It was first built in 1958 as the home of the Relief and Annuity Board of the Baptist General Convention. The building has a 15-story tower and a three-story side structure with a rooftop deck. It has all the hallmarks of a midcentury office building — sleek, striking, floor-to-ceiling marble panels in the lobby, panels on the facade, and aluminum windows throughout.
I had no idea about the history the first time I toured one of the penthouses at 511 N. Akard. One of the original owners, Andrew Foster, was getting ready to put his unit on the market. He took time to explain to me how the building was redeveloped by CitySquare into CityWalk@Akard.
It’s a mixed-use building, and one of the primary uses is 200 apartments functioning as permanent supportive housing for the formerly homeless. The first three stories are office and commercial, housing CitySquare’s support services for CityWalk@Akard’s tenants as well as offices for UNT Dallas, and on top of the building are six penthouse units with unique, two-story floorplans.
According to John Greenan, executive director of Central Dallas Community Development Corporation, the project was essentially a gut rehab for floors four through 15. Main contractors included Key Construction, Central Dallas CDC, Brent A. Brown Associates, and WKMC Architects.
For tomorrow’s tour (You have your tickets, right? If not, go ahead and buy them here.) four of the six top-floor penthouse units will be open, including two owned by Greenan and his wife. the third floor common areas, including the open-air deck, will be open, too.
Above: The fountain on the third-floor deck was installed when the building was still the home of the Relief and Annuity Board of the Baptist General Convention. Below: A historic photograph shows masons building the fountain.
On the third floor, pay special attention to the fireplace in the chapel-like area, which also features a neat drop-ceiling detail that juts out of the building like an airplane wing. On the 15th floor, each unit has a unique layout thanks to the shape of the building, with only two of the six penthouse-level condos having second-story enclosures. All of the units, however, have rooftop terraces that provide wonderful views of the surrounding buildings, and even the Calatrava bridge in some cases.
While the building looks as it did back in 1958 from the exterior, with its patterned red brick, sculptural panels (which are thought to have been manufactured by TexLite) the only remaining features inside are the polished concrete floors and aluminum windows on the first levels of the units.
While I love each of these units (check out Greenan’s his-and-hers baths at unit 1501), and you’ve already seen 1505, which has a new owner in Downtown Dallas Inc.’s Shalissa Perry and her husband, John, but my favorite is 1506, which has some really clever finishes and architectural details.
It’s owned by CitySquare Food Programs director Kay Thomason and her husband, and it’s just really, really perfect. Like most smart homes, it’s what you don’t expect that really gives the unit it character, like the half bath in the entryway, which is behind a concealed door in the curved wall. To the right, near the spiral staircase, is a huge floor-to-ceiling bookcase that Thomason’s husband insisted on.
The whole first floor is a grand master suite, with a long storage cabinet mounted underneath the east-facing windows. The master bath, which gets plenty of natural light thanks to a clerestory interior window, features a lovely tile scheme. It’s all very airy and open, and quite modern, too.
Upstairs you’ll find the kitchen and dining area, with a neat little nook from which you can see the views beyond the large terrace. Of course, you had to spot the exposed brick wall on your way up, right? Would you believe that the brick isn’t original to the building? Thomason worked with contractors to get the brick to match the existing exposed brick in her unit as closely as possible, and it’s darn-near perfect. Also note the wonderful exposed aggregate on the polished concrete floor upstairs.
Above the spiral staircase, Thomason brought in a fixture from a San Antonio artist to add a little extra midcentury appeal.
Not that it could use it, of course.
I hope you enjoy getting a close-up of this building, as well as the other four structures on the Preservation Dallas Spring Architectural Tour tomorrow, which now includes the incredible Caruth Homeplace. Tickets for the tour, which starts at 10 a.m. tomorrow and includes stops at the Old Parkland Hospital campus, the Parks Estate, the Continental Lofts, and a completely rehabbed North Oak Cliff home, are $35 for Preservation Dallas members and $50 for non-members.