High-Rise Living: Finding a Starter Condo on the Katy Trail

When buyers select a single-family home, one of their criteria is of course, price, but there are other measurements of a successful home.  Yes, to an extent, location is dictated by costs, but the personality of a neighborhood isn’t.

There are blocks that regularly socialize and those where anonymity is expected.  A lot of single-family buyers’ criteria revolves around children … schools, playmates, etc., but never having been in that bubble, I’ll not comment on its subtleties except to acknowledge its existence. For the vast majority of buyers in the condo world, children are either gone, not arrived, or never will.

But once you decide to live in a communal environment, where your only “fence” is your front door, “neighborhood” becomes more nuanced. Because not only is neighborhood the area surrounding the building, it’s the area inside the building.  Let’s take a look at three condos, each with around 1,150 square feet, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms … and all steps from the Katy Trail.

3883 TC Exterior 13883 TC Unit 918

While Twenty-One might be at the “quiet” end of Turtle Creek, it’s far from sleepy.  Recent building-wide updates have brought this building back from obscurity.  It sits on a large lot with a single tower centered within three acres.  This gives the complex plenty of green space for residents … in addition to being across the street from Turtle Creek.

At over three acres, Twenty-One is almost its own park

At over three acres, Twenty-One is almost its own park

A quintessential “starter condo,” the building’s population is skewing younger with a bit of a “mod” vibe reflecting it’s 1963 build date.  It’s also popular with investors who rent units.  With 15 units per floor and communal laundry facilities, you’re more likely to know your neighbors here than in the other two buildings.

The recent refurbishment of the Turtle Creek Village shopping center has added fresh restaurants and a Tom Thumb as neighbors.  There’s enough to keep you busy on a Wednesday night, but the true “thick of Dallas” requires transportation.

3883 TC Living

While unit 918’s iPhone pictures don’t wow, it’s a refinished unit without a lot to do. New floors, newer stainless steel kitchen and baths.  (See more on Ebby.com)

3883 TC Kitchen

That said, you may want to nuke that kitchen backsplash … but you’ll definitely appreciate the gas cooktop and that wine rack above the fridge. Although the current cook likes their wine within arm’s reach of the cooktop (don’t judge). 🙂

Renaissance Exterior 1Renaissance 2

The Renaissance is another building popular with investors offering rental units.  It’s an enormous complex consisting of one large “L-shaped” building and a separate Turtle Creek-facing “A” tower. While similar in acreage to Twenty-One, greenspace is in short supply without crossing the street to Lee Park.  A coming high-rise on Hall Street will impact views for many owners. While in-unit laundry won’t see you meeting neighbors over spin cycles, it’s a convivial building with many public gathering spaces plus many resident and HOA-run social activities.

Location-wise, it’s a quick walk to an under-renovation Centrum complex along and the long-standing Cedar Springs “strip.”  Fans of Parigi may be able to smell dinner from their balconies and re-heaters will find Eatzi’s 9 p.m. red-dots almost a siren call.  That said, it’s also in the thick of increasing density. In addition to the planned Hall Street high-rise, what was a large empty lot across Cedar Springs has been split in two … the completed Gallery at Turtle Creek apartments and the planned 16 story office building with ground floor restaurants by Hillwood.

Renaissance View 1

The good thing about unit 207 is that there were never views to lose. It’s in the “A” building that faces Turtle Creek, but this unit is on the back, facing the future Hall Street high-rise.  But as I said, not a bad thing.  The new building will doubtless be a vast improvement over the derelict house that currently occupies the space.  If I was 10 floors up, I’d have a bigger problem with views.

Being 19 years old, it’s not in need of major updates unless from personal taste (versus age). Currently listed with Sue Krider with Allie Beth Allman.

Renaissance Living 1

Being over 30 years newer, this home was built for modern tastes for larger open concept living spaces. There are good ceiling heights and more traditional trim work.  It’s also a sprinklered building, in case of fire. Also, being in the “A” building gives a bit of privacy from the larger main building with its own entry and staff.

Terrace Exterior 1Terrace 1

The newest of the bunch is also in one of the densest parts of Dallas. Living here, you’re under no illusion of tranquility, in fact you’re hoping for higher density. And you’re in luck, there’s a Tom Thumb on the way along with an eight-screen movie theater and undoubtedly more residential high-rises.  You’re a buyer wanting the hustle that Uptown, Downtown and Victory Park can offer. You have a car because you’re in Texas, but ditch it for Lyft within a year unless you’re working in Plano.

With “just” 95 units, in-unit laundry and minimal social amenities, meeting your neighbors will take a pinch more effort.  I’m not saying this is an unfriendly complex, just that you’ll have to put yourself out there more. But as you’re all there for the same vibrancy, finding dining pals should be a breeze.

Terrace View 1

Unit 316 faces the back, overlooking a crescent moon of green space. While it’s likely the parking garage to the right will become a high-rise, you’ll still have green out the window.  An added bonus are the restaurants on the ground floor facing into the crescent park.  You’ll never starve here.

Terrace Living 1

Like the Renaissance unit, this is also open concept with a large kitchen and an extra wide peninsula.  Instead, of curtain walls of glass, here we have a more residential feel of double-hung windows.

Terrace Kitchen 1

As I said, nice kitchen … especially considering it’s a two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit that’s a pinch under 1,200 square feet.  I might update the plain Jane backsplash (am I on a backsplash kick today?).

