The Dallas City Council on Wednesday gave the OK for developers to get going on a 31-acre mixed-use project in West Dallas, about a mile west of Trinity Groves off Singleton Boulevard. The vote was basically unanimous (one council member was absent, and another recused herself because of a conflict of interest) and occasioned some good-natured back-slapping and congratulations.
And why not? This will bring a lot of housing to a formerly industrial site that was otherwise sitting mostly abandoned. The development will include about 2,100 apartments, 15 percent of them meant to be affordable to residents making less than the median income. It’s the latest in a wave of redevelopment in the area, which began with the construction of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge last decade. (Although that same redevelopment has sometimes gone hand-in-hand with displacement, and what’s happened in West Dallas in the past has too often illustrated the twin crises of affordable housing and poverty in the city.)
Right next door to the proposed development is a townhome community from the homebuilding outfit Megatel, which is also behind this project. The Trinity Green apartments and park are nearby. Along with the five-story apartment buildings, plans call for restaurants, retail, and a spa. Oh, and a giant manmade lagoon.
“What is a lagoon — exactly, technically?” asked Mayor Eric Johnson at roughly the same time I was having that thought during Wednesday’s city council meeting. He mentioned the 1980 film The Blue Lagoon. I haven’t seen it, but it looks awful, and doesn’t seem to have much to do with the kind of lagoons we’re interested in.
A lagoon is “a fancy pond,” according to council member Omar Narvaez. More helpful.
Webster’s has it as “a shallow sound, channel, pond, or lake, especially one into which the sea flows; as, the lagoons of Venice,” which gets us closer.
An “ARTIFICIAL SWIMMING LAGOON means commercial amusement (outside) use that includes at least 1.5 acres of continuous open water area and regulated by State of Texas Department of Health and Human Services and House Bill 1468. This use is limited to water events and activities and accessory beach,” according to zoning documents from the city. Even better.
A lagoon is also a must-have for any self-respecting “world-class destination,” according to Rowlett city officials, who have spent years trying to get a lagoon to call their own near Lake Ray Hubbard.
They are “large, aquatic amenities being incorporated into master-planned communities across Texas and the U.S.,” and are either a “fad” or the source of “long-lasting value to residential communities and the homes that surround them,” according to Channel 8 in a 2019 story about the company Crystal Lagoons, which has built a lot of these. Now we’re getting somewhere.
However you want to describe it — I’d go with something like “a very big, chlorine-free swimming pool with some simulated beach elements” — this West Dallas development will be home to the city’s first residential lagoon project. About three acres of white sand beaches will surround the roughly two acres of blue water. The possibilities here include kayaking and water yoga, according to a presentation from the developers. (I’d ask what water yoga is, but I’ve already spent a lot of time getting to the bottom of this lagoon thing.) The public, meaning residents outside of this particular residential community, will be welcome to visit the restaurants, retail, and yes, the lagoon.
That’s good news, because people seem to go wild over lagoons. A Crystal Lagoon in Prosper has reportedly been a big hit with residents of that community, and Megatel has also announced its intent to build a “Venetian Lagoon” as part of a 1,200-apartment complex in the works near McKinney. North Texas is a long way from the beach, and I suppose we’ve got to take what we can get.
Will this lagoon solve all the bigger issues facing West Dallas, like industrial air pollution or the friction between pushing redevelopment and either preserving or creating affordable housing? No. But the project will include homes that people need and a big old lagoon that people will probably like. About 15 percent of the development’s 2,100 apartment units will go to residents making less than the area median income, according to Narvaez, whose council district this sits in. That includes 5 percent guaranteed to residents making between 51 and 60 percent of the area median income, another 5 percent for people making between 61 and 80 percent, and 5 percent for people making between 81 and 100 percent of the median income. Those 315 affordable units will be spread throughout the development, and are guaranteed without city incentives, Narvaez says.
What was an industrial site will be replaced with homes and businesses, and with a lagoon. A lagoon! Narvaez says it has the support of neighbors and community organizations in the area, and that plans were fine-tuned with their input.
So the back-slapping on the council was at least a little deserved. (Council members on Wednesday also approved almost $2 million that will go toward fixing up more than 200 affordable single-family homes in West Dallas and Oak Cliff’s 10th Street Historic District; homeowners can apply for the targeted rehab program online.)
I couldn’t get them on the phone or in an email late Wednesday afternoon, but developers hope to start construction on the lagoon project later this year, according to a previous report in The Dallas Morning News. Narvaez told his colleagues he was inviting everybody over for a cookout at the faux-beach whenever it opens. I’ll bring some burgers.