaurants and neighborhood serving uses except in the area adjacent to Williams Square. Williams Square is ideally suited for larger restaurant and entertainment venues, and for accompanying hotel and loft-type residential uses. Big box retail uses and low density housing, especially garden apartment-type that requires large plots and extensive surface parking, are not in keeping with the character to be promoted for this sub-area.
Existing Zoning: Uses
Existing zoning for undeveloped parcels in the South Urban Center consists of M-FW base zoning with an Urban Business overlay district (“UBO”). The M-FW district was designed as a “Freeway” district.
Uses and form were clearly oriented to highway automobile and truck traffic rather than to an urban mixed use neighborhood designed to accommodate transit and pedestrians. Almost all existing development in the Urban Center appears to have required a rezoning to S-P-1 or S-P-2 Site Plan zoning. The Urban Business overlay modifies the M-FW zoning in a manner more appropriate to the Urban Center. However, multifamily development is limited to 4,000 units. Further refinement in use and form is warranted to achieve the goals desired. Use analysis is set forth in the table on this page.
Existing Zoning: Form
The Urban Business overlay district modifies the underlying M-FW zoning in many ways that are more conducive to the form appropriate to an urban neighborhood.
However, further modifications are appropriate to organize development around the transit mall, Lake Carolyn and Williams Square in a manner that will enhance the potential of this Sub-Area. Existing and proposed development parameters are outlined in the chart on this page.
Economic Analysis and Recommendations
Introduction to Sub-Area Analysis
Sub-Area 3 consists of the Las Colinas Urban Center south of O’Connor Boulevard. A set of contiguous parcels west of Lake Carolyn, developed with 2 million square feet of floor area, is not part of the TIF zone. Because the analytical exercise of estimating City revenue is based on new development initially appraised from 2001 through 2030, these developed parcels have no part in the economic analysis except to define historic development in Las Colinas.
Envisioned Development Program
The Preferred Plan has only one retained alignment through this sub-area, regardless of its course north of O’Connor Boulevard. The Preferred Plan projection assumes 6.2 million square feet of floor area would be added to Sub-Area by 2030. More than half the assumed floor area additions are multi-family residences. Given the size of the Urban Center, the spatial relationships of freeways, lake, river, streets and development parcels east of the lake, the alternative to significant residential development in Sub-Area Three probably would be vacant parcels between office “islands.”
In the TIF Projection, 6.7 million square feet of construction are added to Sub-Area 3 and the Irving ISD part (about 80%) of Sub-Area Four combined (from Schedule CVV-1-IISD-north) by 2030.
With realization of the Preferred Plan projection, estimated 2030 value of new real property from 2001 through 2030 in the sub-area is about $1,000 million. Real property tax to the City (net of contributions to the TIF through 2018) would be about $50 million. Other City taxes could bring cumulative term revenue from new development to an estimated $69 million.
Directly corresponding TIF Projection values are not available by sub-area, as the projections were built with regards to TIF boundary, school district boundaries and the total study area. The estimated 2030 value of new real property after 2000 in Sub-Area 3 and the Irving ISD part (80%) of Sub-Area Four with the TIF Projection is about $1,140 million, or $140 million more than the Preferred Plan value projection for new development in Sub-Area 3 alone.
Transportation and Utilities
The implementation of the Las Colinas Transit Mall and the full development of the Urban Center present several implementation challenges. DART, the City of Irving, DCURD and adjacent property owners will partner to ensure that the design accommodates all of the necessary functions in the right-of-way. Traffic circulation, signal operations and pedestrian/passenger service are obvious areas for communication and coordination.
Less obvious is the need to coordinate the design and installation of underground utilities including water, sanitary sewer, storm water, power and communications. The existing Las Colinas Boulevard right-of-way already contains some utilities which may need to be relocated or reconstructed to accommodate projected needs. One implementation technique that may be appropriate is the cooperative development a comprehensive utility needs plan.
Such a plan would deal with ultimate and phased needs, joint development and facility concepts such as utility duct banks which may lower overall implementation costs. The reconfiguration of Las Colinas Boulevard to form a “T-intersection” near Teleport Blvd. is a modification which will require close coordination with DCURD due to the location of water control structures at the south end of Lake Carolyn.
Design of the light rail station also requires the close coordination of the participants. Dallas County and the City of Dallas may also be key participants to ensure that California Crossing, Tom Braniff Drive, and Luna Road all provide the capacity and circulation required to support the Urban Center.
Timing of Improvements
The timing of the infrastructure improvements is a major consideration and should be the subject of a detailed implementation and construction phasing plan. The construction of the light rail line may be preceded by the implementation of the transit mall and adjoining properties. If this occurs, it will be advantageous to use techniques which will minimize or eliminate disruption during the construction of the light rail line. Drainage and underground utilities should anticipate the rail construction. It may even be possible to build most of the light rail infrastructure in the transit mall area in advance of the rest of the line to minimize future disruption. From a traffic perspective it is recommended that the Rochelle Boulevard widening and the Rochelle/ O’Connor Intersection be implemented early to relieve traffic demand on O’Connor Blvd.and to establish future traffic patterns.
The following is a list of issues that should be addressed by the City when implementing the recommended land use vision for Sub-Area 3:
a) Land use functions appropriate to implement desired character for the area.
b) Physical forms appropriate to the various land use functions.
c) Discrepancies between desired functions and functions permitted by current regulations.
Appropriate uses currently not permitted.
Inappropriate uses currently permitted.
d) Discrepancies between desired form of development and existing regulations.
Desired forms currently prohibited.
Inappropriate forms currently permitted.
e) Other impediments to desired form and function.
f) Strategies for resolving discrepancies and impediments.
If an assumption of the TIF Projection were that nearly equal development volumes would occur in the Urban Center parts north and south of O’Connor Boulevard, then the Preferred Plan projection anticipates much more development than the TIF Projection for Sub-Area Three in the next thirty years. More development value means more revenue for the TIF and the City. Additional development brings more service costs for the City. This analysis does not explore costs.
Sub-Area 3’s estimated new development contribution to City revenue is greater than estimated new development contributions from either Sub-Areas1 or 2, but less than Sub-Area 4’s contribution. Sub-Area 3 may have more or less new floor area than Sub-Area Four by 2030, but probably less new real property value. Residential development typically contributes less revenue per square foot of floor area than office development.
Early development will contribute more revenue to the TIF and the City than significantly delayed development. If markets do not exist for desired development types or densities, Irving might do well economically to facilitate building well for existing markets than to wait indefinitely for a market vision that is too narrow.