2010 Archives

SMU to improve property south of Mockingbird Lane

August 11, 2010

DALLAS (SMU) – Southern Methodist University has received a Municipal Setting Designation (MSD) as part of plans to improve property it owns south of Mockingbird Lane between Airline Road and North Central Expressway.

Map of SMU Property south of Mockingbird LaneThe Dallas City Council approved SMU’s application for an MSD on August 11. At a later date, the city councils for Highland Park and University Park will vote on related resolutions.

The property to be improved will include the site of the former Mrs. Baird’s bakery and adjacent businesses on the south side of Mockingbird. SMU’s plans are for non-commercial campus development that "will result in an attractive enhancement of this space," says Paul Ward, SMU vice president for legal affairs and government relations.

Demolition of the site’s buildings is expected to begin in October 2010. Construction of new facilities on the site is expected to begin in 2011.

Under current University plans, the redeveloped property will contain facilities such as tennis courts and a throwing field for SMU athletic activities. The southern tip of the property will house a University data center and an enclosed, partially below-grade electrical substation. Structures and landscaping “will reflect the level of quality characteristic of the SMU campus,” Ward says.

First steps will be to address environmental conditions created by previous businesses that included a dry cleaning facility and gasoline stations. To address these environmental conditions, the University is applying to the City of Dallas for approval of an MSD. An MSD identifies an area of contaminated groundwater that is not being used for drinking and ensures that the groundwater underneath that area will not be used for that purpose. If approved by the city councils, SMU would apply for final approval of the MSD from the State of Texas through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. SMU is working under the Texas Voluntary Cleanup Program, which allows parties to address affected properties voluntarily, Ward says.

SMU held a public meeting June 24 to provide information on planned improvements to this same property. SMU representatives also addressed the request and answered questions at a City of Dallas public meeting June 30.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What is SMU doing at the former Mrs. Baird’s site?

SMU is taking steps to improve the property it owns on the south side of Mockingbird Lane between North Central Expressway and Airline Road, including the site of the former Mrs. Baird’s bakery and adjacent businesses.

Under current plans, the redeveloped property will contain facilities such as tennis courts and a throwing field for SMU athletics activities. The southern tip of the property will house a University data center and an enclosed, partially below-grade electrical substation. Structures and landscaping will reflect the level of quality characteristic of the SMU campus.

2. Why is SMU doing this?

SMU needs this space for the development of facilities that strengthen the campus experience for students, such as those mentioned above. The redevelopment will improve the overall appearance of the property.

3. I thought SMU planned to put residence halls on the Mrs. Baird’s site?

No. Though that had been considered, we now plan to build new residence halls north of Mockingbird on the main campus, behind Park Cities Plaza. We want the halls to be contiguous to the campus and to prevent students from having to cross Mockingbird to get to their rooms.

4. When will construction activities begin?

Demolition work will begin in October 2010. Construction of new facilities will begin in 2011.

5. How will construction activities affect my neighborhood?

There may be some noise and dust but every effort will be made to minimize construction disturbances. A construction fence will surround the construction area throughout the process.

6. What about truck traffic during demolition and construction?

All truck traffic will be restricted to the southbound access road of North Central Expressway. No trucks or other related traffic will be allowed to use neighborhood streets.

7. What about Park Cities Plaza? Is that going to be torn down?

Park Cities Plaza will remain.

8. How does the Mrs. Baird’s plan affect me (in the short term and in the long term)?

SMU believes the planned improvements will benefit the overall neighborhood by enhancing the aesthetics and appearance of the area. Our development removes the property from commercial uses and traffic issues related to that use.

9. What is the effect of the MSD for this property?

The MSD prohibits affected groundwater from being used for drinking. With this restriction in place, the owner of the property covered by the MSD is not required by the State of Texas to bring the affected groundwater to drinking water levels. An MSD can be obtained only where the drinking water for the surrounding area is supplied by the local municipality.

10. I heard that this restriction could also apply to neighbors near the site. Doesn’t this usurp my individual water rights?

No. The MSD applies only to the property owned by the applicant, in this case SMU.

11. How harmful are the soil and water contaminants that have been found there?

Extensive testing has been conducted on the properties. With the issuance of the MSD, the soil and groundwater concentrations will meet all state environmental standards for soil and groundwater, except for one area that will require a small area of soil to be removed.

12. Will the groundwater and soil be cleaned up?

The groundwater, which exists in small quantities at a depth of about 5 to 30 feet below grade, will meet the MSD-based regulatory levels, so no remediation will be required by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Under the MSD, the groundwater cannot be used for drinking purposes.

13. Who is responsible for this contamination?

The site has been the location of various businesses dating back several decades, including dry cleaners and gasoline stations, which resulted in some fuel and dry cleaning solvent being released at the site. SMU was aware of these conditions when it purchased the properties and is committed to addressing them to improve the area and enable campus use. SMU has applied to the Texas Voluntary Cleanup Program in addition to the MSD program.

14. Who is going to use the site?

It will be used by students taking part in athletic practices and events on the tennis courts and throwing fields. No employees will office in the data center or at the electrical substation.

15. How will they reach the site?

People will either drive to the site’s parking area, which is planned to adjoin the North Central Expressway access road, or walk there from the main campus by crossing at the designated cross walks at Airline and Mockingbird. SMU will work to encourage crossing at the designated areas.

16. How tall will the data center be? And what about the indoor tennis courts?

The data center is expected to be no more than 2-3 stories tall, but actual height will not be known until further development of the design. The indoor tennis court will be approximately 40-to-50 feet in height.

17. What about parking and lighting?

The majority of the parking will be adjacent to the Central Expressway access road. The exact number of parking spaces is yet to be determined. The majority of additional parking is provided on the main campus in the various parking garages available, and a paved pedestrian walkway will facilitate walking to the site. In addition, athletics activities planned for the site do not attract high numbers of spectators.

18. What are the dangers and noises associated with the power substation?

The electrical substation will be constructed partially below-grade and enclosed. Wiring will be buried underground, so there will be no exposed high-voltage lines. Minimal noise is expected.

19. Will streets near the property be closed?

At this time, we do not anticipate any street closings.

20. How will this affect the value of my property?

Though we cannot speak to actual values of individual properties, the improvements will enhance the overall appearance of the neighborhood and will reflect the quality typical of SMU development.

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