The Athena is an odd duck of a high-rise. Built in 1966 by the same Hal Anderson who developed Preston Tower, the Athena was originally marketed as a luxury property. The units are large — four center 2/2 units with 1,543 square feet and four corner 3/3 units with 1,899 square feet (there are a handful of small units on the fourth floor that no one talks about). Darn near all units have (unfortunately) enclosed all or part of their luxe balconies adding another 227 potential square feet to the mix.
However, its more recent history has not been as glamorous. Since 2002, units cracking the $200-per-square-foot mark might be counted on your hands. Why? The recession, but in part because the Pink Wall in general has not kept up with the times, and even more partially, units had not kept pace either.
Purchasing in the Athena has meant either “the blind” or “the renovator” were the chief buyer profiles. Of course many older buildings struggle with this issue … heck, even some 10- and 15-year-old buildings can be viewed as outdated to today’s HGTV-fueled buyers. Then there is the renovator’s curse … they stay … so by the time they sell, all their handiwork is once again dated. High-rises need flippers to bring new product to market (my personal broken record).
To get your bearings, the sliver of window you see on the left is the master bedroom of a larger 3/3 unit. The mix of open, enclosed and semi-enclosed balconies with their concrete waffle ceilings are next to that (one for each 3/3 and 2/2 unit). The center windows are master bedrooms for the smaller 2/2 units that had no balconies to enclose. Facing the front or the back of the building big, little, little, big. Unit 2016 is on the right, “little, big” end.
TMI? Sorry …
Soooo how can the Athena support a $1.1 million unit? First, it’s actually a pair. It’s a combination 3/3 corner and a 2/2, giving it a hefty 3,442 square feet “naturally” — add in the double enclosed balconies and 3,988 square feet is the number. It’s also on the 20th floor, which is one stop from the top. It faces downtown, which some value more. Oh, and it’s been VERY renovated and reconfigured. After all, what should be a 5/5 is now a two-bedroom unit with two full and one half bathrooms. (For those familiar with the building, I’ll be orienting you to the original plans as we go along.)
Lest we forget, this home is being marketed by Dawn Rejebian with Dave Perry-Miller who’s no stranger to the Park Cities or Preston Hollow. Heck, she can probably see this listing from her Preston Center office window.
Let’s look around …
The first thing you see when you enter most high-rise homes is the view. You almost don’t see the wood floors or furniture except to navigate around it on your way to the windows. This home is no different. I’ll make my pitch to the new owner … see that stub-wall on the left near the windows? That’s the depth of the original balcony. Pull the windows back and ta-da, you have downtown-facing outdoor space.
The other side of that stub wall? Originally that would have been the 2/2’s guest bedroom. In fact, except for the master bedrooms of each unit, all the secondary bedrooms have been repurposed.
This picture shows a hint of the brilliance of this unit. Through the doorway you can see the kitchen. You can even see a picture hanging on the far wall. But, as you walk through the kitchen, you’re also walking into the other unit (corner 3/3). That picture is hanging on the far wall of the 3/3 unit. They’ve taken the original kitchen and opened it up at both ends. It’s a brilliant way to service both apartments and get (likely) the most interesting kitchen in the Athena. Oh, that elaborate woodwork at the right edge? That’s one of the two master suites (shush, we’ll get there).
No, this isn’t 1966. This is a modern kitchen with plenty of storage and kick-butt appliances. There’s even a warming drawer. While the cabinetry isn’t trendy operating-room white, it’s a bright space that will likely endure longer. The granite isn’t too busy and breaks up the monotony of a large monochrome kitchen while the continuation of the wood floors acts as an anchor.
About my only change here are the incognito fridge and dishwasher. Their appearance in a kitchen would surely not elicit the vapors. I also do not find paneled appliances any more effective than bad plastic surgery. Besides, everything else is stainless steel. But hey, that’s me … and I doubt carpenters are quaking in their saws over my opinions.
At the other end of the kitchen (in the corner 3/3 unit), this family room has been carved out of what was the unit’s kitchen and dining room … that’s the original front door on the right. You can also see that the kitchen isn’t the only way between the units. And, look at the kitchen ceiling. See that neat trick to bring the spaces together? Making the ceiling level between the two spaces makes them feel more connected and open … not always easy in a galley kitchen.
The photographer is standing in the doorway that leads to the main master suite (patience, we’ll get there).
Around the “back” of the family room is likely the best office space in the area (the 3/3’s original living room). It’s got space, grandeur and a great view of the city. It’s February, so I might toss in a rug to guard against winter’s cold feet. It’s nice to see those shelves heave with pre-tablets … I believe they were called “books.”
OK, I made you wait long enough. Both of the master suites were the original master bedrooms of each unit. This is the larger 3/3 unit’s master bedroom measuring 15’ x 21’ with a lot of windows. But it’s just a big bedroom, right? Well, aren’t they all? Picture your bedroom furniture and paint … presto, you’re home.
The master bath really is a head-turner. Especially if you understand that that bathtub is in what was a bedroom. In doing this, they have a bathtub and shower AND a window. Yes, yes, there are the requisite double vanities and makeup station. But this is an impressive bathroom, and one you never thought you’d see inside the Athena. The rest of the space is given over to a Dallas-size closet … that’s an extremely innovative use of space (you’ll see if you visit).
The second master is clear across the apartment from the master’s master. Finished similarly, it’s slightly smaller but certainly better than my guests deserve.
The only ding I’ll give this renovation is in this suite’s bathroom. That’s the original cabinetry from 1966. In the constellations of renovation sins, this is pretty common. A room that’s not often used (or seen) doesn’t get the full-treatment. But on the upside … and as a renovator … rip out the vanity along with the wall/door separating the bathtub and toilet and you’d have a quite generous and well-appointed space for not a ton of bucks.
In the end, I’m always a view addict and this is pretty sweet … and something you can’t fix with a coat of paint. Would this home have been asking $1.1 million in 2012 during the depths of the recession? No, but then no other Dallas home is selling at its 2012 value either.
As point of reference, there were two unrenovated 3/3 corner units sold in the same stack separated by four floors and not facing downtown. One sold in 2013 for $175,000, the other, snapped-up in October 2016 as a pre-listing priced at $350,000 (that’s double in three years for you math whizzes). The question today is whether in 2020 you’ll look back and think coulda-woulda-shoulda? It may not be a coincidence that hindsight is 20/20.
High-rises, HOAs, and renovation are Jon Anderson’s beat, but he also appreciates modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. If you’re interested in hosting a Candysdirt.com Staff Meeting event, he’s your guy. In 2016, Jon’s 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 him an email email@example.com.