Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

Last week, Lincoln Properties, the owner of the Northcross Mall and the developer who plans to put a record setting mega-box store in the middle of our neighborhood, announced a stand-down. They said that they would freeze further action so they could talk to the neighbors to resolve the problems.

Last Thursday evening the issue came before City Council. The neighbors packed the room, wall to wall, Lincoln Properties, however, was a no-show. Not much talking happened there, I guess.

Monday evening, the Crestview Neighborhood Association called a meeting, so the Northcross developers could meet with the neighbors. Once again, Lincoln Properties took a pass.

Tonight, the North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Association—my neighborhood association—held a general meeting with the Northcross developers scheduled to attend. And again, Lincoln Properties was nowhere to be found.

Is Lincoln Properties ever going to talk with anybody, or are they just trying to run out the clock? The empty chairs are not a sign of good faith.

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re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

i live in a neighborhood close to where they plan to develop the morthcross walmart. i've seen several of my neighbors have anti-walmart signs in their yards and i'm wondering where i could get some. if anyone kmows please let me know. thanks! :)

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

Do you live in Northcross mall? No? Then it's not in your neighborhood any more than the current mall or the numerous butt-ugly strip malls there are...

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

I think the RG4N talking-point/meme-of-the-week is a little dishonest.

I went to the early meetings and Lincoln got flack for sending a representative who was mainly a executive/PR person.

So Monday they sent consultants who were land use and civil engineers. This was characterized by RG4N as "Nobody from either Wal-Mart or Lincoln Property Co. showed up tonight."

Honestly, while I have occasionally been sympathetic to some of RG4N's points, I am tired of their over-the-top Ahab-esque quest. You should have seen it Saturday when they tried to get their hands on Allandale NA's long-planned Christmas-season donations, all to help launch a lawsuit that their own lawyer says they won't win!

Lincoln may not be as open as they could be but frankly, they've seemed to be trying harder to compromise than RG4N. Considering that, by compromising, they are the property owners and have all the money to lose (along with the few remaining small-sized tenants, which their plan tries to avoid disrupting), that says a little something.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

Lauren - RG4N has signs are available on Saturday mornings at Zinger's Hardware, Genuine Joe's Coffee, Discount Electronics, and Thunderbird Coffee.

More info at www.rg4n.org. Click through to "Take Action".

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

DSK - First, thanks for raising the bar. I'm a little tired of the silly "buy the mall if you don't like it" posts.

I agree with you that RG4N is being adversarial, but I don't understand what other position you'd expect them to take at this time. The site plan is granted, the city has said they won't do anything unless they are sued (and almost asking RG4N to sue), and Lincoln doesn't seem to want to negotiate any of the substantive issues (such as size and hours and such).

I think if RG4N is successful in getting that Sword of Damocles removed from their heads, then they will be ready to come back with a positive vision.

I question why you believe Lincoln is being more open to compromise. First, as my blog entry points out, they aren't even showing up. Second, they and Wal-Mart have declared that the most major concerns are off the table.

Finally, I fear you may be setting up a false dichotomy: big-box or nothing. I reject that. I want to see Northcross developed, but in a way that serves the neighbors and the community.

I think if Lincoln took this plan off the table, went back to the drawing board, and engaged the neighbors and planning visionaries, they could come up with something that both pleased everybody and made them a bucket of money.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

Chip,

If RG4N honestly supports a different development vision for this site (rather than using it as a debate tactic), where is the evidence of such on the rg4n.org site? (And where was this support BEFORE Wal-Mart came along?)

I've looked pretty thoroughly and can't find it - the closest I've come are a couple of statements by individuals on other sites (including mine) claiming to want "something like the Triangle". Left unexplored is the amount of retail and multi-family that would actually bring in - the same or more retail, and thousands of multi-family units; so given many of the arguments against Wal-Mart's plan resting on "number of square feet" and previous opposition to multi-family in the area, I hope you can understand the skepticism.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

Chip, you ask some good, reasonable questions. Here are my answers/opinions:

Re. the question (to paraphrase) "what would you expect them to be other than adversarial?"

I tend to follow the "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar" philosophy in this case. Lincoln holds most of the property rights and financial risk cards. In a case like that, I think that RG4N would be better off starting from a position of "let's see what we can AGREE on first and leave the things we don't agree on to be sorted out further in the process."

