Dallas High-Rise Buyer’s Guide: Continuing Down the Middle of the Mid-Market

The Best Centrum Terrace I’ve Ever Stood On

I feel a little like Star Wars … Chapter Six: The Attack of the 1980s.  Yes, there have been five other installments in this series (and two to go).  The first two detailed the condos that include utilities in their HOA dues and those buildings north of Northwest Highway (here, here). Then it was upward to Dallas’ most expensive projects (here, here). This installment is the final of two on the mid-market offers. Next we’ll talk about what constitutes the lowest price tier of high-rises (warning, it’s still not that low).

I call this The Attack of The 1980s because all of this column’s buildings were built from 1981 to 1984.  Dallas has had definite growth spurts in residential high-rise construction.  The early 1980s, before the banking implosion was one of those times. Once that happened, Realtors couldn’t give a condo away in this town.  It was the ultra-swanky Mansion Residences, build in 1994, that reawakened Dallas to the high-rise.

Awaiting orders to descend on and “decorate” your patio

Rats of the Sky

In prior columns, I’ve pointed out the vagaries of living in a high-rise from odiferous elevators and (largely non-existent) crime to perceptions of modernist buildings in post-WWII era.  Now it’s time to talk turkey … turkey buzzards that is.

Like a cat to a scratching post, tall buildings attract birds.  But unlike cats, their litter box is often your windows and patios … we know birds have no trouble going on the go. There is also no rhyme or reason to their movements.  Some buildings are seemingly bird-free, some are awash in white streaks.  Even neighboring buildings can have vastly different levels of birdage.

One certain cause of infestation is a neighbor feeding them, and worse, lets them nest on their patio. Once they’re acclimated to a place, they bring friends and family to their new digs. Their ought to be a law! Interestingly, while some balconies within the same building are in constant siege, others never see a soul.  Again, it probably goes back to who’s been nice to them in the past.

Of course you may think all birds are pretty. To me they’re snow … pretty at a distance.  Pigeons, the aforementioned rats of the sky, are the worst.  They’re noisy, messy and impossible to shoo away for any period of time.

When I moved into my condo there was a nest on the patio. I’m not sure if the prior elderly resident fostered this relationship or if they showed up after he’d gone (the unit was vacant for months). Either way, the damage was done. The only way to keep the birds out was to attach an end-to-end, top-to-bottom screen across my balcony to physically keep them out. You might think after a while they give up.  No.  When I restored my half-enclosed patio to full openness, I wondered if the birds would stay away.  No.  Within a week, they were back in droves, having seemingly planned a family reunion.

Most people are reticent to do what’s necessary. Catch them and kill them.  They’re pigeons, if you release them, they just fly back … earning their “homing” moniker. Once the flock is gone, it will take time for another to try to move in.

I’m heartless … but you suspected as much.

I’ve made no secret of liking the Centrum.  It may be my penchant for the underdog.  The Centrum has had its share of problems.  It was built on the eve of the banking crisis and became rentals. It was purchased in the mid-2000s to convert to condos, just in time for the Recession that pushed many units to the auction block. It could also be that I like the location, patio space and views. The renovation of the exterior of the building is another, more recent, plus for me (and the reason for the $1 million special assessment in 2017).

The building only contains 34 units (stair step levels) with the lower floors being office and retail. It also has few amenities (that I would be unlikely to use). Although the HOAs seem a bit high for not even having a pool.

The floor plans are generous. Two- and three-bedroom units comprise the bulk of inventory.  There are a pair of very generous one-bedroom units of approximately 1,400 square feet and of course the multi-level penthouse units with scads of patio space and tons of windows.

Northern views seem the most stable.  The city views, while mouth-watering, are in danger from development.  Buyers will want to keep a close eye on that.

The Warrington has an enviable location on Turtle Creek. Not only is it across the road from Turtle Creek’s green belt but it overlooks the greenspace separating it from the 3883 Turtle Creek building. It’s also a hop-skip to the revitalized shops, restaurants and Tom Thumb at Turtle Creek Village.  All they need is a back gate for direct access and they’d be set.

Units are generous as this was built to be a grand building.  It’s not unusual to see units starting in the 2,000 square foot range and going up from there to the large, double-story penthouses. While not built for open-concept, the floor plans and well-placed support columns make wall-moving and removing fairly straight-forward.