This unit is currently under contract with Patty Brooks of Dave Perry-Miller, but it’s not the only unit for sale. Why’d I tease you?  Because the others are larger and didn’t fit this comparison (and one had blue baseboards … and no one needs to see that!).

Monthly Table 1

In the final analysis, here are the numbers.  Twenty-One is the cheapest per month, but that could change if DCAD ever figures out how to accurately assess values.  It also has the most greenspace. Its views don’t seem to be going anywhere and it’s still a friendly, younger building that’s experiencing a reawakening.

The Renaissance is becoming boxed in with neighboring development.  But the location is pretty excellent for city workers, Tollway Trundlers and the doctor-ordered happy hours you’ll need once you get home.

The Terrace is unashamedly urban (for Dallas). It’s all about life in the faster lane.

Where Would I Live?

Glad you asked. First, I have no commute to factor in, but I do like a bit of serenity. Second, I don’t use pools, party rooms, and the like … so the fewer to pay for the better.  Third, I don’t mind being anonymous in a large building.  I lived for eight years in my first Chicago apartment and couldn’t have picked the people across the hall out of a police line-up. I’ve never selected a home based on its watercooler conversation prospects.  You may. It’s really important to understand your expectations here.

That said, for pure cheapness, I’d take Twenty-One and hire a pick-up laundry service to get over the lack of in-unit washers. To me, interior space is space, but I like a location that’s urban but with green.  I also like the simplicity of having utilities included.

If the American Airlines Center was not a neighbor, I’d pick The Terrace.  I’d hate the regular flooding of traffic during events on ill-equipped roads. Sure, it’s a grand more a month, but if I dumped my car and its associated costs, it would be even. Not an unrealistic trade-off considering I only drive about 3,500 miles a year.

But this isn’t about me.  You’re the one looking for your first high-rise. Understand that your needs extend beyond “it’s got two bedrooms at my price point” when you’re out looking.

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.

11 Comment

  • Someone told me the 21’s green area around the pool and over to the Warrington is leased by the HOA, if that is true (??) it certainly should be factored into any purchasing decision because imagine it could be built on or have a Starbucks in a few years.

  • No offense to the current owners at The Renaissance but I wouldn’t touch that building with a 10 foot pole. Large special assessment that it still being paid off, too many units drive the prices down, many investor owned properties as you mentioned, looming lawsuits over the parking garage collapse and the fact that the parking garage collapsed in the first place gives me serious pause on how the building is managed. Yes I know the contractor was at fault but someone from the board/management company should have had oversight responsibility and should have been sounding alarm bells when they started piling the dirt up like that if it hasn’t been approved by an engineer and if it had been approved by an engineer someone wasn’t providing proper oversight.

    I understand that this unit is in the A building so I know it makes it a little more desirable but the other issues would make me stay away from this for sure.

  • Interesting that, assuming a 3.8% 30-year mortgage and a 3% annual increase in the monthly HOA dues, a prospective purchaser could buy a $250000 single-family home in an outlying area for nothing down for the amount of the Twenty-One’s monthly assessment alone. Plus only $75000 or so per unit in dirt value even relying on reports from the “delayed” Turtle Creek Gardens deal. Makes you wonder whether the property is a ghost ship masquerading as a starter property, especially given recent examples of the recycling of low-rise condo properties of this vintage.

    • If your HOA dues increase 3% per year, RUN AWAY. Also, you’re assuming that single-family home has zero maintenance and zero utilities (in 21’s case). And to value a 20+-story high-rise condo at lot value is faulty, as is the Turtle Creek Gardens comparison. TC Gardens is a super-low density complex whose next chapter is as a high-rise (or two).
      .
      Yes, it will typically be cheaper to buy a house or townhouse without an HOA, especially if you don’t use any of the high-rises amenities. But it’s not as much as you seem to think it is.
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      And, as you say, a single family in an “outlying area.” If you’re looking at an in-town condo, you don’t want to live in an outlying area. Location, location, location…the first rule of real estate. 🙂

      • I knew I was going to get reprimanded. My problem is that I think that monthly fees can get so high that they render the price of a unit almost impossible to analyze as an investment. For low rises, I believe considering a conversion to be appropriate when the discounted present value of the monthly assessments projected into the future is greater than the price at which units are selling minus the land value, i.e. a high-rise apartment development would seem more rational economically. It follows that I suspect that a lot of high-rise owners are just consuming and hoping that an inherently depreciating asset like a residential structure is going to hold its value or appreciate and this attitude can lead to irrational outcomes like the attempted down zone and threats against the development of the Hall lot.

        • Ha! And I knew you’d find a way to insert the downzone issue. 😛
          .
          Yes, for investment (versus quality of life) purposes, there’s potentially more upside buying a low-density condo in an area where it’s likely to be up-sized. That way you get market appreciation for the unit if nothing happens and a payday if a developer buys you out for vastly higher land values.
          .
          High-rise investing is not difficult. Rental income minus expenses. High-rises often get more per square foot in rental income.
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          If you mean the Poston property on Hall across from Lee Park, that’s likely a done-deal as the owner took by right plans to the city. Nothing anyone can really do.

  • I’m a single mom with a sophomore in high school in Frisco, & I work at Preston & Forest. My GOAL is to get south to the Katy Trail after her graduation in two years. Great info for researching my move! Thank you to Candy’s Dirt!

  • I will gladly trade sprinkler , tree trimming, lawn, etc for $1,000/mo HOA. Can’t wait to move to a high rise and be done with this stuff.