Northeast Tarrant

Southlake survey: Life is good, traffic is bad

Southlake residents love shopping at Town Square, but not the traffic it brings.
Southlake residents love shopping at Town Square, but not the traffic it brings. Star-Telegram archives

The good news is that Southlake has become a regional shopping destination for North Texas with high-end restaurants and retail.

But that’s also the bad news, according to Southlake’s recent citizen survey.

The overwhelming consensus from the city’s recent survey showed residents love the quality of life in the city and it’s a great place to raise a family. But traffic has spiked in recent years and the city’s roads have not kept up. They complain about a never-ending sea of stop lights and brake lights on Southlake Boulevard.

“No more commercialism. We have too much traffic in this town. Stop enticing the whole Metroplex to shop here. Those of us that live in town can’t get to the grocery store across the street,” one comment read.

Other say Southlake is turning into Plano by approving smaller home lots and getting rid of open space.

“We do not need a large increase in people. Southlake is losing its hometown community feel with the large influx of people.”

Mayor Laura Hill has read the survey and hears the people loud and clear.

“This has become a destination. We’re really paying the price for our own success,” she said. “The number one criticism is: bottom line, they don’t want anything to change.”

Hill said she understands that sentiment because she moved to Southlake in 1995.

And things did change, very quickly as the Southlake emerged from last decade’s recession and developers could finally get their hands on financing. That sparked the Park Village project on the old Prade property at the southwest corner of Southlake Boulevard and Carroll Avenue. It also led Mansfield Bible Church to sell the southwest corner of Kimball Avenue and Southlake Boulevard for the Kimball Oaks development.

“We got lulled into thinking we’d be looking at cattle and donkeys for the rest of our life,” Hill said. “Those people have a right to develop. I can’t stop it.”

She cited the Milner Ranch along Texas 114 and Highland Road as a perfect example.

“Does anybody honestly think that the ranch is going to be there for the next 50 years?” Hill asked.

The City Council has shown its willingness to reject projects that aren’t a fit. Last month, it turned down Toll Brothers’ plan for 54 homes on 49 acres without even having a public hearing because it was too dense.

“You’re seeing a shift on the council to much more conservative development, protecting the land plan, because we’re not seeing any projects that bring all those extra amenities to Southlake,” Hill said.

Southlake will face development challenges because the majority of the open space is infill lots surrounded by existing development and “there are no big parcels left,” Hill said.

And, she points out, new construction means the city doesn’t have to raise its property tax rate.

New roads

There is help on the way in the form of road projects done by the city and the state. Hill said her philosophy is to build the commercial first, then see where the problem areas are.

“Cars are like water, they find the quickest route to get to where they want to go,” Hill said. “We’ve got to make 114 easier to get through our city so they don’t jump on 1709 to get through our city.”

Short-term, Southlake is finishing a roundabout at the intersection of Dove Road and Peytonville Avenue. That’s causing a back-up that spans all the way to 114 during peak travel times.

The Texas Department of Transportation continues to work on the expansion of Farm Road 1938, which includes widening the intersection with Southlake Boulevard.

“I know it’s a pain in the neck right now,” Hill said. “It’s going to be a huge improvement because you’ll have two left-hand turn lanes in every single direction.”

Long-term, the city will fill in the missing gaps on Kirkwood Boulevard so it will connect Solana to Gateway Church. TxDOT has plans to build the main lanes on Texas 114 and make improvements to Texas 170 Roanoke.

“That’s going to stop that back-up on 114 west,” Hill said. “It chokes from three lanes down to three.”

More development

TD Ameritrade plans to build a 78-acre campus in Southlake along 114 that will bring 1,000 more jobs to the city.

And Southlake is getting in on Toyota action, as executives relocate from California.

“We’ve got executives from Toyota in Plano looking at Southlake because they want their children in our school district,” she said.

The Cambria Southlake DFW North hotel is expected to open in September with 175 rooms and 50 new jobs at Kimball Avenue and Texas 114. A Westin Hotel is also planned just west of Gateway Church, Hill said.

And Hill said there are talks about a boutique hotel locating in the Carillon development. She envisions a sleek modern hotel like the Nylo in Irving. It would be located along the westbound Texas 114 frontage road.

Take the trolley?

The potential of adding three new hotels to Southlake means the hotel occupancy tax would get a big boost. That got Hill thinking the city could revisit a free trolley service that could connect the hotels, Southlake Town Square and other shopping destinations.

The trolley would be funded by the city’s hotel tax.

“A free trolley that’s eco-friendly where you can jump on with your baby carriage jump on with your bicycle,” Hill said. “I want you to be able to park your car in Town Square, spend the whole day, go to all the shopping centers.”