1980s: Dallas’ Second Wave of High-Rise Living; Part 2

Park Plaza

We’re continuing our roundup of 1980s high-rises so slink into your Bob Mackie and pop yourself a Bartles & Jaymes and read on.  Missed part one?  Catch up here.

Park Plaza: 4500 Roland Ave.

I will not be this 46-unit building’s target audience for decades, because at 76 percent, the Park Plaza has the highest rate of over-65 tax exemption filers in the city.

I called the Park Plaza a cannibal because I’ve been told there was an older building on the site that was stripped to the steel skeleton and reconstructed into the Park Plaza. The story goes this was the only way to keep the height and footprint of the original building as Highland Park building codes had changed. The logic is much like some communities that classify a “renovation” as leaving at least one original wall versus a “complete” new-build – it’s done to avoid zoning changes or the potential cost, permitting and taxation differences.

Location-wise, Park Plaza is an organic, gluten-free, vegan, rice cake’s throw from Whole Foods! Units are pretty large (2,000 square feet on up). There are four penthouses all with dynamite downtown views. Even though the units are mostly oriented towards downtown, I’m a little wary of its proximity to the Tollway and the potential for noise. Of course by the time I hit the appropriate age bracket, my hearing may be battery powered.

 8181 Douglas

The Douglas: 8181 Douglas Ave.

The 14-unit Douglas is cooking with gas … literally! Chronologically it appears to be the first residential high-rise in Dallas to offer gas cooking. Units rage from 1,350 square feet to OMFG square feet (which in this case means 18,270 in addition to a pair of whole-floor 7,125-square-footers!).

The 18,270 square foot manse is owned by colorful ACS founder Darwin Deason. In 2011, D Magazine did a blurb on the condo listing it at (just) 7,125 square feet – the whole 9th floor. Their info seemed outdated as DCAD reports in 2009 Mr. Deason acquired the whole floor above him.   Judging from the exterior, that top-floor unit must be partly two-story because the home’s size didn’t just double to 14,250 square feet, but swelled to 18,271.  However, looking at aerial images of the building, there’s a structure taking up a good part of the roof, so while unlikely, that top-floor unit may have had some roof access.  More likely It’s mechanical systems or elevator housings.

Needless to say with 14 units and pacemaker pricing, no one has pitied me enough to invite me in for a peek.

Shelton Exterior copy

The Shelton: 5909 Luther Lane

I wrote a lot about the Shelton in a recent column but suffice it to say the building has changed hands a bit and in 2006/7 the whole building underwent a $12 million renovation to all public areas and residences. This is another 1980s building where balconies encroach into the unit footprints making the floor plans less flowing. It’s also an era of building that seemed concerned with more, smaller rooms versus fewer generous spaces. It’s also smack on the Tollway and so while mesmerizing inside the unit, the patio is a bit noisy.

Oddity: Some of the showers are a bit wonky with sills 12” off the ground which obviously makes for a big step-up. It’s not all showers in all units and it’s something frankly that should have been corrected during its reno in 2006. (And I know it’s fixable because I fixed it in my home.)

ALERT: You heard it here first, on a recent visit I saw a real-life resident/mother pushing a stroller. So there is at least one high-rise with children (versus great or great-great grandchildren)! 🙂

 Claridge

The Claridge: 3510 Turtle Creek

The first thing newbies notice about the Claridge is the Turtle Creek address for a building not actually ON Turtle Creek but bounded on two sides by Lemmon Avenue (I suspect making for a noisy pool). Tapping my inner High Schooler, one can see trying to sell homes on “Lemmon” is a situation ripe for verbal hijinks, notwithstanding the avenue’s decided un-tonyness when compared to Turtle Creek.

The lobby is elegantly festooned with marble and crystal chandeliers. Units are very large with equally large bathrooms and stroll-in closets.

The majority of balconies have been enclosed which gives interiors more usable and easier to decorate space – even a balcony-whore like me really likes the curved walls of nearly floor-to-ceiling glass it produces. Given its position between the Lemmon Avenues, I think for this building, the higher the unit, the closer to silence. The roofless penthouse balconies that have been enclosed offer an 80s greenhouse effect.

Given the prices and associated caliber of owners, finding a unit to renovate for more than just your own enjoyment will be difficult. On the upside, I wouldn’t touch a thing in nearly all the units I’ve seen. So non-renovators can rejoice…whenever there’s a unit available in this tight market.

Centrum

The Centrum: 3111 Welborn St.

This is my “one that got away” high-rise. My offer was rejected and I purchased where I am today.  (I told them it wouldn’t appraise for the higher offer they’d accepted. It didn’t and fell through, ultimately selling months later for less than I offered – but I’m not bitter, noooooo, not me!)

Like me, The Centrum has had a bumpy ride. It was a rental property for years and a difficult-to-sell condo for many more years. The developer who renovated the building in the mid-2000s was forced to cast unsold units up for auction. The HOA was, until a couple of years ago, in legal talks/lawsuit with the builder over patio drainage causing flooding into some units. Today it’s all over and I’m told everything drains properly.

The lower floors of the building are office space with the stair-stepped upper floors containing just 31 condos. The ground floor has housed restaurants with varying success. I miss the Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs corner that originally housed Stephan Pyles’ Star Canyon with its diet-busting eponymous margaritas and Heaven-and-Hell cake (forms of which are still available in Mr. Pyles’ other restaurants – liquid nitrogen anyone?). Since Chef Pyles moved on, restaurant success has been more intermittent. Today Mattito’s occupies the spot casting its cantina décor against sleek 1980s granite. This is the very same building that the infamous Robert Durst occupied between alleged murders.

There’s no pool, tennis court or much in the way of other amenities. But the units are great. There are two guest suites, two large 1,240-square-foot, one-bedroom units and a mix of two- and three-bedroom units. There are also two multi-level penthouses perched on top. Outdoor space is very generous with each unit having at least one patio and some having a patio and an open-air terrace (the end units on each “stair step”).

The renovation was stellar with probably $20,000 in Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances along with custom Downsview cabinetry and in-unit washer/dryer hookups. My only beef is their (and everyone’s) use of trendy vessel sinks. I have even seen an un-renovated unit full of 80s gray melamine glamour. There’s currently one unit for sale (1302) with stunning downtown views.  I’d have featured it, but queries went unanswered (am I that scary?).

 

Conclusion

There you have it, the 1980s encapsulated in architecture.  Lots of popcorn and melamine but still buildings with great space. Of the units I’ve seen, many have workable floorplans capable of adapting to modern living (even those darn bay windows). As we’ll see in the 1990s, there was a lot less high-rise construction during the decade, with just six buildings constructed. This sextet (giggle) ranged from the stroke-inducing Mansion Residences to the apartment-esque Wyndemere and onwards to the wall-to-wall bedded bedrooms of the enormous Renaissance. 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