Oaklawn’s Turtle Creek Haus: Neighbors and Developers Take Steps in the Right Direction

TC Haus Map Labels v2

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the second meeting between local neighbors and Portugal’s Teixeira Duarte, Masterplan and architect Javier Espinoza, the team developing the so-named Turtle Creek Haus high-rise at Hood and Dickason in Oaklawn.

Last night there was a third meeting and to borrow from Dan Savage, it got better.

First, Masterplan brought out heir-apparent Dallas Cothrum to open the meeting with more finesse.  His goal was to relieve some of the negativity that permeated the last meeting.  Thankfully the threats of “Plan A” were largely history with the assumption that neighbors … and the developer … wanted something better than a dormitory. With that empty-threat mostly dispensed with, neighbors were able to discuss the real-world impacts a neighboring high-rise would pose and how to mitigate the jolt to nearby residents as much as possible.

This isn’t to say the meeting was a love-in.  There were a few times emotions erupted.  When things got heated, Masterplan too quickly reverted back to an unhelpful “we can build what you don’t want tomorrow” attitude. On the upside, neighbors were quick to notice and call them out, usually deescalating the situation. But one neighbor got ticked and gave a less-than-logical riff before storming out of the room.

Timelines

What also came out were tacit admissions that timelines quoted in the previous meeting were not as tight as neighbors were led to believe. In the prior meeting neighbors were told that this project was to be at City Hall before the end of summer.

Given that timeline, it would be impossible to NOT have had significant design work underway and signed-off by Teixeira Duarte management.  Seems that timeline was either overly optimistic or a little Masterplan hardball to get neighbors in line.

Stepped building exteriors allow for some great terraces

Stepped building exteriors allow for some great terraces

Architect Espinoza admitted he’s in the conceptual design phase which isn’t the phase you’re in if your date with City Hall is just a couple of witheringly hot months away. I still find it mildly fishy that Teixeira Duarte has supposedly signed off on costly land purchases, including a high-rise on the Poston lot, without more design and costing work being completed. I mean you don’t send a 16-year-old to NorthPark with your AMEX card and tell them to buy what they want.

Condo or Rental

Seems the prevailing thought is to build a quality building that would likely begin as a rental (that’s the market, folks) with the plan to transition to condos when the market turned.  It could also mean that the banks think it’s an apartment, but once built and before the Certificate of Occupancy is granted, paperwork is changed to condo.  Either way, not the answer neighbors were hoping for, but I believe an honest one.

Number of units

Turtle Creek Haus looks to clock in with 150-plus units. This is a good size. As eventual condos, this provides enough ownership to spread repair bills.  As smaller buildings age, big ticket replacements cost each owner more which can result in deferred maintenance.  Ownership in older, smaller buildings makes special assessments and/or higher HOA dues almost a given.  Haus’ size should make neighbors happy as it bodes well for a more stable, well-maintained future.

Underground parking

Since the last meeting, design work has progressed in the right direction.  What was a single half-story underground garage with four stories above had changed to two under, three above ground. The added floor space was to provide additional guest parking to minimize on-street overflow parking. Compromise.  Streetscapes had been visualized that didn’t look like a crappy stucco slab.

There was a little weaseling though.

The above-ground portion was listed at 22 feet above ground, yet it was three stories.  Unless you’re talking about six feet of headroom, the math’s not right.  Several neighbors noticed.  Turns out the top level wouldn’t be covered.  Because in our glorious summer, some resident would want to park in an uncovered space?  Because downward views from the lower floors would be of car roofs and accompanying noise?  Thanks, but no.

I was buoyed near the end when the group was focused again on the parking structure and really hitting hard for its total submersion.  Masterplan blurted out that if they submerge the garage an extra two stories below ground, they’d have to build another three stories to offset the cost.  The neighbors didn’t flinch.

At the last meeting every floor added was a personal wound.  This time neighbors understood that the fight needed to be directed at the streetscape because no one was going to notice a few more stories nor the few extra cars it would generate. More progress and more compromise.

