Since August 2016, we’ve been reporting on different events surrounding the Diplomat condo building, beginning with a contingent contract and continuing with surveyors in November, quickly followed by soil testing in December. You’ve likely seen the map above a zillion times, but it’s a shortcut to avoid tediously describing where a certain building is located in an area of nearly 30 multi-family complexes.
Avid CandysDirt.com readers will remember Friday’s tease about A.G. Spanos who is also involved with residential components of Dallas Midtown. For less ardent readers, The Spanos family owns the Los Angeles Chargers football team along with the A.G. Spanos Companies who purchase, develop, build and manage apartments all over the place. Locally, A.G. Spanos is managed by Spanos family member and Preston Hollow resident Dimitri Economou.
I had a chance to meet with the development team last week to understand their plans for the Diplomat property. I must stress that while negotiations and plans have been evolving for a year, all plans and certainly any renderings of the new building are extremely preliminary.
I say that for several reasons before I show you their thoughts. First, what they want is significantly outside the current scope of what’s allowed within PD-15 (the location outlined on the map, that operates differently than straight city zoning). As such, they will need approval to change the PD-15 bylaws from the City Plan Commission and City Council. Before that happens, the neighborhood will have multiple opportunities to weigh-in with their opinions.
Last Thursday, an introductory meeting took place with members of the Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association (PHSNA) who had previously been involved in the Transwestern/Laurel development on the corner of Northwest Highway and Preston Road.
So very ground-floor in the process. As you recall, The Laurel deal took two years to consummate. I have no way of knowing if this will take more or less time, but I can say that dirt won’t be flying in the near future. You have plenty of time for the ink to dry on any support or protest signs.
So here it is …
The proposed building was designed by WDG Architecture and contains 110-120 units across seven stories in an “H-shaped” configuration. The long portions are along Diamond Head Circle and the alley with the cross-piece spanning the two. The amenity deck … the “H” knock-outs … house the pool and other amenities.
It’s the same height as the back “garden” building on the rear of Preston Tower. For those concerned with how much of the building they will see, that’s a good reference. The PD-15 documents allow for 52.4 units per acre and the Diplomat is a pinch less than one acre. There is no height limitation. Yes, it’s a lot denser than today’s 15-unit Diplomat.
Parking will be split between under and above ground. As you can see from the front elevation, units wrap the building on two sides (Diamond Head Circle and facing Diamond Head Condos) and a screened garage will be visible on the west and north/alley sides. On the upside, PD-15 documents require a pitiful 1.22 parking spaces per unit. The proposed development contains more than enough parking for today’s needs along with ample visitor parking.
In addition to more parking, Spanos is also talking about LEED/green building techniques and some anti-flooding measures that may help the neighborhood (once the city does its part). It’s nicely unexpected to have a developer proactively try to address environmental and known neighborhood problems without being cajoled.
The architects’ presentation spoke a lot about the strong and recognizable 1960s architectural elements and how they tried to incorporate that into their design. For example the screen-y elements seen on the front balconies were meant to evoke the window screens found on the Diamond Head Condos’ windows.
What do I think?
Being nice, I will say I feel the exterior design needs work. It’s too Plain-Jane and too similar to any number of boring apartment blocks we’ve all seen flung up around Dallas. Small balconies, small windows and tacked on accents don’t evoke the strong architecture of the adjoining towers it would be neighbor to.
Personally, evoking the 1960s is the easy way out (and I don’t feel it even does that particularly well). The Pink Wall was built with the modernity of the era that is clearly evident in the towers and certainly the existing Diplomat building. The Diplomat’s replacement should be just as modern to today’s cutting edge design ethos. Given its height, it should must be a building we enjoy seeing out our windows.
But not all is lost. Oddly, once you get away from the front adornments, the balconies look much more modern and simple. The try-too-hard throwback slatted balcony railings give way to the modernity of glass. Also, while the renderings don’t portray the color accurately, the building is slated for a crisp, smooth surface in equally crisp, modern white. No thick, patterned, troweled-on beige stucco.
As for the central issue of density, I am sure the neighborhood will make their thoughts known. After all, it was the central issue for the Laurel and certainly it’s central for the PHSNA representatives as well.
As for the team, I’ve had the chance to speak to Economou, the architects, and others on the team multiple times in the past week. Each time one central message comes through … they want to work with the neighborhood on a project that’s a winner for everyone. No arrogance. No take-it-or-leave-it. I told them my personal thoughts on the exterior, and while slightly deflated that I’d called their baby ugly, vowed to find a way to make it better. The right reaction.
For those who want to literally see what I think, check out this file I created to outline my personal thoughts on what I’d like to see. I warn you, don’t get your hopes up thinking you have a hope in hell of getting everything on this wish list. It’s just a dumping ground for my personal thoughts and ideas. You may agree or disagree, but I hope it gets you thinking.
What more do I think?
Remember, this dance has been going on for a year. It was not triggered by the Preston Place fire. It’s easy to see that with two of the four non-high-rise buildings in PD-15 exploring significant changes, the remaining two are also evaluating their futures. The redevelopment of PD-15 has likely only just begun.
Normally I’d say it was time to open a bottle of Jack, but the neighborhood needs to keep its wits about it to ensure its needs are met as these changes unfurl around us. Of course, if you’re not a regular CandysDirt.com reader, you might want to become one (shameless plug).
Tomorrow you’ll see my personal redevelopment plan for Preston Place. I guarantee a surprise.
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 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors has recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org.