ULIFall2016

The Urban Land Institute held its 2016 Fall Meeting in Dallas last week with a tizzy of tours, sessions, networking events, and dinners. In my experience, the biggest benefit of a conference is in the networking. But the content at this one also covered a large array of subjects, from community engagement to redeveloping skyscrapers, to global trends, to niche discussions like “To Sell or To Hold,” and “The Fundamentals of Attracting and Keeping Companies North Texas Style.”

Tuesday I led a tour of the seven new development projects going up in the Bishop Arts District for the Colorado ULI chapter through the North Central Texas Congress for New Urbanism (more on that to come!) Wednesday and Thursday I got to catch a few sessions.

Highlights from the sessions included:

  • new metrics to qualify which dense urban cities are the best investment opportunities
  • innovative ideas for community engagement (from Detroit, of course)
  • the argument for building wood frame apartments above concrete podium parking.

And one topic repeatedly came up in each session — whether in the presentation,  in conversations with attendees, or by Q&A with audiences — affordable housing.

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Leta Mae 1Recently I was asked my thoughts on a neighborhood changing its name. While that story is in production, I will say this: if ever there was a community that should change its name, that would be Farmers Branch.

Why? Because there are some gorgeous homes in Farmers Branch, very upscale, sleek and sophisticated, and the location is stellar: just north of the 635 Loop, convenient to 35E and DFW, especially now that 635 is nearing it’s 2000 year (or so it seemed) completion. I know I am risking the wrath of an entire community, a really great community, but I just have to apologize in advance and SAY IT. And it’s not just the recent negative publicity from that inane immigration ordinance attempt, it’s the tone and inference of the word “Farmer” that has been etched into us all since, well, The Farmer in the Dell:
farmer

I say try Ranchers Hollow, or Ranchers Branch. Or how about Farnsworth Branch, borrowing the name of a lovely rural road (probably not so rural anymore) in my native suburban Illinois?

Because look at this sizzling sustainable showplace at 2619 Leta Mae Lane that is for sale in FB and all she has to offer! (more…)

983 Sylvania Front

983 Sylvania was taken to the studs and rebuilt into an LEED Gold masterpiece by D’J Perkison. But how do you find the right buyer for such a unique home? All photos by MetroplexHD.com

There are a few Dallas homes that are so unique that they earn a permanent spot in the bit of our brains exclusively wired for real estate. For me, this Eastwood midcentury modern that was completely re-imagined by architect D’J Perkison is one of those homes. You probably had the distinct pleasure of touring this East Dallas marvel at 983 Sylvania during this year’s White Rock Home Tour and thought, “What a wonderful way to breathe new life into an outdated home!”

And that’s just the reaction Perkison, founder of Studio Perk, was hoping for. When she bought this home with her husband and set upon remodeling it, the goal was to use only the most sustainable materials possible. The results were stunning, of course.

983 Sylvania Living

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LEED Allen

Happy Earth Day, CandysDirt.com readers!

What a wonderful day to celebrate everything easy on the Earth, things that go in the ground, and all of the fabulous homes that help to reduce your ecological footprint using energy-efficient design and finishes. Today we want to show off the great variety of homes you can find on the market today in a multitude of neighborhoods that are all LEED Certified. Whether in the Dallas Arts District, Midway Hollow, Fort Worth, or Allen — green homes are everywhere today and come in so many different styles. From chateaus to condos, there’s something for everyone who wants to tread lightly on the Earth!

Jump to see our list of the top 5 LEED Certified homes in North Texas!

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Trammell S. Crow

Earth Day Texas founder Trammell S. Crow is the keynote speaker for the free, one-day sustainability conference on Friday, March 20, hosted by Cedar Valley College in Lancaster. (Photo: David Woo/DMN)

Ready to make your great business dream a reality? Lancaster’s Cedar Valley College, a Dallas County Community College District campus, is hosting a sustainable communities conference 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, March 20, featuring real estate scion and Earth Day Texas founder Trammell S. Crow as the keynote speaker, as well as soil biologist Dr. Elaine Ingahm. The conference is called H3: A Responsible Pathway. The “H3” stands for “head, heart, and hands” as that’s what attendees will use to focus their commitments to a sustainable community.

