Well kids, we’ve reached the halfway point in our series. The first two covered buildings where utilities are included in their HOA dues as well as the outlying Bonaventure and Grand Treviso (here and here). The next pair, including this one, detail Dallas’ high-rise, high-roller buildings (here and literally right here). Next week we’ll hit the first of two columns covering the mid-tier before rounding up with a final two detailing the starter- to mid-range offers.
That’s one thing worth noting: Dallas never really did the whole “high-rise as low-income public housing” thing that was prevalent in so many cities in the 1960s and 1970s. These often brutalist structures negatively shaped people’s opinions of high-rise living. Entering Chicago from the south one was met by a row of high-rise dominos called the Robert Taylor Homes that devolved into crime-ridden, poorly maintained properties whose demolition began in 1998 after just 36 years of ugliness, neglect, and resident misery. Then there was the infamous Cabrini Green complex. Interestingly, both failed complexes were built during Mayor Richard M. Daley’s administration and torn town during Mayor Richard J. Daley’s … his son.
In London, post-war high-rise public housing was part of the modernist movement and going full-tilt to move people out of Victorian slums. That was until 1968, when the 22-story shoddily constructed Ronan Point building partially collapsed. Public sentiment was turned against modernism and residential high-rises for decades.
Certainly, brutalist architecture continues to elicit a love-it-or-hate-it response. Another, larger problem with these public housing projects was summed up in psychological studies on the effects of overcrowding. One of the more famous was by ethologist John B. Calhoun at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He placed a group of rats in a finite space with plenty of food and water to see what happened. In short, the population exploded but quickly devolved into a violent, cannibalistic mayhem before self-induced extinction. His work was used as catalyst for works ranging from A Clockwork Orange and Anthony Ballard’s High-Rise to a Doctor Who episode.
Perhaps not a cheery topic before diving into high-priced high-rises. But the point is that in Dallas, residential high-rises never had the stigma of competing against public sentiment honed on large, unattractive, overcrowded, crime-ridden public housing policies that ultimately proved a failure.
In Dallas, high-rises were always aspirational. Let’s continue with that …
The 8181 Douglas building is essentially a private club with just 14 units smack in the middle of Preston Center. Each unit is either a whole floor or a half floor. The penthouse is two floors covering 18,270 square feet that DCAD doesn’t believe has appreciated a penny in six years. With so few units, they don’t come on the market often and tend to sit a while. Currently there’s a second floor unit on the market that’s frankly a masterpiece. But it’s been bobbling on and off the market since January 2015 when it was priced at $2.5 million. Today it’s $1.750 million. I think the 8181 Douglas buyer values extreme privacy, but who may also be concerned about St. Michael’s plans for their lot to the south that would cast a shadow over the whole building.
I have a love/meh relationship with the Mayfair. The exterior is a little cheesy, but it actually harks back to the high-rises of 100 years ago that looked like mansions stacked on top of each other (before Louis Sullivan’s Wainwright Building tapped the verticality of a high-rise for the first time). The penthouse-to-pavement turrets add whimsy, but the rooms they contain are odd, small spaces that don’t tie into the rest of their unit’s layout, unless you’re in a jumbo unit. But the Sky Club is a level of generosity towards owners unseen in any other high-rise in Dallas. Instead of some oversized penthouse, the upper floor is an enormous resident space with outdoor areas and cooking facilities.
And no, I didn’t forget that it borders Lee Park and popular event venue Arlington Hall. You’ll be uninvited to so many weddings out your windows, therapy may be needed for those with abandonment issues. But between the Sky Club and Lee Park, greenery and fresh air are at the end of an elevator cable. Patio buffs will want the Turtle Creek side as Lemmon Avenue is a bit noisier.
For the acrophobic high-rise lover, there are a series of jumbo townhouses-turned-flats running along Lee Parkway. They back unto the garage so owners park and walk right into their home … just like a home.