The Warrington has been on the renovation trail for many, many years so buyers are just as likely to find a move-in unit as they are a gut-me project (my kinda building).  Lower floors on the back of the building are the most problematic due to a tennis court and open-roofed parking garage.  One has the specter of Saturday morning thunk-thunk tennis matches while the garage is a view issue. I’ve wondered for years why the HOA doesn’t find a way to cover the roof in grass (which would shoot up values).

I know I’ll get comments (Jon: I did, and thank you), but I’m not a fan of LaTour. While I constantly hear that owners love them, the bay windows are just not for me. Are they for you?  My other beef is also with the windows. They don’t reach the ceiling, so anyone much taller than 5’10” will likely feel the need to stoop to see the view. The penthouses however, are blessed with almost all floor-to-ceiling windows. And all owners are blessed with deeded climate-controlled storage.

The location is pretty spot-on. With height restrictions and no serious competition nearby, views are quite long with downtown views particularly killer. Like the Warrington, the penthouse floors feature two-story units. The finishes, hallways and amenities are well-maintained and recently re-done. I’ll leave it for you to decide whether renovations should be planned for or whether they should be special assessment-able.

As you can see from the pic above, The Shelton is on Luther Lane and the Tollway. Noise is a constant companion for those wanting to utilize patios, with even some noise intrusion into the units themselves.  The building is, like Centrum, another victim of the double economic events of the 1980s banking crisis and the recent Recession. It has bounced back and forth from apartments to condos before being purchased again, renovated, and returned to condos just in time for the Recession.

Unlike many high-rises in Dallas, The Shelton has lots of children due to its more reasonably-priced location within the Highland Park school district … and Dallas taxing district.

Be sure to check out all of the floor plans as some are more logical than others.  Also, if you have mobility issues, pay special attention to the showers.  Some have a 12” step-up for entry. View-wise, the lots to the south are capable of building to 14-stories without further city approvals. To the north, the neighboring Berkshire building already blocks some views. High-rise development on the corner of Northwest Highway and the Tollway would significantly block views.  The lots are currently occupied by two small two-story bank buildings.

Services and amenities in the building were described by one happy owner as being impeccable. And for those who like being the first to live in a space, several freshly renovated developer units remain.

The Beverly is an odd duck.  As you can see in the picture above, it’s next to the instantly-recognizable Gold Crest to the left.  The Beverly, by contrast is not a building that pops to mind when talking about Turtle Creek.  I don’t mean that as a slight, it’s just inconspicuous.

The Beverly was not built as a luxurious building, instead recognizing something today’s developers could learn from … not every high-rise buyer has seven-figures to drop on a home.  That’s not to say the units scrimp in size, they range from 1,100 square foot one-bedrooms to 1,700 square foot two bedroom units. Of course a few have been combined. Units have generous balcony space including a pair on the 5th floor that sport over 1,000 square foot open terraces (you can see in the picture on the right side of the building where the building steps back. The roof contains those expansive terraces.)

You’ll likely be renovating at the Beverly, although a couple of flips have come on the market in the recent past for the move-in buyer.

HOA dues are unique for Dallas.  While buildings charge some number of pennies per square foot, the Beverly charges each unit the same flat fee per month.  For the 1,100 square foot units, that’s about 97 cents per square foot versus just 62 cents for a 1,700 square foot unit.  The bigger the unit, the better your bang.

Views at the Beverly are pretty well protected.  It’s only nine stories, so it’s not in a race for the horizon-to-horizon views played by taller buildings.  It’s nestled across from Turtle Creek and between two equally diminutive high-rises.

That’s a wrap for this week.  Next Wednesday begins the home stretch where I walk you through Dallas’ least expensive high-rise options.  Fair warning, we’re still going to be almost exclusively above $200 per square foot and nothing built within the past decade. (Are you hearing that developers?  There’s a great big middle-class hole in the Dallas condo market.)

 

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.