Façades  

Haus Example: Step-backs offer more visual interest

Haus Example: Step-backs offer more visual interest

We did see sample façades from other buildings to give an idea of what general direction they’re heading design-wise. More limestone than stucco. More proportional windows than curtain wall.  More classic than slap-dash.  All good queues, but until the actual design is on paper, more show-and-tell than bankable.

Personally I liked the exemplars that more resembled New York City’s pre-War step-backs. I think they have more grace and visual interest than a single homogenous up-ended shoebox.  They would also give the units above the setback some cherry terrace space.

When Masterplan quipped that they might put the pool on the roof, I got to thinking of The Mayfair with its penthouse clubhouse for residents. Prime real estate dedicated to all residents’ use would certainly be a draw for tenants or owners.

New York City's elegant stair-steps

New York City’s classic “pre-War” stair-steps

Neighborhood Financial Considerations

I’ve written more than once that Dallas is over saturated with spendy condos and one planned Turtle Creek high-rise returning to the drawing board. Before this project gets my seal of approval (for whatever that’s worth), I’d want to see the financials.  What are rents expected to be? What would units sell for in today’s market?  As a condo, what’re the expectations on HOA dues?

I ask because words like “expensive” and “high-quality” were bandied around pretty freely.  The Ritz was mentioned more than once.  I also see a list of potential amenities from last night’s packet that read, “more condo/hotel like; laundry/dry cleaning; concierge; bike storage/extra storage; trash service; business center; common event kitchen; bigger lobby; more on-site staff; dog wash/designated pet areas; potential valet service.”

Aside from being confused by “trash service” being an amenity rather than a given, all of these things require space and money. Ultimately this adds expense to renters as well as buyers and their associated HOA fees.

It’s good that they’re building small, medium and larger units within the building, but while quality is good, city neighborhoods like Oaklawn thrive with multi-income housing options.  It’s likely what attracted the area’s current residents in the first place.

Just something to consider.

Less visually interesting

Less visually interesting

The Neighbors

I will say that neighbors, while more cohesive in their asks from Teixeira Duarte, were guilty of a little magical thinking that needs to be nipped.  The building is coming and it will be a profitable venture for the developers.  They’re not a charity, so every “give” likely has some kind of “take” involved.  Spouting that you don’t care about Teixeira Duarte’s profitability is facile and counterproductive.

It’s also crazy to think that they’re going to give until the project becomes unprofitable. This is a negotiation and it’s unrealistic to think either side will be walking away with nothing.

After this meeting, I think it’s very likely there will be an underground garage, attractive streetscape, limited overflow street parking and a building that’s not a rack-and-stack dorm built with 2-by-4s and stucco.  Remember that junky apartment building that stood where the Ilume Park stands?  You’re not getting that. The newly-built Gallery at Turtle Creek?  You’re not getting that either.

Definitely progress … and more to come.

Remember:  High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement.  If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, I’m your guy. In 2016, my writing was recognized with Bronze and Silver awards from the National Association of Real Estate Editors.  Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make?  Shoot me an email sharewithjon@candysdirt.com.

16 Comment

  • Masterplan will say whatever it takes to get support, go back on their word later and blame the neighbors for whining about it. Unfortunately Willy is no longer running the show…

    • mm

      I’d never advocate for taking a developer’s word. I’d want every page initialed to ensure there was no last-minute switch-a-roo at the Plan Commission.

      • Yes, I notice they only write down comments that somehow fit into what their “masterplan” must be. Others are ignored.

        • mm

          Then as neighbors one of you should be scribe to capture all of the comments and discuss them in a group before the next meeting.

          • Reporters can do this as well.

            JON: Since we’ve run out of “reply” space…reporters are witnesses, we’re not there to do your work for you. It’s for residents to ensure they strike the best deal and make sure they’re heard.

  • Let’s make sure they adhere to the 10′ setbacks with neighboring property lines!