As for whether Lincoln is showing up. They certainly showed up to meetings I went to a few weeks ago. I wasn't at this week's meetings, but my understanding is that consultant-engineers showed up to at least one. I think that's a sign of good faith as those people presumably A) cost Lincoln money B) were qualified to discuss actual changes.

Re. the dichotomy question: I think some neighbors have set up the dichotomy more than Lincoln has. Lincoln has said they are open to lots of potential changes. This also goes back to the "start with figuring out what you AGREE on first." In the meetings I've been to it's been some of my neighbors who have been the ones basically saying "no WalMart no matter what." The things Lincoln won't compromise on are minimum increased size (which, if RG4N is TRULY for urban-style development, is not in itself a problem), and hours of operation. The second one is a concern, sure, but I think there are plenty of factors that prevent this from being something to cause RG4N to threaten a general wellfare lawsuit.
Namely: 24 hrs operation isn't really that big a deal - hardly anyone actually shops at 3am, and being officially "open" actually is an incentive for a store to INCREASE nighttime security. I lived near a 24hr grocery growing up. It wasn't a big deal.
As for noise concerns, there are already a good set of city noise ordinances in place. If Northcross/Walmart violate them, there are mechanisms to put a stop to it. Also, let's face it - there's already plenty of mid-level nighttime noise around Northcross. I don't think the new development will add much to it.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

Mike - I agree that the onus is on RG4N to put forth a positive vision for the development. Paige Hill started that exploration at the City Council meeting last Thursday, albiet at a very general level. She showed slides of some of the sorts of development that would be received positively.

I think specifics will be forthcoming, but you have to give them time. The practical fact of the matter is that this group didn't even exist four weeks ago.

Lincoln Properties and Wal-Mart took over a year and the best they could come up with is, "Let's dump a crappy suburban big-box on the plot." At least give RG4N a few weeks to come up with something better.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

I disagree that the neighbors have had only a few weeks to articulate their vision. Northcross has been dead for a decade or more. It's only now that Wal-Mart is the other option that suddenly they've found the new urban gospel? This wasn't the first Northcross redevelopment proposal (remember the conference center one? I didn't hear the neighbors complaining much that time that a mixed use urban village wasn't moving in...)

Again, I'd _also_ very much like a project like the Triangle (more retail, though). And unlike rg4n, I didn't suddenly discover my love for high-density urban development right around the time Wal-Mart came calling.

But be serious: the area around the Triangle has a much higher residential density than does Allandale and North Shoal Creek and Wooten and Crestview. I would wager that it's going to be pretty hard to convince a developer to lay out the substantially higher urban-style dough in the middle of so much low-density development.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

I'd like to further explore DSK's proposition that "by compromising, they (Lincoln Properties) are the property owners and have all the money to lose."

This is untrue. Certainly, Lincoln Properties has a direct financial stake in the Northcross redevelopment. But they are by no means the only ones.

Time after time, studies in the US have shown that Wal-Marts tend to LOWER the overall value of residential and commercial property in the areas in which they operate. For one such example, see: http://www.sprawl-busters.com/search.php?readstory=123.

Given this data, I would say that surrounding commercial property owners, as well as hundreds of middle-class property owners, have "some money to lose" as well.

And, unfortunately, the City's outcome will not be much brighter if the current Northcross Wal-Mart plan is realized. History has shown that Wal-Marts are at best break-even revenue propositions for cities. Yes, the cities receive the sales tax revenues. But, the cities then face lost property tax revenue from surrounding areas. And, cities incur $50K-$100K in CRIME FIGHTING costs in relation to 24-hour Wal-Mart Supercenters. Follow this link for a paired study of the crime activity at 550 Wal-Mart vs. Target stores in the US: http://www.newrules.org/retail/policefactsheet.pdf

So, yes, DSK, this is in large part an issue of property rights. But there are more than the rights of Lincoln Properties to consider.

If you don't hold our City Council accountable for leading fairly on this issue, why would you expect them to be accountable the next time a proposed development or change threatens YOUR property?

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

DF,
For the record I currently live within 400 meters of Northcross.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

The economic arguments cited by DF aren't applicable to this case - no additional city services would be required for Northcross, which, unlike most Wal-Marts, is infill, not greenfield development. In fact, the Northcross site is an economic win for the city compared to the existing Wal-Mart sites due to superior access to public transportation, etc.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

For the record, DSK, aren't you about to put your house on the market?

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

M1EK,

I think the area around Burnet and Anderson has higher residential density than that around the Triangle. After all, the Triangle is surrounded by state agency buildings and land.