6 Comment

  • A few details are off on La Tour, there is a 2 dog limit per unit or combined unit, owners only. Major amenities include a double gated off-leash dog park, a tennis court/sports court and a massive lawn with multiple seating areas and fire pit which will likely never be matched with Uptown land price now. Other amenities include a deeded climate controlled storage locker, saunas, outdoor kitchen, cabanas and hot tub.
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    And we have had two massive special assessments, I believe around $4-5M. However they were not for maintenance or emergency funds which are both well funded. The first and larger assessment was a complete rework of interior space including a gut of the lobby and basement and refurbishment of the resident hallways down to unit doors and light fixtures. The second smaller assessment was a complete rework of exterior spaces including the pool area (Adding cabanas, outdoor kitchen, landscaping, stone paving) and the courtyard (Dog park, fire pit and multiple seating areas).
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    I just want to stress that neither special assessment was for deferred maintenance or inadequate reserves but to bring the building in line with newer buildings and to have a fit and finish in line with what would be expected at our location and the price point we thought it deserved.
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    I agree on the windows though, it’s disappointing for a building that arguably has the best views in the city that also are unobstruct-able with the State Thomas historic district high limits and Greenwood Cemetery. Oh and I’m going to add one more amenity, we have our own MATA trolley stop thanks to a donation by our HOA at the founding of the MATA. It’s a very nice amenity, walk out the front door and be whisked to West Village, Whole Foods, Klyde Warren and the Arts District for free.

    • With regards to renovations being special assessment or planned for I wouldn’t really call what we did a standard renovation and I doubt we will have another similar assessment for a long time, perhaps decades.
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      Frankly what happened is the fit and finish was not up to the level of what buyers were expecting from our location, the quality of materials just wasn’t there. So for example one of the major changes in the renovation was replacing every single door with new stained solid wood doors with mortise locks and reworking layouts in the lobby and basement including expanding the fitness center. There was no need, the old doors could have been painted or otherwise worked into a new design plan or replaced with less expensive doors but were replaced to bring the material quality up. Another example is all the outdoor paving material was replaced from brick to stone. There wasn’t really anything wrong with the brick, we could have left it as part of the remodel but it was replaced at considerable expense for a higher quality material.
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      Both special assessments were voted on by the owners, if they had not passed a smaller renovation which was budgeted for would have taken place out of reserves, it was just decided by the owners that we would make our money back on the renovations by bringing the quality of the building up, which we did.

      • I’m all in favor of assessments (that are approved) to up the game of a building. I’m equally glad in your situation that there was enough budgeted to do a “regular” renovation, but that the residents saw the value in doing more. Good for LaTour!

  • Great article. While I never coveted high rise living, I now live in The Shelton and love the amenities. Unlike most of the high rises, we do have a few children due to the location in HPISD – but not many. I’ve seen fewer than 8 children, of any age, here in past year.
    Most of the building is owner occupied and many owners only live here part time. Little things like valet parking, big storage units, and having your paper delivered to your door are lifestyle enhancing. Despite the background hum of the Tollway, I’m now too spoiled to go back to a ‘regular’ home.

  • Appreciate any article that talks about high good rise living is, and I appreciate that everyone has different tastes in architecture and living space, but have to comment on your LaTour remarks. First, our sales prices are approaching $400/sq.ft. Second, from floor to top of window (not ceiling) in our units measures 81 inches. I assure you, that as a 6’2″ person I have no problem looking out the windows. Our units are all individually unique – not the same cookie cutter look. Due to our very solid construction (concrete floors/ interior walls/ and exterior walls) we are almost soundproof. Very quiet living in the city. We have the most up-to-date fiberoptics from ATT&T with incredible speed for internet. We have long term excellent staff. And we have one of the most secure buildings in Dallas – you are not going to walk into our building and take an elevator. It is secured. Can’t say the same for other buildings. And cannot emphasize enough how financially sound the reserves are along with very current and ongoing attention to the physical plant to maintain highest quality. We also have great homeowners, an active Board, and a tremendous Clubroom with an active social committee giving us great opportunities to mingle with our neighbors. Happy to show off our building and home to you anytime. Also suggest a future article pointing out the things for a prospective homeowner to look for when buying a high rise home – reserves, heating and cooling systems, etc.

    • mm

      Thanks. These are in no way exhaustive studies of each building. Personally, I hope everyone lives in what they think is the best home in the world…regardless of what that is.
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      RE: LaTour’s current prices, mine are reflective of selling (not listing) prices for units sold in 2016. If you’re now approaching $400 a foot, that’s wonderful. Window-wise, I’m 6′ tall and it was honestly the very first thing I noticed. A few weeks ago, I wrote about high-rise security and found that there’s astonishingly little crime in all high-rises that’s perpetrated by strangers.
      .
      I’ve written several times about what to look for when buying in a high-rise in general. But as I’ve received several personal replies throughout this series from happy owners, I’m thinking of another occasional series. I’d speak with owners and they tell me why they love their building. I’m always happy to expand opinions beyond my own. After all, my criteria as a buyer isn’t the same for everyone. More voices give buyers more to think about.