District of Highland Village receiving support at city hall

[Courtesy] The new development will consist of retail, office and residential space .

A new game plan for the District of Highland Village that includes open air plazas, restaurants with outdoor seating, high-end lofts and Main Street businesses with attached living quarters is receiving support at Highland Village City Hall.  City Manager Michael Leavitt has made an extended presentation about plans for what he described as “a superior mixed used development” before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission last week.  He delivered a shortened version of the presentation to the City Council Tuesday.  Council members are showing enthusiastic interest in the project. Mayor Pat Davis introduced Leavitt’s presentation to P&Z and most members of the council indicated they had seen the presentation either in person or through television broadcasts available on the city’s website or HVTV.

Leavitt told the city council that an informal timeline calls for the city to receive the proposal this week, place advertisements and hold a hearing before the Planning and Zoning Commission for Nov. 15, the Thursday before Thanksgiving.  To accommodate residents and commissioners,  the city is moving the meeting up a week to avoid holiday conflicts.

[Courtesy] An aerial view of the new development which was presented to city council recently.

Developers say they cooperated during discussions with city officials seeking to create a project that will be a boon to the city and a beacon for the kind of restaurants and high end retail the city covets.  The loft living areas will attract prosperous tenants looking for lifestyle options that will make the property unique and attractive said Mike Silvaggio, a partner in HHSG, LLC, who is the owner of the project. He said city leaders seem particularly excited about the plaza areas within the development which have proven very successful in the Shops at Highland Village in providing gathering points for people in the area and a special draw for the kind of retailers the district plans to attract.  HHSG is taking a number of steps to not only make the development an attractive asset for the city and new tenants, it is also doing what it can to be a good neighbor to adjacent property owners. The townhomes were approved by the Highland Village City Council in 2008, but the developer opted to change the project when the market for the townhomes failed to materialize in a besieged housing market. HHSG, LLC worked with the city to plan a development with new buildings having large setbacks from property lines, creating a visually-attractive centering effect for the development.  For example, the nearest building the single-family residences south of the property will be is approximately 140 feet while the original town homes were planned to be within 50 feet of the property lines.  Though the new buildings will be three stories tall, the building exteriors will be the same height as existing buildings, except for about nine additional inches in the elevator tower, Leavitt explained.

The mixed use development plan differs significantly from a mostly residential project presented to the city of Highland Village last year.  After council action rejecting the proposal, HHSG, LLC, sued the city.  That lawsuit has not been resolved or dismissed, but with approval for the new plans, the case would become moot.

[Photo by Shane Allen] Mike Silvaggio, partner of HHSG, the owner of the District of Highland Village shares a vision for a Lifestyle Center that’s gaining positive attention.

Leavitt said the largest open air plaza on the new site, immediately adjacent to a planned restaurant location, would be about 23,000 square feet. To provide the council with perspective he said that the City Hall building is approximately 15,000 square feet.  Four buildings in the new project will combine first floor retail with loft living units above, while two buildings will be exclusively residential.  On Main Street, there will be several home-office units.  There will be a business office facing Main Street, with residents able to open an interior door to go from their home directly to work.  Leavitt told the council that the city has more than 750 home-based businesses. Silvaggio is hopeful there will be plenty of interest in the seven units planned.   No other area development has similar units.

The city and the developer have asked that the LISD rezone the property from the attendance zone for  Heritage Elementary School into the McAuliffe Elementary attendance zone.  Leavitt explained that Heritage Elementary is at capacity.  McAuliffe, like Heritage, an exemplary school, is only 400 feet further from the planned development and has capacity for another 140 students.

Silvaggio said that the open air plazas should prove to be a significant draw for the mixed use development, which will also have recreational areas reserved to tenants, including a green, swimming pool, club house and a rooftop terrace.  If approved, the project will offer a unique and more desirable high-end loft living life style, currently not available in Highland Village and adjacent cities.  The smallest one bedroom apartment will be 775 square feet, with some available units more than three times that size. Even though the building will be three stories tall, they will be the same height as existing District Buildings, except for an extra nine inches on the elevator tower’s Leavitt said.

The city has already heard from nearby residents concerned about the project.  Dave Burmeister who lives in the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the project expressed concerns to the council about the addition of 167 residential units, most with two cars, spilling traffic into the already difficult traffic patterns in the vicinity of Briarhill Boulevard, FM 407 and Barnett Boulevard.  In a short presentation to the council, Burmeister expressed concerns about the impact on the privacy and property values for adjacent homeowners.

Both the city and the developer have done traffic studies that indicate the development will have little adverse impact on local traffic patterns, and construction projects are either planned or under way that will mitigate the impact on traffic flow, Leavitt said. (See related story pg. 2)

On the south side of the District of Highland Village property there is a paved bike trail with space for landscaping.  While several trees have already been planted, more are planned which should provide a natural barrier to noise and light from the mixed-used development.

Images courtesy of Staff | Murray Media Publishing
Eric Williams About Eric Williams

Born in Las Vegas NM, Eric Williams grew up in Gainesville, TX, a small town boy who worked with his father and grandfather on a cattle ranch the family owned as a hobby. He worked his way through college hauling hay in the summers. Eric attended North Central Texas College back when it was Cooke County College and earned a bachelor of journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin. Before going into public relations and financial services, Eric was a reporter for the Sherman Democrat, news editor of the Bastrop Advertiser and County News and managing editor of the Gainesville Daily Register. He is husband of Sally Williams, a manager in the non-profit sector, father of Krista Williams, a Lewisville High School and Wellesley College graduate working in Dallas and of Whitten Williams, a Briarhill Bulldog and avid Boy Scout. The family belongs to Trietsch Memorial United Methodist Church. Eric has written for the News Connection since 2004.

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