2010 Archives

SMU and City of Dallas hold public meetings
on planned campus improvements

June 29, 2010

DALLAS (SMU) – The City of Dallas and Southern Methodist University have held public meetings on the University's request for a Municipal Setting Designation for property it owns south of Mockingbird Lane between Airline Road and North Central Expressway.

Map of SMU Property south of Mockingbird LaneDallas's meeting on June 30 and SMU's on June 24 provided information on planned improvements to the property, with members of the public asking questions about traffic, lighting and ground water.

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.

Under current University 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,” 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 a Municipal Setting Designation (MSD). An MSD identifies areas 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, SMU would apply for final approval of the MSD from the State of Texas through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The city will hold a public meeting June 30 to discuss the MSD application. SMU is working under the Texas Voluntary Cleanup Program, which allows parties to address affected properties voluntarily, Ward says.

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 are you 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 you planned to put residence halls on the Mrs. Baird’s site?

No. That had been considered, but we plan to put 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. And what about Park Cities Plaza? Isn’t that going to be torn down?

Park Cities Plaza will remain.

5. 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.

6. When will things start happening?

SMU will remove asbestos from the former Mrs. Baird’s facility and the small buildings fronting Mockingbird during the summer of 2010 and will demolish the buildings in the fall of 2010. The gasoline storage tanks at the 7-Eleven will be removed later in 2010; 7-Eleven and SMU will coordinate any necessary cleanup of that site.

7. What is an MSD designation that SMU is seeking 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 is supplied by the local municipality.

8. 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.

9. How harmful are the soil and water contaminates 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 small area that will required a small area of soil to be removed.

10. 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. As stated above, a small area of soil will be removed.

11. 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 leakage of chemicals on 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.

12. Who’s going to use the site?

It will be used by students taking part in athletics. No employees are intended to office in the data center.

13. 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.

14. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. Will streets near the property be closed?

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

18. How long will the construction process be, and what will be the impact on nearby streets?

The main access route to the construction site will be predominantly from the Central Expressway access road. Construction activities will begin in early 2011 and scheduled to be complete by 2014.

19. 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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