St. Regis: Council Unanimously Approves Zoning Change

Today, on my motion, the Council unanimously approved the proposed zoning change for the St. Regis Hotel at Cedar Springs Blvd. at the Katy Trail.

I am very protective of the Katy Trail and Turtle Creek — both are great assets to the surrounding neighborhoods and our city. When zoning changes have been proposed in the area, many residents have expressed their concern that if too many tall buildings are constructed right next to the Katy Trail, it will result in a “canyon effect” with shadows looming over the trail.

When I consider zoning cases, I put great weight in the opinions of those who live closest to the property — they have to live with the change. I also consider whether the proposed change would be better than what could be built with existing zoning. When the proposed zoning doesn’t provide improvements or benefits to the coummunity, I have not been afraid to vote against the proposal.

For example, when a zoning change was proposed at Routh and the Katy Trail several months ago, I opposed the change because the proposed development did not significantly improve upon what was already allowed. The property was too narrow for the developer to offer additional setbacks from the trail, he refused to put all the parking underground, and there was no detailed development plan for the development.

Here, I have worked with residents, the developer, Friends of the Katy Trail, and the Oak Lawn Committee to address residents’ concerns and create a development that is far better than what would be built under the current standards.

Height seemed to be a sticking point here. Currently, the maximum height allowed is 200′ (I’ve rounded all numbers for simplicity). Such a building would be wide, would significantly block others’ views of the Downtown skyline, and loom over the trail.

Instead, we slimmed down the tower to allow better view corridors and pushed it 150′ back from the trail to reduce any canyon effect. On the other 78% of the site, we reduced the height of all buildings from 200′ to 95′ (and only 60′ for the townhomes by the trail). Next to the trail, instead of a 200′ tower set only 40′ from the trail, there will be 60′ townhomes set back 57′. The mass of the hotel and residences will actually be LESS than permitted under current zoning.

Other positive changes: All structured parking will be underground; the developer submitted a detailed development plan; St. Regis will construct and maintain a trail connecting the Katy Trail to Cedar Springs Blvd.; and the building will be LEED certified (energy-efficient).

Lastly, the St. Regis will bring significant economic development and tax revenue to our city, with no tax abatements or other incentives from the city. It’s important to note that I do not include this in my calculus when evaluating a zoning case; the proposed zoning must stand on its own with regards to land-use policy, not economic impact. I mention it as a positive effect resulting from this development.

Overall, I am very proud of this project. It was a challenge to me, the developer, and the community to push to make this the best project it could be. I think in the end, we have achieved a project that will be a great asset to the area and our city that greatly improves on what was permitted under the existing zoning.