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Abram Street: More multi-story apts. plus new plan to eliminate street lanes

Thursday, August 23, 2012; Buddy Saunders.

Older cities, especially those with limited room for growth, inevitably have diminishing opportunities for building on raw land.  Arlington is one such city.

Redevelopment is desirable, but when redevelopment occurs, the aim of all parties should be win/win outcomes. For that to happen, there needs to be honesty and openness in the process, especially on the part of elected officials and city staff.  In no case should there be the taint of cronyism.

Mayor Cluck’s idea of redevelopment is “urban villages,” multi-story apartment complexes so densely packed that each can be served by its own set of commercial establishments that residents can reach by foot or bicycle.  By 2040—according to Arlington’s $61 million bike plan, the North Texas Council of Governments (NTCOG), and lemming-minded urban planners—the transition of our society from cars to foot and pedal and from home-owning to apartment living is supposed to be the new norm.

We have a different vision, a vision you most likely share.  We think we’ll have just as many cars in 2040 as now and, given the option, we’ll be home owners.  Not many want to live in a multi-story box when they can have a spacious home with a lawn.  Likewise, no one wants to be limited to three restaurants within walking distance when a car provides access to endless options.

No matter what these high density apartment buildings are called—urban villages or mixed use developments—they represent more than the usual risk to the developer and to the adjacent community.  The investor may lose his shirt.  And homeowners may see diminished property values and crime similar to what north Arlington is experiencing

That said, in some places there are legitimate opportunities for multi-story mixed use development, but it should always be the developer and not the taxpayers taking the risk

More apartment complexes coming to Abram Street

UTA believes there is a demand for small apartments near the university.  To serve that need, multi-story complexes have already been built on Abram Street between Davis and Cooper with another cheduled for the western edge of UTA.  More are planned.  For example, another complex is slated for the northwest corner of Abram and Davis, and another will be located on Abram near the Masonic Lodge. There is also the longstanding desire to add further multi-story complexes on Abram between Cooper and Collins.  Only time will tell how many of these projects get built and when, but Abram Street appears to be the developing template for what city officials envision for all parts of Arlington.

Will $55,642.51 study recommend reducing street lanes on Abram Street?

But if these people-stackers are built, one thing is certain, the residents will have cars, and that means traffic congestion on Abram and contiguous streets.  Given that inevitable fact, we are puzzled by Mayor Cluck’s decision to give new life to the already once rejected plan to reduce traffic lanes on Abram between Cooper and Collins to make way for bike lanes. Last Tuesday, the Mayor and Council voted to spend $55,642.51 on yet another study, this one a traffic analysis regarding the “proposed conversion of Abram Street between Cooper and Collins from a five-lane to a four-lane or three-lane section.”  “Anticipated traffic diversion” is mentioned, suggesting the obvious—any reduction in street lanes will lead to congestion on Abram, and that in turn will lead to a reduction in traffic counts and business for existing merchants.

Here’s something else to consider. The utility construction that has so disrupted Abram Street west of Cooper ostensibly was done to replace failing water and sewer lines, although we know of no property owners who reported line problems.  We think a more likely explanation for this utility work was the need to expand services to meet the needs of a much denser population that comes with multi-story apartment development.  Should similar apartment complexes come to Abram east of Cooper, merchants will want to know if their stretch of the street will be torn up for new lines as well.


Buddy Saunders
Publisher – Opinion Arlington

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