There are three tracks available for the free, one-day conference: People, Planet, and Economy. Jump to find out more about how to register.

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Photo courtesy Greico Modern Homes

Photo courtesy Greico Modern Homes

The homebuilding market in DFW is super hot, and with a new year comes new trends. Candy already mentioned the emergence of the skullery, but there’s more!



We’ve asked the best and brightest North Texas homebuilders to look into their crystal balls and make predictions about homebuilding trends for 2015. They’ve also given us some sublime photos that illustrate those trends in action in their own work. You won’t want to miss this—jump to read the whole story!

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Home tour season has heated up and the DFW Solar Tour this Saturday is the hottest of them all.

More than 30 homes and and buildings with solar energy systems will be open to the public across the Dallas area. The self-guided tour organized by the North Texas Renewable Energy Group is part of a larger national grassroots event put on by the American Solar Energy Society that promotes the benefits of sun power. Attendees will see different kinds of solar installations, talk to the homeowners about their experiences, and take a peek at some unique homes in the Dallas area.

Program co-coordinator Lissa Magel says this year’s free event is the biggest she’s seen in its four-year existence. Last year’s event drew a little more than 20 homes and about 400 attendees.

“This year, we’re happy to have more participating homes in Dallas,” she says. “In the past they’ve been mostly in the surrounding areas.”

When it comes to energy trends, solar is sizzling. Globally, it has outpaced all other forms of energy project starts this year. U.S. companies like Solar City, which is chaired by PayPal and Tesla Motor founder Elon Musk, are seeing rapid growth. And locally, Oncor’s solar credits program for 2013 has been drained by North Texas homeowners, including groups like Plano Solar Advocates who have used group purchasing to obtain discounts on residential panels and other equipment.

With all the new interest in this oldest of energy sources, many homeowners dream of converting their home to solar for the cost savings and environmental benefits. The process, however, can be daunting. The Solar Tour is a chance for them to meet people who have actually done it and learn from their experiences.

Tour participant and electrical engineer Bob Litwins says he “took the plunge” and installed a small solar system on his Plano home in 2009, one of the first in the city. He estimates that he gets about a third of his electric power from the system and, combined with other energy reduction measures, has cut his power use by 45 percent.

He placed his home on the tour in 2009 and is back again this year.

“It’s great interacting with people when they’re are here and helping them learn about the practical nature of having solar,” he says.

The question he gets asked most by visitors is, how much does it cost? He estimates that he would spend about $7,500 for a system similar to his. The cost would be reduced by about half by federal tax credits and energy company incentives.

NTREG’s Magel has a few tips for prospective homebuyers who are looking for a house to convert. She suggests they find a property with a southern exposure, preferably in the back yard where rooftop solar panels aren’t noticeable from the street. Ranch and prairie-style homes make good candidates, because their low-angle, continuous rooflines take advantage of light for long periods of the day. And buyers should check with the neighborhood’s home owners association to confirm there are no rules that prohibit solar panels. Legally, it is becoming more difficult for associations to ban the panels, but there are holdouts.

Before homeowners start a solar conversion, Magel suggests they first take a look at ways they can decrease their current energy consumption. Getting rid of duplicate appliances and convenience gadgets, and using energy efficient lighting may provide enough benefits. If homeowners do decide to go solar, they can design a system that provides a percentage of their total energy and expand it later.

To participate in this year’s tour, visit the locations page at DFWSolarTour.org and determine which homes you’d like to visit. Locations are clustered mainly in the northern, western and southern sections of the Dallas area.

The website includes photos of each home, the type of solar installations it has, directions, comments from the homeowners, and information on additional alternative energy projects, such as wind turbines and electric cars. Most locations are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, though a few have different hours, so check carefully.

