Rarefied Air: Where are the Middle-Class High-Rises?

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Museum Tower Patio “Porn”

Things are called “porn” because they’re largely unattainable, much like the lovelies featured in the original genre. House porn shows abodes to drool over that few can afford — whether it’s my fantasy 8,000 square foot Chicago penthouse or your Highland Park spread. At some point you give up on the unattainable and marry your gap-toothed sweetheart because … well … that’s reality (and, you know, the love and all).

My question to Dallas developers is, “Where are the lovable high-rises the middle-class can afford?”

We’re halfway through the 2010s and new Dallas high-rises are all for the wealthy. In fact, there doesn’t seem to have been a middle-class, starter high-rise built since 2007’s The Beat in the Cedars. Its location, kitty-corner from the police station headquarters and down the street from a parole office, was hardly enviable when it was built (although better and trendier now). I recall touring the property back in the day and the proximity to the police station was touted as a positive for safety.

The Beat Lofts, What the Middle-Income Buyer Needs More of
The Beat Lofts, What the Middle-Income Buyer Needs More of

Even the slapped-up, unimaginative REIT-owned apartments aren’t cheap and are often built on the cheapest, least attractive plots around.

Let’s take a condo inventory since 2000:

Wealthy: W Residences North/South (2004), The House (2007) – although Victory Park hasn’t lived up to the promise.

Very Wealthy: Vendome (2002), One Arts Plaza (2005), Azure (2007), Ritz Carlton Residences I/II, Plaza at Turtle Creek I/II (2000)

Cartoonishly Wealthy: Museum Tower (2011), Stoneleigh Tower (2012), Bleu Ciel (2015), and Limited Edition (2016)

… and then

Upper-Middle Class:

  • Palomar/Highland (2005) next to the highway.
  • The Metropolitan, and 1505 Elm are converted office buildings with small and/or oddly shaped units. Less easy to resell (especially 1505 Elm).
  • The Beat Lofts (2007) with its aforementioned police station and parole office

Stocked with less-year’s Chanel and Louboutin, consignment shops are where the middle-class gets its glam.   In real estate, this equates to picking up last-season’s high-rise because nothing is being built new for them (and me).

The Beverly Offers More for Middle-Income Buyers
The Beverly Offers More for Middle-Income Buyers

A recent Candy’s Dirt posting kicked off a comment-versation about this lack of middle-income high-rise options. My comment listed the potential in one older Turtle Creek building:

“There are relative bargains for those who don’t mind some work in older buildings. For example, there are four units (ED – now three) for sale at 3701 Turtle Creek that range from $211-259 per square foot and range from 1,141 to 2,120 square feet. HOAs are ~76¢ per square foot and include all utilities. Assuming 20% down and full-list price, with (unavoidable) property taxes, that’s $2,936.75 per month with a 15 year mortgage — $2,442.75 with a 30-year. The cheapest unit has a renovated kitchen and baths with mostly hardwoods — even bedroom carpet looks good. All I’d do is paint and remove the walls of mirrors.”

Three Listings Perfect for Middle-Income Buyers
Three Listings Perfect for Middle-Income Buyers

And for now, that’s where we are. Sadly with no middle-income high-rise condos in the near future that I’m aware of, the middle-income buyer needs to pick up a paint brush and scrape some popcorn. In some cases these (often larger) fixer-upper units can be had for the same money as some apartments. Buyers wanting to move from their maintenance-free, spanking-new apartment to a largely maintenance-free condo are going to have to spank the condo into shape themselves to make it their own.

The trade-off is that the condo is theirs to do with as they please. No more builder’s beige walls and carpet. No more super-trendy finishes that hooked renters in, but quickly age. The one thing these buyers will have to give up is a little entitlement (to instant perfection) as they slowly make a dated condo their inviting home. And when they sell, collecting the profits from their work will be so much nicer than just getting their security deposit back.


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

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Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is CandysDirt.com's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on SecondShelters.com. An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

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  1. Kathy says

    There is a problem with lack of affordable housing for middle and lower income all across Texas. Builders or developers are aiming at the few who have higher wages. This group is the only income group with rising wages, therefore developers feel this is their best bet. Look at the prices of the apartments being built in Uptown or West Village. At some point, this market will be saturated and we will have too many expensive and empty highrise apartment buildings. As the Baby Boomers age, they will not be able to afford these expensive condos, we have not saved enough and have lots of debt going into retirement. Or unemployment has created early retirement at 62.

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