You can have your red carpets, reality TV, and celebutantes; I prefer substance. For a high-rise fanboy like me, it was a treat last week to spend an afternoon with Dallas high-rise royalty. Judy Pittman is often mentioned in the same breath as Ebby Halliday, Allie Beth Allman, Virginia Cook, and other feisty ladies who have taken Dallas real estate by storm over the decades.
A pearl of wisdom in real estate is to specialize and be known for something. Pittman has strung her pearls up and down Turtle Creek, but she didn’t start out in high-rises.
Early in Pittman’s real estate career, she and partner Berta Patterson were selling homes in Highland Park and Preston Hollow. This was back when Preston Hollow was just a nice neighborhood, before it became today’s “Park Cities North.” From 1980 to 1986 she took a hiatus from real estate and moved to Mississippi with her husband, who had taken a position at St. Stanislaus College. Not being a sit and knit type, Pittman opened three Hallmark shops in Mississippi before selling up and returning to Dallas for good.
She resettled at The Warrington, where she still lives today. It was here that the high-rise bug bit her. Of course she long ago traded in her one-bedroom to eventually wind up in a penthouse suitable for a Turtle Creek Mayoress (after all, it’s the former home of former Dallas mayor Erik Jonsson).
Her big high-rise break came from being chosen by a new owner to “finish” selling unsold units at the Claridge. It was 1990 and the building had been caught in a recession. After nearly a decade of pre-sales and active selling, the building was still 75 percent unsold when Pittman took over. You couldn’t give condos away back then. But just over three years later, the last Claridge unit was sold. Pittman’s golden touch earned her prime broker position at The Mansion Residences, Place des Vosges, and Vendome. From “dirt” to “done” Pittman was there, working with the developers to ensure they were building high-quality homes on one of Dallas’ most storied streets. She even selected the names for Place des Vosges and Vendome, which mirror her personal love affair with Paris.
Pittman has earned her place and is now in the enviable position of, “not having to drive around Dallas with my name on the side of a van,” she says. But I suspect, if she felt she had to, she would. Already selling over $10 million in 2016, she doesn’t strike me as someone who rests on laurels … or anything else.
My meeting Pittman last week was a pleasure delayed. Back in September I wrote about the 12,370-square-foot Vendome shell that had never been finished out. As part of the story, I corresponded with Pittman but due to vacation schedules, ultimately toured the property with her assistant Lauren Champlin.
This time, it was her dressed-to-kill Claridge penthouse listing I was in a dither about. You see, it will be the location for the first anniversary of our CandysDirt.com Staff Meeting event held on March 22 (more info soon).
Our shared interest in travel got the ball rolling. Turns out she used to own a flat in London near Harrods that was a literal stone’s throw from the hotel I stayed in during my very first international trip months after finishing college. She no longer owns the flat and “my” hotel is gone.
She spoke of her selection of the bee as a symbol for The Vendome because of its association with luck, hard work, and Napoleon. I told her about the Paris Shangri-La Hotel opened a few years ago in Napoleon’s grand-nephew’s Paris townhouses across the river from the Eiffel Tower. Place Vendome of course is the address of the original Ritz hotel, which recently experienced a fire at the end its three-year renovation. Pittman had reservations for the re-opening which has now obviously been postponed.
After we finished at The Claridge, Pittman offered me a tour of Turtle Creek. We saw the garden in Lee Park named for her parents Bob and Amy Goff who loved each other and Dallas in equal measure. Her gift to the city reminds me of the need for people and businesses with roots. They become personally invested in its betterment.
After being waved in at the gate, we spun through Place des Vosges which I’ve always thought looked “nice” from the outside but opens into an idealized cul de sac of French limestone chateaus. I almost wondered where the stereotypical bicyclist with the baguette in the basket was.
My tour ended with continued conversation and champagne at the Dallas Country Club (it was a day of firsts for me). Architecturally interesting was the wall showing the history of the club and the previous incarnations of its clubhouse. There was wry irony seeing the “stately Wayne Manor” styled version that was demolished for the 1950s modern (and not even memorable modern at that) only to be demolished again for a return to today’s even statelier “stately Wayne Manor” version.
At one point I noted that you knew you’d been around a while when you “remember when.” Dallas has come a long way during Pittman’s life and been shaped by her career. Remembering when Pittman wasn’t part of the fabric of Turtle Creek takes some doing.
Back in 2010, as the broker for a penthouse at the Ritz Residences, Pittman noted that living there would be a “savored pleasure.” Meeting Pittman is a similar sort of pleasure.
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 (they’re legal)! firstname.lastname@example.org