Dallas High-Rise Buyer’s Guide: The High Rollers

The Stoneleigh's Movie Theater

The Stoneleigh’s Movie Theater

There are a lot of variables to consider when purchasing a high-rise condo.  I’m creating a bit of a buyer’s guide to help you compare and contrast the various buildings in Dallas. Parts One and Two covered those high-rises where all utilities are included with their monthly HOA dues … and the waaay north Bonaventure and Grand Treviso — in Irving for gosh sakes — Irving.

The following two columns will cover Dallas’ most expensive buildings.  These buildings are the household names of unaffordable, aspirational living that a mountain of winning scratch-off tickets wouldn’t get you into.

Throughout this series, I’m pointing out things about high-rises that most haven’t considered.

Elevator trapped 2

Elevator Etiquette

For groundies, for whom riding an elevator elicits a temptation to push all the buttons, you might not have considered the olfactory Russian roulette an elevator ride entails.  Consider being routinely enveloped in a choking perfume cloud remnant. I’ve literally had people ask me what cologne I’m wearing after I emerge from a particularly strong fog.

Not a lot of cookers in the building? Be prepared for mouth-watering pizza and Chinese food smells.

High-rises are also sparsely populated and more often than not you’re riding alone.  People do things when they’re alone … things you’ve only smelled in a casino bathrooms.

If a high-rise allows pets, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll witness or just miss a dog spending a penny in the elevator. Dark floors hide a multitude of landmines.  Rest assured, you’ll never enter an elevator and think it smells nice.  The best you can hope for that it doesn’t smell … or the stamina to hold your breath until you reach the lobby.

Many elevators have security cameras, so watch yourself.  Unfortunately while I’ve seen many a camera, never a microphone.  The smell police are powerless.

Not the best jumping-off point to review Dallas’ most expensive high-rises, but would you expect any less?

Azure Exterior 1Azure Chart 1

Dallas went all-in in the run-up to The Recession.  Designed in exuberance, Azure was one of several buildings to come online on the eve of disaster. The lobby is thoroughly modern and minimal with double-height spaces with water feature and artsy Asian horseman.  The floor plans boast tremendous balcony spaces with a minimum of columns (prevalent in some modern high-rises).  If you plan to use the balcony space, head for a quieter, east-facing unit. The western McKinnon boundary is the six-lane main drag out of the city towards Harry Hines and the Tollway.

One love or hate feature is the glass wall separating the master bedroom and bathroom. If you’re not sleeping alone, snapping on the bathroom light wakes everyone up.  Lack of privacy is another consideration because there’s no separate water closet.  Some units have frosted the glass which helps privacy but not the light issue.  Oddly, Azure offers owners individual private parking garages giving the owner’s car more privacy than the owner.

Little birds are telling me that prospective owners might want to check on any action that’s taken place with the original developer and any future exposure. I’m not saying this is a poison pill.  I think nearly all new-build towers have faced some “come back and fix this” issues with a developer … but you need to understand fully, because you don’t want this to happen.

Mansion Exterior 1Mansion Chart 1

The Mansion Residences tower is 12-stories with two units per floor (one east, one west). Sizes range from 3,500 square feet to well over 5,500 square feet. You’d think that each floor would have the same two units.  Not so.  The building was offered as unfinished shell space and some buyers wanted larger units. So in time-tested fashion, the developer allowed one unit to take space from another unsold unit. The Mansion Residences were Dallas’ first of two buildings to utilize raised floors (Vendome is the other) to enable owners to move their plumbing wherever they wanted.  You see, most high-rise plumbing cuts into the ceiling below, making moving a toilet or drain challenging at best. The floor plans tend to be long with the living room being the widest point.  Because there are only two units per floor, each floor decides on the décor for their elevator lobby … and there are some doozies.  The Mansion Residences had the unfortunate side-effect of killing the downtown views from many of the Mansion on Turtle Creek Hotel rooms, from whose front yard the residences were built.

Museum Tower Exterior 1Museum Tower Chart 1

Museum Tower has not been without complication.  Neighboring high-rises and the Nasher complained about its “Death Star” windows that blinded and fried the area in reflected and magnified sunlight. It’s been held up as a poster child for the misuse of Police and Fire pension funds. It’s getting a 23-story neighbor to the east after the Meyerson sold the lot it promised I.M. Pei it wouldn’t. Most recently, the surface parking lot to the south will soon see its own Flora Street Lofts high-rise … prompting one Realtor to quip that south-facing owners will see neighbors’ billowing laundry out their windows.  The shell penthouse (pictured), originally marketed in 2015 for $21 million is now offered for $16.5 million.

This isn’t to say I’d run from this building … it’s got smashing finishes and location. Currently available units on the MLS list prices from the low-$600s to the mid-$900s per square foot ($1,952 per foot for the penthouse shell). Typically, lower floor equals lower cost per foot.  I’d assume that in the city core views were transitory, so I wouldn’t pay extra for one. I’d head to the lower floors where the view is already urban, not aerie.  Also, I might drive a bargain out of any resale unit on the market.  After all, if they’re selling this soon, they might have to sell.

