Dallas High-Rise Buyer’s Guide: The End of the Beginning of the Road

“Backwards” Skyline Views from The Beat Lofts

Gosh, how time flies.  It seems like only eight years weeks ago that we began this journey highlighting Dallas’ high-rise options for winged home buyers.  Now I guess it’s back to grazing through Wednesday broker open houses, snacking on steam-table tacos like Costco on a Saturday for us all. And while I am dubious this will be any readers inaugural entry to this series, I’m including the links nonetheless.

Oh so long ago, this all started with two columns discussing the merits of buildings that include utilities in their HOA dues (here, here) many of which are lower-priced buildings. A House Porn duo of Dallas’ most expensive high-rises (here, here) came next before continuing into what passes for a high-rise mid-market (here, here). These final two columns (last week) focus on the budgetary opening salvo of high-rises … well, what passes for budget friendly (ain’t very budget-y).

Lightning Strikes Twice

Remember all those recent storms?  Being in a high-rise you get a (dry) bird’s eye view of all the action rolling in, over, and past your windows.  When the sky is lighting-up, it’s pretty heady looking out the windows at the fury.

Another not-very-secret of high-rises is that they are frequently hit by lightning. Especially when they’re the tallest structure around.  Usually, there is little damage caused by these strikes as the roofs are fitted with an extensive series of lightning rods that attract lightning and, through a wire on the exterior of the building, channel the electricity harmlessly into the ground.  Of course this doesn’t always happen.  While lightning rods attract lightning, like dating apps, there are no guarantees.  When lightning does go through the interior of the building frame, it can cause fires.  These are pretty rare events.

Lightning NOT Striking Preston Tower

During our most recent storms, Preston Tower was reportedly hit by lightning that caused no damage.  I was in a neighboring parking garage when it hit and can say it was pretty deafening.  Power was lost momentarily where I was but a few minutes longer at Preston Tower. Que sera, sera.

One thing you will note with our final series of high-rises. They are all south of Woodall Rodgers. Also, three of the four came online in 2007, just as the economic world was ending. Located in the Cedars area of Dallas, just south of I-30, The Beat Lofts is the only building in this series that was built from scratch to be a residential high-rise.  As such, the spaces are better laid-out with less “what were they thinking” moments.  Not that The Beat escapes these thoughts, but there are a lot fewer and most will be the result of your personal taste and not the square peg/round hole variety.

The units facing the city offer grand views of a city many will think is in reverse.  You see, those living north think of the Reunion ball being on the right side of the skyline.  Here it’s on the left.  Whatever, it’s still a smashing view.  As you can guess from this picture, the penthouses offer the best window space and aren’t much different size-wise than the floors below, so don’t think they’re all gigantic and out of reach.  As this was built for the low-mid market, don’t expect Sub-Zero appliances.

I’ve been in the building many times, and for downtown workers looking for a close by, affordable location in the thick of the revitalizing Cedars, you can’t go very wrong here. Light rail and the cops are feet away from your front door.  Heck, there’s even a small grocery store on the ground floor.

Back in 1957, Dallas Federal Savings was the first to call the George Dahl-designed 1505 Elm home. Younger tykes may know it as the Dresser Building, who in 1974 purchased it from the bank.  In the picture above, you can just make out the outline of the long-empty 6,465-square-foot penthouse.

Units in the building are large but the spaces clumsy.  It’s an issue for many commercial-to-residential conversions.  Since office space doesn’t require every room to have a window, commercial buildings are often much “thicker” than a true residential structure, which will usually be two units “thick” separated by a corridor.  In a commercial-to-residential conversion, units can become elongated, like flowers trying to reach the sun.  The result can be bowling-alley entry halls that pass windowless storage, laundry and study spaces before reaching the windowed living area.  This can be a problem at 1505 Elm.

There are no patios and the units I have visited didn’t have operable windows, which made me feel claustrophobic.  I’m told that some units do have operable windows.  Check if you’re a window-opener like me.  FYI, the windows are openable in an emergency, just not day-to-day.

Like most buildings in the city core, parking can be a problem.  There is complementary valet parking, but I’m told by a former resident that there’s a charge for overnight guests, something I’ve only seen in downtown buildings (not even uptown charges).  One former resident described the building generally as nickel-and-diming residents.

