Hillwood Buzzkills Helipad Upon Oak Lawn Committee Return, Alliance Residential Falls Short

Hillwood’s 3001 Turtle Creek

In April, Hillwood presented their conceptual renderings to the Oak Lawn Committee (OLC) for a 16-story office building on the empty corner of Cedar Springs and Turtle Creek.  You know the lot … the one you’ve been wondering why nothing had been built on it for over 30 years. Nods and smiles turned to WTF guffaws when out popped the desire for a helipad on the roof.  Ross Perot Jr.’s LA buddies all had one, so why shouldn’t he? Then days later there was an announcement about Perot bringing Dallas to the test-market table for Uber’s Elevate program for flying taxis.  Regardless of whether these two events were connected by more than the hours that separated them, Hillwood has dropped the helipad from the designs they’re hoping to present at the Sept. 7 City Plan Commission meeting.

The plan still had some give to it.  For example there are two treatments for the back of the building’s parking garage.  Do they put another story underground which would necessitate a minor change with setbacks or does it go as-is and a story higher?  No one seems to have much of an opinion one way or t’other except that underground is better than overground when it comes to parking.

One hysterical tidbit.  When Hillwood approached their alley neighbor, the Gallery at Turtle Creek apartments, for their opinion, the response Hillwood got was the Gallery wanted the parking garage completely wrapped to match the building.  Hillwood representatives said this would add another million to the costs … so no.  The funny part is that the garage for the Gallery apartments is completely open to the alley with no wrap/camouflage at all. In other words, Hillwood should spend extra to satisfy a neighbor who didn’t do the exact same thing to their own building. Ahhh, people.

Alliance Residential’s “Broadstone” Apartments

When Alliance first hit the OLC weeks ago, there were a few asks of this jumbo apartment building.  To refresh, this is a 340-ish unit building on the corner of Cole and Armstrong in Knox-Henderson that would replace 74 apartments and eight townhomes – in other words over a 4x upsizing.  It would be 75 percent one-bedroom units, some as small as 510 square feet with a “bedroom” that lacks a window.

Rents would be about $2.80 per square foot or $1,428 for those 510 feet.  The “largest” two-bedroom would cost $3,623 per month for its 1,294 square feet.  The current apartments, while not spanky new, reportedly rent for between $600 and $1,000 per month. Clearly those tenants wouldn’t have a home in the new development.

Original setbacks on upper floors

In Alliance’s favor, they did rework the exterior a bit with more setbacks on the upper floors of the seven-story project. This made the building less imposing to the street, but as unit counts didn’t go down, I assume this caused more of the smaller units to be created.

Increased setbacks on the 5-story protrusions subtly pull structure away from street

One of the things the OLC asked for was consideration for an affordable housing component. Alliance reps reported that one financial backer, apparently on a first name basis with their Christmas ghosts, walked away at the mention of it. The second was open to discuss (or at least didn’t run away).

There was a lot of math and supposition about what would be workable that the less miserly banker would tolerate.  Out of 340 apartments, they agreed in principle to rent 10 units to tenants who made 80 percent of the median income for Dallas (about $47,000 adjusted annually by HUD). The rent they would be charged would be 30 percent of their income … in this case about $985 per month for that $1,428 one-bedroom at 510 square feet. Or in other words, about $385 per month more than what the cheapest unit in the existing buildings reportedly rents for. I’m guessing that if those tenants could afford $385 more per month, they’d live somewhere better. Meaning that none of the existing 74 tenants would likely be able to live in the new building even with this “affordable” component.

Percent of annual rent “lost” by 10 affordable housing units.

Assuming they’d go the cheapest route, the project owner would forgo $443 per month on those 10 one-bedroom apartments or $53,160 per year.  That sounds like a lot.  But with an average size of 900 square feet and 340 apartments, this project will generate $10,281,600 in gross rent per year.  The giveback that caused one banker to bolt is the equivalent of ONE HALF OF ONE PERCENT in annual gross rent. And as shitty as this is, it’s still more than the ZERO that Dallas requires of new development.

This isn’t a dig as Alliance at all.  It’s a shovel to the face of the City of Dallas that allows its citizens to be casually swept aside in the name of affluencing a neighborhood. A city that follows the dollar to the benefit of too few.  Sure, the city must accept ever-increasing density, but the price of displacement is too high of a price to pay.  Other, smarter cities are tackling this issue with varying success.  Dallas seems to be pinning its hopes on the Grinch’s heart melting.

As a society, we seem to believe we can have our cake and eat it too.  We went from system of communities supporting a patchwork of labor and incomes to the past 40 years of economic segregation. Finally, in the past few we’re coming to realize desired vibrancy comes from that original patchwork.  But instead of embracing that concept, we’re creating Disneylands of vibrancy where the backbone of the working class is trucked in daily, only coming alive during opening hours. Clerks can’t give directions because they don’t live there.

Again, this is no anti-Alliance screed.  It’s bigger than that. Many rail about regulation.  Well, guess what? Regulations are a direct response to abuse. The Clean Air Act was not preemptive, it was a direct result of gagging pollution.

(Steps off soapbox)

Anyway, based on a number of factors, the OLC has issues with this development proposal.  As one OLC member with ties to the developer community foreshadowed, if a project like this isn’t built now, during the next construction cycle developers will want a high-rise.

That’s how it is in a growing city … today’s ounce prevents tomorrow’s pound, but not indefinitely.

 

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 sharewithjon@candysdirt.com.

4 Comment

  • That is an awesome rant. But really these Dallas neighborhoods have tons of diversity, when I compare the images in my mind of what existed 5,10 or 20 years ago vs. what my tell me.
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    …and its true, things were more vibrant and way way more fun, I don’t think you could convince anyone under 30 that everything under their feet isn’t supposed to be brand new. Most of them grew up in shiny suburbs, went to brand new schools and have you seen “colleges” these days…they look like country clubs!

    • We’ll differ in opinion on diversity (I think,…your second paragraph appears to agree with me). I see income diversity shrinking over time. Certainly in reports on affordable housing mixes, the past decade has lost quite a lot of affordable housing during a time when shiny new apartments are being throw up at two-a-penny pace.
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      But absolutely, prior decades were a lot more fun. I have no desire to be young again (but I’ll take my 30-year-old body).
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      At the prices colleges charge, they should be country clubs (if not ashamed of themselves).

  • Do we know why Oak Lawn Committee doesn’t push for an Oak Lawn PID like the Uptown PID? Hopefully not a dumb question, but it seems like this is the most powerful group of people in Oak Lawn.