Dallas High-Rise Buyer’s Guide: The Middle of A Pricey Road

The spacious lobby of the Claridge

Welcome to installment No. 5 in my Dallas High-Rise Buyer’s Guide series.  If you’re just joining, chapters one and two highlighted buildings that include utilities in their HOA dues (and the outlying Bonaventure and Grand Treviso).  Chapters three and four focused on the high-roller buildings at the tippy-top of the price spectrum.  This chapter begins … begins … to get us into the less nose-bleed priced buildings.

The Claridge is a combination high-roller and mid-level building. Built in 1984, the majority of units that come to market these days require a level of renovation to de-1984 them.  Renovated units are solidly in the high-roller segment.  As you can see, the delta between the lowest and highest cost per square foot sales is over $200 per foot. Call that the renovation delta and it makes the building potentially ripe for a thoughtful flipper or the smart buyer to gain some fast equity by renovating. One 5,311-square-foot double sub-penthouse unit that’s been floating around since at least 2012, has recently dropped trou and is listed at $358 per square foot, giving the buyer plenty of financial room to reconfigure, renovate, or return to two separate units.

Claridge floor plans are a generous 2,100-3,000 square feet, so while costs per square foot can be manageable, there’s always a bunch of square feet to buy. If you’re not at least in the “mil, give-or-take” bracket, the Claridge isn’t for you.

As you saw in the opening picture, the lobby area is cavernous, befitting its station.  Equally impressive are the meeting/party room and the hallways.  Elevators have been retrofitted for fob access to specific floors for added security.  Balcony enclosures are common, but being in the middle of Lemmon Avenue, I don’t mind … and besides, the curving corners make for wonderful and more useful interior spaces.

I’d investigate the special assessment situation as well as understand what area redevelopment may hold for views.  I think the north views are more secure than the city views.  Exxir Capital owns an aging three-story apartment building at Hall and Carlisle on the Katy Trail that they’ll be developing in the future.  Their last presentation, 18-ish months ago, showed a 20-plus-story tower.

The Plaza is solidly in middle-tier price territory.  Originally planned for three buildings, only two were built with the third parcel now home to the Cantabria apartments. The Plaza I is the lower of the two buildings on Gillespie Street.  The Plaza II building looks much cheaper with a low sale of $203 per square foot, but that’s more of an anomaly. The next lowest sale was $261 per square foot, almost identical to Plaza I pricing.

Honestly, I’ve never been a big fan of the floor plans here.  The kitchen orientation and the two living areas make for a less efficient use of space in my eyes.  I suppose were there multiple occupants, this setup may make more sense, although even then I wonder.  There’s no sound screening or door to close between the two spaces, so dueling TVs would be impossibly annoying as would trying to read with Grand Theft Auto blaring in the background. Even in the penthouses, I’ve seen dark kitchens tucked into an equally dark alcove instead of being part of the action in the adjoining double-height living room.

Originally, these buildings were managed by Rosewood (The Mansion) but that’s since been discontinued along with the room service and other amenities that relationship provided. That change takes a bit of the sparkle out of the building.

While the Plaza buildings are 17 and 20 years old, Realtors are not reporting the level of unit renovations one would expect at this stage in its life.  In the multiple units I’ve been in and more listed online, almost all remain essentially developer spec.

Finally, it must be pointed out that Plaza residents have been involved with an initiative to downzone the area. Of note is a planned high-rise to the north that would mostly effect views from the Plaza II building.  While all too human, I think Plaza’s involvement is disingenuous and should be discounted.  After all, they took advantage of the same zoning they’re now seeking to deny others. Whatever your opinion, north-facing buyers need to understand the potential for change.

Originally known as the Palomar, the Highland Hotel and Residences is located at Mockingbird and Central Expressway.  Personally, it’s never a great selling point when your home’s address is a highway. It’s like when a first date shows up wearing undies outside their Levi’s … it’s really all you need to know. While the Athena and Preston Tower have addresses on Northwest “Highway”, the Highland sits next to the real McCoy.

The only units worth considering are those facing away from the highway on the quieter side of the building. Because …

It’s in the perfect location for SMU and those wanting to be in the thick of Mockingbird Station, DART and the ever-expanding Katy Trail.  But the highway.

It’s got great amenities, pool, spa, room service, multiple outdoor grills, etc.  But the highway.

It’s reportedly well managed. The hallways and public areas have all recently been redone and look great.  But the highway.

I’ve written before about the vagaries of sound transversal around high-rise exteriors.  Counterintuitively, on the Central side, the higher you go in this building, the louder the highway gets … sometimes even inside the unit.

I recently toured a finally finished-out ninth-floor penthouse. All buttoned up and windows closed … the first thing you notice upon entering the unit is the noise.  It’s so pervasive, I wonder, like a revival tent, if a deaf person entering the unit would suddenly be able to hear. However, touring units in the lowest levels, the sound was a manageable hum in the background, no worse than a Sub Zero refrigerator (if you own one, you know). The balconies adjacent to the highway are a lost cause.

I’m certainly not the only person to feel this way.  In 2016 there was one sale despite the many units on the market.  Two floors were just completed and offered for sale for the first time (after being mothballed for a decade).  Sure the Recession had something to do with it, but the location had more.  Get your Realtor to print you up a summary of the days on market between listing and actual sale. Getting in seems to be easier than getting out.

Don’t you wish they’d finished this building in 1999 so the address and “birthday” could match?  This and the following 2011 Cedar Springs Lofts were built by the same builder and have similar interior layouts. In my mind, what separates these buildings are the stair-steps on this one. Like the Centrum, those end units have tremendous open terrace spaces.

Their loft, exposed concrete ethos appealed to me back in the day, but as I’ve become softer, my appreciation for drywall and paint has strengthened.  Some owners in 1999 McKinney have the same thoughts, having painted the exposed concrete for a softer loft that still appeals to my aging tastes.  If you’ve not seen a painted unit, you owe it to your Uptown home search to see how much of a difference it makes.

The interiors are 2,000-plus square feet of spaciousness with double-height living and dining areas and floor-to-ceiling windows.  The cityscape is truly your oyster. Sure, when these were built, there was less cityscape, but as the city has matured, so has the view.

Also, while located in the Uptown core, the expansive patios are not terribly noisy.  They’re not sucking in highway noise like many of last week’s buildings, instead they get the lesser hum of secondary roads.

This is a low-amenity building for those, like me, who don’t use the extraneous spaces found in other condos.  This restraint is reflected in reasonable HOS dues.  The nibbling special assessments would be something to investigate. As I’ve said, if the dues are too low, raise them rather than multiple special assessments costing thousands at a crack. From 2006 to 2016, the average unit spent $19,000 on special assessments.  Spread equally, it would have added $158 per month in dues versus the four lump sum special assessments. The recent dues increase may have solved this issue.

Neighboring 2011 Cedar Springs Lofts is shorter and without the end-unit open terraces, but the interior layouts are pretty similar. As they’re solid floor plans, this isn’t an issue.  The bare concrete versus paint aesthetic choice still applies.  Really, your decision comes down to minutia.  After all, they’re a block from each other, so location-location-location is same-same-same. This building faces the spiffy new McKinney and Olive building and the equally new but much less spiffy Miro apartments and their army of rooftop AC units.  Amenities are also the same.

Unless your wallet runs dry, you’ll never starve in either building.

Because of the similarities between these two buildings, I’d also investigate the special assessment story (I was unable to get details) and the very low HOA dues rates.

Stay tuned for more next week.

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.