There have been plans in the works as explained by Council Member Brewster McCracken, to encourage a "compact city" re-development of the Northcross area. Something walkable, with condos and retail.

Imagine: A nice two-bedroom condo for your mom or mother-in-law. A couple of neighborhood restaurants, a dry cleaners, a grocery, a movie rental store, some offices for dentists, lawyers, and massage therapists. With added housing, these new businesses would not put old ones at risk.

We desperately need more housing within the city limits of Austin, both for families and for single people, couples, and seniors. Many of the apartments in our area are getting VERY old.

To try to keep Allandale etc. in its original suburban condition is to encourage urban sprawl. The better option is to encourage neighborhood-oriented commercial development. Stores that don't necessarily attract people from far away. Stores that we can get to in a few minutes. The less driving, the better!

DMA

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

Get over it, dude! What is your deal with holding everyone opposed to this project responsible for everything bad that's ever happened in that area of the city? This is a different project with different issues. Speaking of issues, you have some serious ones.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

Keep spinning, rg4n'ers, but the fact is that your group coalesced from nothingness just as Wal-Mart popped up - when this and earlier Wal-Martless redevelopment plans were proposed, there was never any sign of this supposed desire for a dense new urban development there. And if Wal-Mart went away tomorrow, so would your claims to want something "like the Triangle", I'm betting.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

Al,
I'd suggest that, if you want neighbors to take your points to heart, you follow Chip's style rather than being hyperbolic.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

DMA,

Depending on how big or small a circle you draw, you could come to either conclusion about the Triangle, which, frankly, is pretty crappy urban development anyways. So I suppose I could yield on that point, BUT:

I see no convincing evidence that the Northcross neighbors want multi-family residential on that site (whether nicely mixed with retail or by itself) and plenty of evidence from the past that leads me to believe that they're lying now. Saying "please build this instead of that" doesn't qualify; where, tell me, were the plans for such a redevelopment of Northcross before Wal-Mart popped up? When an earlier redevelopment plan centered around conference-center use?

Forgive me if I don't just suddenly trust these people, who have shown themselves to be firmly against infill in their area in the past.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

Allandale Resident - Yep, I sure am (actually, ON the market now). Hence the "currently" living near Northcross.
Believe me I'd be at the head of the charge trying to work WITH Lincoln and save Northcross from the over the top RG4N crusade if it weren't for the fact that I'm leaving. Turned down quite a few requests to be more involved, I have.
I'd be ten times more anxious to be getting that mainly-empty concrete hulk redeveloped if I were staying.
I don't know how long you've lived in the 'hood, but I've seen enough over the last decade that, IMHO, you should consider my advice somewhat. I think a lot (not all) of the RG4N people don't realize how far Northcross has fallen, how much the economics have changed, and how easy it would be for it to remain in its decrepit state, dragging the immediate area down with it.

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

Don't DSK amd M1ek, who have no stakes, home, or retail in the neighborhood have something better to do than to chase this issue? I live in the area guys, want to chat sometime at the Thunderbird? Know where that is? Your energy and either home job or no job status is enviable. But what glee do you get from posting all that do on this issue 24/7. We get it, you don't like us or our neighborhoods, so what? You want a Wal Mart at Northcross, noted, so what? What do you want? For us to go away? Then what would you do? You made your point over and over on just about every blog and forum there is in cyberspace. What? You don't change my mind, what do you want to accomplish? I just don't get yous two.... You aren't pro Wal Mart you are anti us protestors. You don't like these folks that live in this area. So stick to your own neighborhood issues and groups, things to exciting here for you to resist?

re: Lincoln Properties: Talk to the Hand

Hi, I don't usually get involved in these discussions, but it looks like a fringe group is trying to speak for me and what I think is the "silent majority" of neighbors who are fine with the proposed Wal-Mart. I have been a homeowner in the Wooten neighborhood for over 10 years and I agree completely with DSK and M1EK (thanks guys). I will be happy to meet anyone at the Thunderbird to discuss my many reasons why this is a good thing. Is it the absolute BEST thing? Maybe not, but I would love peace in the Middle East, too. I have sent letters to and have talked with city council members about my support of the WalMart development, and I have spoken with Lincoln Properties who have assured me that this WalMart will happen. I am tired of seeing that huge dilapidated mall with it's huge empty parking lot bringing the whole area down. Why would I want to wait another 10, 20, 30 years for the "idea" development to happen? I might be dead by then. People, let's face it, besides being a good idea for the area, WalMart is the only belle at the ball.