1980s: Dallas’ Second Wave of High-Rise Living, Part 1

1550 N State

Chicago’s 1550 N. State Parkway; $12,000 and a time machine.

I recently returned from a trip to Chicago where I walked around burning off calories and looking at the high-rises of my childhood dreams. Chicago had a golden age of residential high- and mid-rise construction from the 1880s to the crash of 1929. Some were co-ops but most were apartments billed as mansions in the air. Units were enormous— 5,000-plus square feet was not unusual, many were multi-floor, and most had tremendous views of Lake Michigan. Their exteriors are an array of styles from Tudor to Beaux Arts to Deco.

Unfortunately, the interiors are generally not conducive to today’s living. Servants’ quarters, miniscule bathrooms and closets, and kitchens at opposite ends from the living area do not fit today’s lifestyles or open-plan living – and reconfiguring is difficult. My fantasy building is at 1550 N. State Parkway built in 1911. Each of its 11 8,000-square-foot floors was a single apartment. The living area is 100 linear feet with fireplaces at each end. It’s the Nebraska Furniture Mart of apartments and had a rent in the 1920s of $12,000 a year – four times the salary of the average citizen.

But enough Chicago trivia, let’s move forward a century to Dallas of the 1980s, the era of round edges and inappropriate use of mirrors.   Inexplicably, of the nine residential high-rises built during the decade, the only building name that didn’t begin with “The” was Park Plaza. You may be thinking I’m forgetting Latour, but “La tour” is French for “The Tower.” Ha!

I have no idea why residential high-rise construction was on hiatus for almost a decade and a half – I didn’t live here then, so it’s not my fault!  But come back it did, and when it did, it seemed a touch cautionary. Of the nine, three had under 50 units and only four had more than 100 units – just one with over 150.

Also noticeably missing from this era are the centralized utilities found in Dallas’ older high-rises. Billing was now based solely on individual unit usage with system maintenance also transferred from building to unit owner. HOA dues per square foot can be lower in these buildings, but not seemingly enough to make up for the utility shift.

Fear not, acres of popcorn ceilings remain!

Architectural Design Groups

Alien Friendly: The Beverly and Claridge have exteriors of cliché 1980s rounded corners that prevent the giant alien space monsters from cutting themselves as they rampage the city.

Bay Window Bump-outs: The Beverly, Latour and The Douglas have bay windows that I assume were supposed to add single-family charm style to the high-rise experience. (Personally, I find them difficult to décor-ize).

Flat Pack: Bonaventure, Shelton, Centrum, and Warrington are all very squared-off and boxy (poor scraped-knee space aliens). As a bonus (to me) they’re also constructed in such a way that enclosing balconies would be difficult to impossible (yay!).

The Cannibal: Park Plaza (you’ll see … next week).

Beverly

The Beverly: 3621 Turtle Creek

Age before beauty the saying goes, so I’ll kick-off with the first building to reignite residential high-rise construction in 1980. The Beverly is sandwiched between two of Dallas’ original high-rises (Turtle Creek North and Goldcrest). It’s full-on 80s with a well-maintained but a more-office-than-residential lobby that’ll make you feel naked without big hair and Carrington shoulder pads.

The Beverly is a little boutique building with 39 units of varying size. It’s an architectural combination of kid-friendly and bay window. While I’m sure the penthouses are wonderful, I’m in looove with two units on the 5th floor that face Gilbert and Turtle Creek. What makes them so special are their 1,000-plus-square-foot terraces. The one I saw (5K) is about 1,600 square feet with two bedrooms and two bathrooms and had previously been student housing (party pad) courtesy of Mum and Dad. Units are trapped in the 1980s with laminate cabinets, black and white checkerboard kitchen tile and outdated everything. It would have been a gut with a mesmerizing terrace – a backyard fifty feet off the ground.

Of the units I’ve seen, none have been gut-renovated and being that it’s now 35 years old with an envious location, there should be more contractors’ pick-ups out front.  One HOA oddity has all units, regardless of size, paying the same amount each month. So go big!

Bonaventure

The Bonaventure: 5200 Keller Springs Rd.

It was a bon-adventure that took me north of LBJ to see the Bonaventure recently. It’s a Y-shaped building and the largest high-rise built in the 1980s at 336 units. The lobby is a hodgepodge of little fixes trying to take the 1980s edge off, but ultimately failing.  Miles of (fairly recent) mini bronze glass mosaic tiles try desperately to offset a sea of mirrors coating walls and ceilings. In the end, it just reminds me of the State Fair funhouse or an otherworldly tanning bed. How many mirrors?  The camera flash sent my friend to Baylor with 3rd-degree burns.

Bubbles DeVere

The units seem generously sized but inefficiently laid out. When compared with units in the original first condo buildings, many of the 1980s buildings aren’t as easily fiddled with to make them more usable for today’s way of living. One Bonaventure unit I saw had the master bedroom and bath accessible through the kitchen (like Brady Bunch’s Alice). The second bedroom was in front of the kitchen. Another (renovated) unit had a bizarre kitchen with a gigantic bedroom-sized pantry and a relatively tiny cooking area split by columns, leaving no expanse of working space.

