A last-minute compromise between developers and residents of the West Dallas La Bajada neighborhood cooled down what could have been a hot debate at City Hall. The only fireworks came outside Council Chambers, after both parities claimed a win-win.
La Bajada is at the foot of the new Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge – an area now ripe for development. Residents did not want their neighborhood to be swallowed up by big projects along the riverfront at the bridge.
A deal was struck with West Dallas Investments and its 15 acre restaurant and retail project to limit buildings to 3 stories with a sort-of buffer block between the project and the homes. But the developers came back to the City Council with a request to lift the height restrictions and develop that extra block. Some neighbors objected. Others did not.
A council-crafted compromise settled that debate, but not the one over who really speaks for the 300-home neighborhood.
“And you live in La Bajada?”
“Yes I do,” said Delores Castillo Ramos, who had opposed changing the development plan.
“No she does not,” shot back Sylvia Lagos, who was more amenable to the developers’ request.
“Yes I do,” insisted Ramos.
La Bajada Neighborhood Association president Raymond Salinas stepped between the two. He said protections for the West Dallas community remain in place and improvements are on the way.
“It’s an economic boost to our community, for the people who live there who’ve been ignored for so many years,” Salinas said.. “We’ve never had the help. These investors are coming in offering help to help us with whatever we may need.”
The compromise allows West Dallas Investments to develop an additional block, and limits the height of new buildings, something the neighborhood wanted.
Restaurateur Phil Romano, a principal in the project, says it just took a little time to work things out.
“After talking to them and everything they understood what we were trying to do and we understood what they wanted,” Romano said.
Romano says the first restaurant of the new Trinity Groves development should open next month. Plans for a maximum three-story apartment building and parking garage will follow. Romano also promises landscaping and other improvements in the neighborhood.
Outside his home on Herbert Street, a block from the new development, Hugo Roblero uses a garden hose to water the thick St. Augustine grass he’s carefully cultivated. He’s lived in La Bajada for 30 years. He likes his quiet neighborhood, but says a little more noise and activity might be a good thing.
“Mm hmm. It’s gonna be a lot of people see La Bajada pretty soon when they finish the restaurants,” Roblero said.
Roblero says because of the new development, construction crews are making much needed improvements to both ends of his street. And he welcomes that.