It was a busy evening for Cole Avenue at last night’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting. There were a pair of unrelated projects proposed on the Knox Street and Armstrong Avenue cross streets. First up, was Restoration Hardware … oops, they’ve gone all upmarket and now just use initials … RH. Oooh-la-la.
For those not in the know, RH has been on a tear upsizing their brick-and-mortar stores. Branded RH Galleries, shoppers will finally be able to see a lot of the stuff we previously had to cross our fingers and order blindly via the catalog or website. Amen. Currently there are just nine in the country, one of which is in Austin. Being a Chicagoan, I have to say the Chicago outlet is the most stunning. It was built in the Three Arts Club building which housed female artists — musical, performing, and visual arts — beginning in 1914. While the National Register building had been vacant for 20 years, revitalization proposals had included a hotel and a columbarium capable of storing 1,900 funereal urns containing many a great-aunt Millie. RH was definitely an improvement.
Since we’re in Dallas, and every cool, century-old building seems to have been torn down, the Dallas RH Gallery will be a new build (just like Austin) and be on the same site currently occupied by Restoration Hardware at Cole and Knox. But RH Galleries ain’t small, the Chicago outlet is 70,000 square feet —Austin 60,000 — so the current building hits the skids to be replaced by something so nice, I’d be happy to see it out my living room window.
Yes, the picture is terrible, but what do you expect taking a picture of a screen? The folks from RH didn’t want to share the image of the proposed building, so I snapped a picture to give you an idea. The first thing you should see is green. In addition to trees at ground level that you would expect, there are enormous terraces at every level and on the roof. Hurrah!
The second thing you will notice is that the front of the building is two stories. This is where the 51,000 square feet of retail therapy happens. Sorta. RH Galleries aren’t Ikea, where minivans and SUVs stop traffic, blinkers flashing, while a Scanda-whovian flat-pack bookcase is shoveled into the back. Think of RH Gallery as you would the totsy Design District “to the trade” showrooms but without the “trade” designer requirement to buy. See it all, feel it all, order it all. As one quipped, the biggest thing customers will take home is the doggy bag from the restaurant … yes, restaurant (keep reading).
The third thing you might be noticing is that it appears to be a bit taller in the back. That my friends is a proposed 36-room hotel RH Guesthouse. Folks can book a room and live in a completely RH world of furnishings, lighting and everything. Considering the only hotels in the area are the La Quinta and The Highland, both located right on Central Expressway, your deeper-pocketed, lighter-sleeping relatives will be thrilled. There will even be a spa to relax you after signing the (large) check for refurnishing your home at RH. Dallas will be the second RH Guesthouse. The first will be opening this autumn in New York City’s Meatpacking District. Expect lessons learned to be incorporated or deleted from this plan.
I mentioned a restaurant, didn’t I? RH Galleries want to blur the line between retail and hospitality. Clearly the hotel guesthouse goes a long way with that. A restaurant goes further by exposing more people to it. The Chicago RH Gallery pitches itself almost Starbucks-y in that while there is a designated restaurant area, customers can be served in any vignette in the store. Want to while away wine with the gals one afternoon on a sofa you’re thinking of buying? Done. Think of it like Pirch, which allows customers to come in early and schedule time to try out the showers before buying. They want you to dawdle in the store because you’re spending time in an infomercial … a gorgeous, tasty infomercial. Ultimately, you’ll buy more than just the food and booze.
My thoughts on this are fuzzy. Like all people, when you like something, your natural bias is to make it work. Luckily for us, it’s an enormously pretty endeavor. And I don’t know about you, but it sure beats driving to the Restoration Hardware outlet in San Marcos just to see scratched-up versions of stuff you only saw in a catalog before buying. The tenor in the room was similar. The Oak Lawn Committee seemed generally excited.
I think we’re all looking forward to the final plans when I don’t have to 007 a picture.
I’m calling this project the Broadstone because one of the images seems to have that name attached to it. I’m not using that image because it’s the one we all know is in the pack somewhere. You know, the one with groups of people … one of every race and gender, natch … hanging around the front entrance like church was about to begin.
The Broadstone is big. It’s a combination of five- and seven-story heights packing 340 apartments averaging 900-ish square feet under its roofs. Approximately 25 percent will be two bedrooms while 75 percent will be one-bedrooms. Suffice it to say that with so many singles in such a tight space, smoke may pour out of the various Tinder, Bumble, and Grindr apps.
Think of the building as having a seven-story “T” shape (orange) bisected by five-story arms. Or it’s a double “H” design. Whatever works for you. One of the benefits of the recesses is that at ground level it’s visual green space for passersby. For the developer, the shape allows a more dense structure than the “T” alone.
Note, I’ve been seeing a lot of seven-story apartment buildings recently and the reason is economic. Over seven stories, you’re into steel-reinforced concrete construction versus wood. I’ve been told that the jump from timber to concrete is about 30 percent.
Another note. These non-concrete buildings generally have more bland exteriors because of the weight and cost of better looking materials. It’s why on the Broadstone we see a good use of brick on the shorter sections with more lightweight materials on the taller portions.
This is not to slam the Broadstone. While I’m unexcited by the overabundance of one-bedroom units, the exterior is a lot better than much of the stucco-y dreck littering Dallas these days.
What I will fault the developer on is their desire to short-sheet balconies. One of the things they want in their design is to not have a balcony for each unit. Their thought is that tons of tiny balconies impacts curb appeal. And I will grant them that. But were the balconies more generous, it wouldn’t be the visual issue that 340 postage stamp balconies produce. I also suspect, of course, that there’s a profit motive here as well. Balcony space is less chargeable than enclosed living space.
Another fault in the plan is that not all bedrooms will have a window. In order to do this, the wall separating the bedroom and the living area doesn’t reach the ceiling. This smacks of studio loft space and another way to pack more people into too little space. Who thought a bedroom window was a luxury?
Those little horizontal slit windows you see above in the brick? Those are window backsplashes in the kitchens. Instead of tile or something, you get a window. I’ve seen this done in townhomes and it does provide interesting light to the kitchen area. Mind you, it’s all about more light because there’s no view out while you’re in the kitchen (unless you’re also counter height).
Overall, the exterior is better than many I could name, but I fear this is more of a pricey flophouse than anyone’s home. I will give OLC president Brenda Marks props for asking about a lower-income component to the project. After all, Knox-Henderson is full of low-paying jobs, like RH Gallery employees, that are vital to its restaurants and shopping, wouldn’t it be nice if they could afford to live locally too? (As some may already do in the buildings being torn down.)
The developer’s representatives told Marks they’d discuss it. But we all know that without city ordinances requiring a few affordable housing units in new projects (that are found in other municipalities), talk is all we’re going to get. Certainly City Hall has been talking, talking, talking for years about it with no end to the talking in sight.
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.