When looking into the Bonaventure, research any plans to gut the lobby (and the centuries of bad luck should all that mirror break). The hallways are middle-of-the-road and shouldn’t offend or entice visitors and buyers. Renovators will have a ball, but need to research with their agent whether renovations would be profitable. If you’re a buyer tagging along with Toyota or any of the other corporate relocations and want a high-rise, the Bonaventure is it for a relatively short commute.

Warrington

The Warrington: 3831 Turtle Creek

I admit it. I really like The Warrington. If I had the cash, it would be on a shortlist. Its 135 units are generous, even the 1,200-square-foot, one-bedroom units. The views can be killer unless you’re on the lower back side overlooking the tennis court (I imagine the “bounce-thunk….bounce-thunk” interrupting my weekend beauty sleep).

Several years ago, the Warrington embarked on a lobby and hallway renovation that’s so sumptuously well done it adds tens of thousands to sales pieces. The units I’ve been in have some awesomely-sized kitchens – a galley with three lines of workspace and an eat-in area with in-unit washer-dryer connections. Nice, though sometimes narrow balconies, give some outdoor space for evening wine.

Many units have been combined to create super-units, and unlike Bonaventure, many, many units have been renovated to an ultra-high standard. The economics of The Warrington enable renovators to go whole-hog when renovating. Renovators need good luck to find a reasonably-priced un-renovated unit as they can list over $300/square foot.

 

Latour Combo

Figure 1: Latour Left and Lincoln Tower Right; Love Children of the 80s?

Latour: 3030 McKinney

The Tower’s 138 units are another example of a 1980s building with oddly-shaped, bumped-out bay windows that I find make decorating difficult. It’s stone-cladding and office-y feel makes me wonder if it was separated at birth from Lincoln Plaza on Akard Street? Call me a traditionalist; I like straight lines and I like balconies that don’t intrude into interior space and interrupt room flow. TIP: Regardless of the building, the less flat the exterior of a building, the less continuous the interior walls.

Not to riff on Latour, the unit layouts are open concept (or can easily be made so) for today’s living. Many bathrooms have separate tub/shower and generous closet space. Currently a snip at $4.2 million a 9,209-square-foot penthouse (or PENTHOUSE according to listing agent Rogers Healy) occupies space on the two top floors with a private elevator. If $4.2m and 9,209 square feet is too big, it’s actually three units comprising 3,043, 2,760 and 3,406 square feet that are available as either 2304/06 combo for $3.3m or the 2,760-square-foot 3/3 2305 unit for $900k. Unit 2305 is pretty original and needs renovation which explains why it’s $185 per square foot less than the other two units (which have been wonderfully upgraded). (P.S. The links above are to Ebby because the Rogers Healy webmaster appears to be on vacation for this listing)

The Latour public areas are nice with the lobby being a sleek mix of wood walls and recessed ceilings that’s a nice change from some lobbies that have been dipped in stone. Outdoor pool/spa is also pretty spiffy.

If you can find an original condition unit (like penthouse 2305) with the right views, it could be a great, near-city, in the thick of West Village and McKinney Avenue weekend shenanigans pad. If you want to avoid the accompanying noise from McKinney Avenue’s weekend shenanigans, floor and unit location will be important.

Next Week I’ll continue inflicting my ribaldry on the remaining 1980s high-rises – Park Plaza, The Douglas, The Shelton, The Claridge and The Centrum (one of my favs). Stay tuned.

Remember: Do you have an HOA story to tell? A little high-rise history? Realtors, want to feature a listing in need of renovation or one that’s complete with flying colors? How about hosting a Candy’s Dirt Staff Meeting? Shoot Jon an email. Marriage proposals accepted (as soon as they’re legal in Texas)! sharewithjon@candysdirt.com

6 Comment

  • I love this series. Really entertaining (and servicey)! And when you wrote about Chicago’s great high-rises, I was thinking about Alicia Florrick’s awesome apartment in The Good Wife. Real estate porn, a la Woody Allen.

    • mm

      Thanks! I was scouring my books on old Chicago high-rises (yes, I have books) when I decided to use the internet to find Alicia’s apartment and was surprised to learn the show isn’t filmed in Chicago and her apartment building is really in Brooklyn, New York!

  • mm

    We do too! Jon is an amazing addition to our staff!

  • I have 3 units at Azure for sale, principles only . Unit 301 , 401 and 1104 . Priced to sell.
    Judy Havelka 214 .906. 9434

    • Is there a reason you’re exiting the Azure (and seemingly not posting these listings on the MLS)? We’ve heard about an HOA increase recently…is that part of the decision? Most importantly, if Candy’s Dirt sells the units, do we get the commission? 🙂