One Arts is a mixed-use building with ground-level restaurants and office space above. The 60 condos are tucked within the bumped-out square at the top. Zooming around town, it’s the lit square you see. Units range from 1,300 square feet to just over 5,000 with very, white, white, white modern interiors. With a pot of paint, I’d be very happy here. My problem with One Arts is one I have with many … noise. Units have stellar patios that are blanketed in highway noise 24/7.The side facing the Arts District may as well be on Woodall Rodgers while the eastern side faces the Central/Woodall interchange. Being 20-stories off the ground makes little difference in high-rises. Inside a unit, all is serenity … but open the patio door and you might as well have set a lawn chair in the middle of the highway.
Additionally, you have to be OK with being a little out of it. The Arts District has so far failed to create a neighborhood that functions without a ticket to some event. There are more residential projects in the works, but not nearly enough and nowhere near the price-point distribution required.
Are you a swimmer? The House boasts a 130’ lap pool among its many amenities, gotta love that. Designed in conjunction with Phillipe Starck, The House is another Recession victim that began as condos, switched to rentals and switched back to condos once the recession smoke had cleared. I still keep all the floor plans on my computer because there isn’t a bum in the lot and many have incredible balcony space equal to the interior square footage. The House is full of “oooh-ahhh” moments, from the lobby upwards to the in-your-face skyline views, but it comes at a price. Noise. Almost a bookend to One Arts Plaza, The House is in the crook of the western end of Woodall Rodgers and the I-35 exchange. For better or worse, at least there’s more to do at this end of Woodall Rodgers. The House is a quick walk to the West End and its restaurants targeting conventioneers and binge drinkers on a budget. However, turning the other way quickly places you in the McKinney orbit of better restaurants. But rest assured, you wouldn’t be the first person to describe the building’s location by saying, “You know where Hooters is…?”
Once you’re inside, behind the sound-deadening glass, you know you’re someplace special. It you work downtown or in uptown, you could go home for lunch … a luxury money can’t often buy.
I miss Ghost Bar. Not the go-go booted Trixies serving drinks. The view. Facing away from I-35, the views were great and the noise from the expansive patio minimal. Win-win. That’s the thing with noise, the building can be on a highway, but simply facing away, on the opposite side of the building, and the noise level drops precipitously.
If you remember my thick and thin article, this is definitely a thin building for those who like rooms in a line facing outwards. Unsurprisingly, the units will almost exclusively be modern. If the thought of endless room service and a never-used kitchen appeal, the W Hotel does provide. But fair warning, I find that the W Residences have the most intrusive, inconveniently-placed concrete support columns I’ve seen. Residents try everything from wallpaper to bedazzling to disguise them. Ultimately no one is fooled.
The south tower is lower and cheaper than the north with more units. The same balcony noise issues are here too, so buy eastern-facing units or be prepared to only use your balcony for visiting smokers.
For whatever reason, there are a lot of lawyers living in both towers, along with that certain type of single, 50s, wealthy straight man who buys a Ferrari for the same reason we all think he does.
Note, residents report that guests will be charged for overnight parking, so be sure to leave some cash on the nightstand.
And remember, when there’s an event at the AA Center, traffic is nuclear.
One tip: When you see that a building limits pets to owners, this means that there might be a lot of rental units in the building. When I calculated high-rise occupancy rates back in 2015, both W towers reported just 27 percent claimed a homeowner’s exemption. While some are owners with more expensive primary homes elsewhere, it also strongly hints at a lot of rentals. In fact, the W Residences had the lowest rate of homeowner’s exemptions of any high-rise.
Finally, when purchasing anything, understand your wants, needs, and deal breakers. As you’ve read in this installment, as much as I might like their floor plans and amenities, I’m no fan of patioed high-rises bordering highways. You may view patios as cootie-filled spaces you’ll never venture out on, therefore, noise doesn’t matter. In all honesty, I’d like these highway high-rises better if there was no balcony. It’s the tease of selling me something I feel is unusable that bothers me. But that’s me. You need to do your own homework … unless you’re asking me to move in?
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 email@example.com.