Ritz Tower 1 Exterior 1Ritz Tower 1 Chart 2

Tower 1 at the Ritz Residences shares its building with the Ritz-Carlton hotel located on the lower levels (the section with no balconies).  Not to worry, the hotel is completely separate from the residences except for a shared swimming pool.  There is also a “trap door” on the lobby level that offers passage between the two (who wants to walk all the way around to the Rattlesnake Bar or the Spa?). It’s worth noting that while there was a bad flood several years ago that knocked out two of the elevators (they have three), it didn’t result in a special assessment.  Most units remain in traditional Ritz palates versus the modernity of buildings like Museum Tower and the Azure.  Staff are particularly on the ball.  After a few drop-ins, they know your name and who you’re visiting.

Both towers benefit from vigorous social programs. Each day from 6 to 6:30 p.m., the Ritz-Carlton’s Guacamologist (their term) adds some green to Dean’s Margaritas in the hotel lobby. Once a month residents get quesadillas and wine, a separate happy hour and breakfast in their own “Living Room” space. This in addition to a full schedule of resident social events and parties.

Ritz Tower 2 Exterior 1Ritz Tower 2 Chart 1

There are two towers at the Ritz residences and they have very different vibes … beyond one being more square and one more curvy (FYI, the $1,235 per foot high was a penthouse, next highest was $883 per foot).  First, each tower is run by separate HOAs. Second, there are more units in Tower 2 and more “starter” one-bedroom units which attract more singles. If you think of Tower 1 being more “Chippendale,” then Tower 2 is more Art Deco … it’s even got a fireplace in the lobby.  The four townhouses are on the back of Tower 2’s pool. While both towers lean towards the traditionally-tasted buyer, expect modern floor plans with open kitchens and big-time closet space. The master baths could accommodate a Thanksgiving banquet … if you’re into events in your bathroom. If you love exotic automobiles, set a lawn chair on the Pearl Street median and you’ll think you’re in Dubai without the cartoon architecture.

Stoneleigh Exterior 2Stoneleigh Chart 2

The Stoneleigh drips with enough luxury to make a middle-class boy blush.  But like Museum Tower, it’s had its share of rocks in the way.  The original project was announced in 2005 but The Recession took it into bankruptcy in 2009 with the skeleton of just 12 of its 22 floors complete. It sat empty for three years before it was resurrected and completed. Its 75 units were originally being sold as unfinished shells, but recently the developer began finishing out some units to give “move-in ready” buyers something to buy.  I think the sale of the model unit helped that decision (which given its sale price compared to current listings, seems to have been the bargain of the year).  Currently, DCAD shows that 36 of the 75 units remain developer-owned.

The public areas are the best in terms of quantity and quality that I’ve seen in Dallas.  One owner pegged the cost at $5 million worth of finish-outs.  But that’s double-edged. HOA dues pay for upkeep.

Part of owning a high-rise is the understanding of how sound travels … and I don’t mean between units.  If you plan to use your balcony, and the Stoneleigh has generous 10-foot deep balconies, sound plays an important role in peaceful enjoyment.  While the Stoneleigh is two short blocks from McKinnon Street, it’s largely impervious to its road noise.

It’s worth noting that when the developer still controls the bulk of units, HOA dues are likely to be artificially low to entice buyers.  Once the developer is out of the picture, expect dues to increase to align with similar buildings on the market. Buyers need to understand the financial implications when the developer maintains control over the building and its HOA.

Next week it’s more luxury before we move to more affordable options.

Reminder: Anyone who can help fill in the blanks for amenities, past special assessments and pet policies for the following buildings, shoot me an email, I’m all ears. (sharewithjon@candysdirt.com)

The Shelton, 8181 Douglas, SOCO Urban Lofts, The Beat, Park Plaza and Travis @ Knox.

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.

4 Comment

  • FYI Ritz Tower One shares the hotel pool.

  • Really enjoy the series! Plus, in the market for a home in the Uptown area, and whereas I’d plunk down for a high rise condo without any qualms, the spouse isn’t so convinced… HOA being the main reason. “It’s like you NEVER pay it off!!” “Condos sit on the market forever because NOBODY wants to pay HOAs!!” …but I’m hoping to be able to spin it using your series. It’s paying for the lifestyle, plus some cover utilities.

    • Tell your husband that if he doesn’t pay for upkeep to a single family home, that’s called a hovel. Regardless of your abode, you’re never truly done paying it off (even landlords raise the rent). At least in an HOA building, when the gutters get clogged, it’s not you out there on a ladder fisting out gobfulls of slop. Have him look through his checkbook and add up all the maintenance and divide that over a year. I’m not saying it will be equal, but it’ll be darn close.
      .
      And no, condos don’t stay on the market forever, just the overpriced ones (like overpriced houses). Talk to a realtor and have then run a Days on Market report going back a few years for any building you’re interested in and see how long it took every MLS-listed unit to sell..
      .
      …we’ll get you up in the sky… 🙂