Also, before purchasing in 1505 Elm, have your Realtor run two reports.  One tracking cost-per-square-foot going back as far as they can, and another tracking how long properties take to sell.  You might find little economic upside during a period when the city’s prices have appreciated.

The Metropolitan is another office-to-condo project that got caught up in the Recession, pushing many units into auction.  It’s worth noting that this was not a “thick” office building, and so units are not subject to odd layouts.  However, while there have been balconies carved out of the office building, they’re quite small. Interior-wise, corners are the largest floor plan with more than a few units having been joined together.

Western-facing units get a view of Belo Garden all the way to Old Red and beyond, with view blockage less likely that in other urban high-rises. To the east is the neighboring Adolphus Hotel with a lucky few in the upper floors getting a view of the Magnolia Hotel’s restored neon Pegasus.

Like all downtown buildings, guest parking is a challenge and the one-way streets annoying.  But for those seeking a car-free life, there’s a lot within a few blocks.  However, those needing more than 7-11 level groceries, taxiing to the grocery store is still a must.

You’d never expect this building to be on the National Register of Historic Places, but being one of the last industrial buildings in downtown Dallas, it’s kinda unique.  Built in 1924 as a Santa Fe railroad warehouse building, it was converted in 2004 to condominiums.

As you might expect of a building of this vintage and use, there are large structural columns throughout the building.  It will pay to look at multiple units to get a feel for which ones have minimized their intrusion.  Also, as you can tell from mass of the building, many floor plans will have long windowless hallways leading to the living areas.  But on the upside, units also benefit from additional storage spaces located on their floors.  For the Christmas-tree-toting condo seeker, this is perfect.

No surprise, but the 11th floor penthouses are where it’s at.  There are nine units (in addition to a rooftop pool and outdoor kitchen area) on the roof.  Looking at the picture above you can see these special two-story units also have some patio space. There are currently two on the market ranging from 1,035 to 1,348 square feet and so not super-duper spendy at $309,900 and $387,900 for something so unique.

Given the location of these buildings, you may want to experiment with living in the Dallas core by renting in one of these buildings before taking the plunge.  While this is usually solid advice, given the price appreciation we continue to experience, waiting a year will only make it more expensive.  But that’s for you to decide.

Conclusions

We’ve traipsed through 43 condominiums from the urban core to Irving.  I don’t know about you, but I’m tuckered out.

Compared to many forms of housing, high-rises may not be the bargain choice in living accommodations.  But when all the factors are considered, including utilities, maintenance and amenities, the bump may be less than you thought.  In the end, high-rise living is a lifestyle decision to make. Many enjoy the lock-and-leave convenience, security, and unexpected conviviality close-quarters engender … after all, the older we get the harder it is to make new friends. For those afraid of rebound kids, a one-bedroom condo can be the perfect passive-aggressive way of saying “you’re on your own.”

Me? I just like to look down on people. 🙂

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.

5 Comment

  • Jon, excellent series! As a fellow highriser, it’s interesting to see the other buildings and what they offer.

  • We have lived in 1505 Elm Street Condominiums for 12+ years and I have actively been involved in the resales of the building during that time. Just not sure where you have gotten some of your information, but know it was not from Candy as she has been to the building many times including parties at our residence and she well knows there is no charge for guest parking as would anyone else who has used our valet services. Guests are not even expected to tip. I assumed you would have visited the buildings before doing you synopsis, but obviously that is not the case, I previously sent you and email and asked you call but so much for trying to correct your errors.

    • mm

      I have visited 1505 Elm, I very briefly explored buying there, so have toured many units. In that process, I spoke with building management. I have also spoken with recent residents.
      .
      If you check comments in prior columns, where I got something wrong, I happily corrected the entry. I do not recall anyone asking me to contact them concerning any of these listings. (And honestly, who would respond to a vague “call me” message from a stranger?)
      .
      Specific to parking, I was told by a resident there is a charge for overnight parking. Perhaps it’s only complementary for a few hours. (Updated in story)

  • Thanks, Great series!

    It was fun to travel across town and through time exploring the so-little know exotic life of high rise residential, If only we had one more lifetime and a few million more bucks.

    • mm

      You’re welcome…but I’ll take the cash. I don’t need a second lifetime, I might be forced to join Facebook! 🙂