Highlights of this year’s tour include:

McKey
The Allen, McKey (pictured), Shine and Smades houses: This cluster of four single family homes on 10 acres in Oak Leaf is the brainchild of four sisters—Connie, Jan, Elaine and Paula. They’ve essentially built their own “green” subdivision. Visitors will see how each incorporated solar into these homes constructed by green building guru Jim Sargent.

Smith
The Smith House: This is a chance to take a look at a classic piece of Dallas residential architecture while learning about solar. This 1961 mid-century modern Dilbeck was completely renovated in 2008. It has a flat roof that’s tailor made for the home’s passive and active solar systems and the DIY homeowners will be happy to talk about how they did it.

Squyres

The Squyres House: It took three years, but these Flower Mound homeowners have reached net zero—meaning they pay no electricity bill whatsoever. Visitors will learn about how they completed the project in stages. And then take a look at the homeowners hot Tesla electric sports car.

Renner
Renner “Off-Grid” House: Weatherford is a hike from Dallas, but it’s worth it to see this homeowner’s effort to reduce his carbon footprint. The home has been completely off the “grid” for 11 months and has a mix of alternative energy features, including solar, wind and rainwater.

Marc LeeMarc Lee is a freelance writer and film buff who loves real estate almost as much as Candy herself. He lives in Dallas. Contact him via marc@marcsclips.com.

DLP_0958

Josh LeComte is a Texas boy through and through. Born and raised in Plano, LeComte attended the University of Texas in Austin hoping to become an engineer. It was a twist of fate (and a distaste for life behind cubicle walls) that led him to discover his passion for building homes, which he follows today with his personal brand of modern and efficient construction. An up-and-coming design/build firm, LeComte Homes is making its name all across high-end Dallas neighborhoods.

CandysDirt.com: How did you get into real estate?

Josh LeComte: I started on the construction side of the business. When I was an undergrad at UT, I converted a garage into my bedroom — put up a wall in front of the garage door, laid the carpet, etc. I did all of the work myself, without my landlord’s permission. When he found out, he was about to kick me out, then realized that I just created an additional $700 per month in future rental revenue. He then hired me to do more conversions. I was studying engineering and I just couldn’t make sense of going to work in a cubicle all day after graduation, so I stuck with building.

CD: You’re an up-and-coming builder in Dallas known for sleek and modern design. What inspires you?

LeComte: For modern design, Dallas’ new buildings in the Arts District, especially the Wyly Theater. I also love the eclectic mix of homes along Lakewood Boulevard.

CD: What do you think will be the hottest trends in building for 2013?

LeComte: Efficiency. Smaller open concept homes with spaces laid out in a manner that minimizes waste, High R value building envelopes and windows. Outdoor living space continues to be a hot commodity.

CD: Where is home for you in Dallas?

LeComte: Just east of lower Greenville Avenue.

CD: And you drive a … let me guess, Mercedes Benz?

LeComte: Not a Benzer — I drive VW Touareg SUV

CD: What’s your favorite ‘hood in Dallas and why?

LeComte: I like my neighborhood because there is plenty of green space and a ton of dining and shopping options within a short walk and if I need to drive, I can usually be anywhere in the loop within 15 minutes door to door. I like to get over to Uptown on occasion as well.

CD: What was your best or most successful build/project?

LeComte: 1811 Euclid Townhomes, a contemporary eight-unit condo project. It is located just off of Henderson Avenue, where a lot of exciting things are happening. We put the right product in the right spot.

CD: From concept to finish-out, how quickly have you ever completed a project?

LeComte: I built a home for a friend in about seven months from the time I sketched the initial concept to completion. I wish all of our projects moved that fast.

CD: What have you learned about building that makes you so successful?

LeComte: Value engineering is huge. Pay attention to the numbers and spending time getting it right the first time.

CD: If you ever change careers for an encore you’ll…

LeComte: I’m not sure I would want to do anything else as a career.

CD: Do you have a second home? If so, where?

LeComte: No second home right now, but hopefully someday a second home next to a ski mountain or a home on Lake Austin.