  • I was the person who left in the meeting, simply because they knew what they wanted was too drastic so they planned four meetings and aimed to get some compromises from each one by offering something more “threatening” as an alternative.

    1. Whatever written on the white paper is partial of neighborhood wish list. They only wrote down words/phrases which can be translated for more square footage request. All would be their evidence for zoning change support.

    2. Imagine you live in a three story condo, with all the windows facing a dark garage 12 feet away all year along. That is what they propose.

    3. And the worst of all, whenever neighbors disagreed with them, they always switched back to the defense mode with “then, we have to build low-quality low-income rental” rhetoric.

    I am all for development. But a timeless building SHOULD NOT be placeless. And the neighborhood community meeting should not be a one-sided talk that is a mixture of threatening and deceiving.

    Thank you for attending the community meeting and writing about it

    • mm

      I appreciate your comments. To respond…
      1. Yes, their goal is to look out for their desires. Neighbors’ is to look out for theirs. The result should be compromise on both sides to get the best product possible. “No building” is not an option.
      2. That is why it’s critical to understand the zoning surrounding your home before you buy (which isn’t a guarantee, but an indication). The ability to build a high-rise has been on the books for decades. In your HOT area, neighboring complexes (maybe yours) will ultimately sell to developers. To your specific issue, spend some time thinking about what would make your view more palatable. Give options, don’t expect a developer to offer them.
      3. Yes, their Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is troubling but apparently not out of character for Masterplan. I thought the neighbors did a good job pushing back when that happened.
      4. Everyone understands the developer wants the better building, so do your best to ignore the hollow-tactics and work for what you want. Storming out of the room means you’re less informed and they hear one less voice.

      • The setback along the property line WAS referenced in the previous meeting, as was adding a row of trees. They didn’t write that down, however obviously because they already planned to move the building over. They need to adhere to the 10′ setback.

      • I am for development, but not to a zoning change.

        To summarize masterplan’s strategy is that they would be forced to build a low-quality small-unit rental property unless neighbors support a zoning change, which will allow them to have a higher ground coverage ratio and possibly push a large garage closer to the neighboring complex.

        True, I did not fully understand what MF3 entails when we moved here. I bet if you survey 1000 Oaklawn residents, not many know about that more-than-150-page-long PD193. Masterplan knows it well, and they are prepared.

        But they also know MF3 does not allow them to build what they want. All these meetings are LESS about what the design should be than why zoning change is necessary for them.

        Again, I am all for development of a feasible plan.

        Lastly, there is no reason to be informed if the other side of the table is not sincert

        • mm

          From the look of things, submerging the garage would likely kill the need for the lot coverage zoning variance. If you want to get rid of the FAR (Floor Area Ratio) variance, don’t oppose a taller (within zone) building.
          There is ALWAYS a reason to be informed. And you’re 100% correct, almost no one understands the zoning issues surrounding their home. they believe nothing changes.

          • Changes are good. Dallas needs more density. At the meeting, I stated that I had little objection for a tall building. Being tall, in general, requires higher quality material and better construction control.

            What I am against is the way they tried to get zoning change done plus a three-story garage next to someone’s home.

            Now let’s look at their initial plan revealed in the first meeting:

            I don’t think 500-square-feet apartments have a lot of demand in Dallas right now, but it is coming. It is a plan financially less attractive. But whoever can afford living there would not be the typical low-come renters. In short, I don’t mind their worst scenario, in which they must build a rental property with smaller units. They used that as a prop to get to where they want, because they know neighborhood would object it as much as they do. But what they fail to achieve is that they haven’t proposed an alternative winning heart and mind.

  • Maybe we can make this drag out until the Trump recession hits.

  • Masterplan Strategy.. over and over.. Claims zoning hardship because their client paid to much for the land and wants to build a massive building on a small lot to make it profitable. Oak Lawn zoning restrictions exist for a reason. Neighbood circle your wagons and organize before the zoning commission