Church Plans Mixed-Use Project on the Largest Tract of Undeveloped Land in North Dallas' Preston Center

Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church is practicing what it preaches. Besides applying for City of Dallas approval to transform the largest undeveloped land site in Preston Center into a major mixed-use community, the parish is following the “good neighbor” principle by seeking blessings on the project from its neighbors.

Located adjacent to the parish’s sprawling campus at Frederick Square and Douglas Avenue, the nearly four-acre block of prime North Dallas real estate has been owned by the church for over a decade, according to the Dallas Morning News. In 2015, the church initially applied for approval from the city to develop the property, but the request was tabled after neighbors voiced opposition. Since then, several things have changed, including the plan. 

The New Plan

Neighborhood resistance for proposed developments was nothing new in Preston Center. Between traffic concerns as well as building heights and density around the intersection of Northwest Highway and Preston Road, neighborhood groups typically contested most prospective high-rises. While neighbors knew what they didn’t want, they had no clear vision of a workable alternative. That changed two years ago when a task force comprised of residents, stakeholders, and city officials devised new development guidelines for the neighborhood.

In turn, Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church joined forces with professional heavyweights—Dallas-based architectural firm HKS and developer Lincoln Property Co.—to design and develop the mixed-use project according to task force guidelines. From all indications, the new plan is a win-win.

"Our new plan starts to bring to life the vision that our congregation has had for what our campus can be," the Rev. Dr. Chris Girata, rector of Saint Michael and All Angels, said in a statement. "Just like the task force, our parishioners want wide sidewalks, plazas, and greenspaces.

"Not only was it the right thing to do to wait on the task force recommendations, but we believe that we now have a far better plan than we had in 2015—better for us and better for the neighbors."

Aside from restaurant space, public greenspace, and an eight-story office building on Douglas Avenue, the property adjoining the church campus will include two office towers with 19 and 20 floors along with a 12-story residential building and 10-story condo building. A massive underground parking garage will mutually accommodate the buildings and the parish complex.

"Based on my review of the preliminary plans for the proposed Saint Michael mixed-use development, I believe this project could be a role model for future developments in the Preston Center area," Dallas businessman Pete Kline, one of the members of the neighborhood task force, told the News. "They have gone to great lengths to address the concerns and the priorities of the area plan."

Preston Center and Saint Michael: Then and Now

Neighbors were scarce in 1948 when the fledgling Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church set up stakes on a corner of its present campus site in (what is now) Preston Center. At the end of World War II three years earlier, the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas established the founding mission to serve the growing North Dallas area. After initially meeting in a YMCA Boy Scout hut and progressing to the Fondren Library Auditorium at Southern Methodist University, the new parish paid $21,000 for its first piece of land and constructed the Gothic stone Saint Michael Chapel.

Preston Center and Saint Michael and All Angels Episcopalian Church grew up together. After the neighborhood’s namesake—Preston Center shopping center—was constructed in the 1950s, the area began evolving into one of the most affluent districts in Dallas. In addition to offering a vast selection of high-end shopping and dining options, Preston Center is characterized by elite offices, luxury condos, and sought-after residential neighborhoods including Preston Hollow, which is home to former President and First Lady George W. and Laura Bush.

Saint Michael, which serves around 7,000 communicants, is now among the largest Episcopal parishes in the United States. Besides the 70-year-old Saint Michael Chapel, the campus includes the two-story Saint Michael School, built in 1950, as well as the latest 150,000-square-foot addition that houses the large main sanctuary and various ministerial areas.

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