Three Disrupting Developers Bring Us the Best of East Dallas To Date (Plus Dumbwaiters)

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Remember this name: Cobalt Homes. A Dallas-based urban builder disrupting the urban town home concept with not just aesthetics and quality construction, but an unheard of thoughtfulness — like a sixth sense — to provide buyers comfort and true home livability.

We all love stories about guys who started famous companies at home. In 1939, Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard founded HP in Packard’s Palo Alto garage, now the birthplace of Silicon Valley. In 1976 when Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak started Apple Computers, they hand built 50 computers in 30 days from a garage in Cupertino, California. 

Larry Page and Sergey Brin were graduate students and started what’s now known as Google from Susan Wojcicki’s garage in September 1998. Jeff Bezos founded in 1994 as an online bookstore, completely run out of his garage in Bellevue, Washington.

In North Texas, Canadian-born Larry Lacerte started Lacerte Software Corp. in his home in 1978, the first desktop application for general ledger and tax preparation. He sold the business to Intuit Inc. in 1998 for $400 million in cash, with a $200 million takeaway. 

And there’s the CoastOak Group: Gregory McGowan, Joshua Nichols, and Don Carroll. An unusual union of developers, the trio came from private equity backgrounds, Wall Street ones at that: Josh and Don worked for Goldman Sachs. Greg worked for Rockpoint Group and Westbrook Partners.

And like the entrepreneurs mentioned above, when they started their company in 2008, they worked on tables and computers out of an empty home next door to Greg’s residence for three months. They didn’t even have heat for three days.

But these are private equity guys who know how to rough it. They had all worked together at Trammell Crow in the mid 1990s — all except for Joshua, who was still doing championship wrestling in high school, and on his way to Princeton. Even their current office — it has heat — is nestled among the top-tier real estate guys and gals nesting at Harlan Crow’s Old Parkland.

Real estate is their product, but it’s a way different mousetrap.

“We’re not simply investors who hire a contractor,” says Joshua, Principal and the Gen Xer. “We are the builder and developer. We have thought the whole process through, custom designing each specific project for each specific site, utilizing only the best architects and then maintaining control of the entire process, from start to finish.”

In 2007, the real estate world was in turmoil. By 2008, the sharks were out bottom feeding from a veritable smorgasboard of real estate. Don, Greg, and Joshua ditched the Wall Street herd and started picking up distressed properties, originally targeting master planned communities. What could be safer: acres of single family lots sold to hungry homebuilders, spread across the prairie, itching for buyers?

But when you buy massive quantities of dirt, like in Chicago, Denver, D.C., and Long Island, you sometimes find you have to build a home or two, yourself. Which is how the company’s home building operations division was created. The division would soon create a new level of activity and inspiration to impact their buyers.

The trio formed The CoastOak Group, taking over the first portfolio of master-planned communities in 2009. CoastOak is still actively engaged in developing high end and beautiful communities today.

Then they looked in their own backyard: Dallas. Kessler Park, at first, but ultimately a part of town that was greatly influenced by post-recession building as the Uptown phenomenon spilled east of Central: East Dallas.

I recall, back in 2009, hearing that some of my daughter’s classmates from Hockaday were living in East Dallas off Knox-Henderson. That was the turning point: the area was no longer in transition, it was launched. Agents tell me today that the building frenzy in East Dallas has kept a lid on home values in Uptown.

CoastOak developed a consumer brand to build urban homes in East Dallas called Cobalt Homes, a far cry from the suburban world of the master-planned communities CoastOak had so successfully built. The partners had built up some experience chops, too, and soon figured out that East Dallas was a blank slate for an entirely new kind of development: luxury urban town homes no developer had ever built. Affordable town homes that Cobalt would create literally from the dirt up with quality every step of the way, plus unheard of amenities. 

“We wanted to do much more than create spaces for people to live,” says Don Carroll, Managing Principal. “We wanted to go that extra mile to build products that live better for our buyers.”

The proforma was to marry solid construction, sleek design, with extra, thoughtful touches that would be custom to each home, additions that buyers are not used to getting in Dallas. But once they get, they cannot live without.

Like Dumb Waiters.

What is, asks Joshua Nichols, the hardest aspect about living in a three story townhome with a rooftop deck? Most residents, Millennials or X’ers, can walk up and down three stories just fine. But what about the stuff they need to haul up and down?

Solution: Dumb Waiters. They are optional for a cost of $8,000.  Early buyers are getting one included as an incentive.

“And almost all of our buyers want one,” says Greg McGowan, Managing Principal.

Let’s go back to that rooftop deck. You’re having a party, ten people are upstairs while you mix drinks, the doorbell rings. Do you have to run down three flight to answer?

Not at all. Your Nest camera is connected to a smart lock, so you can unlock the front door, let your friend in, and lock up again while still mixing the margaritas.

“We have hard-wired our brains to constantly see how to make life more live-able in our homes,” says Greg McGowan, Managing Principal. “We are the builder, we are the developer, we have thought it all through.”

Central vacuum systems are standard at Camdale Court, with those toe-access crumb catchers that whoosh up crumbs.

The outdoor living areas are visually connected to the interiors, whether yard or rooftop. And every unit literally celebrates natural light.

Camdale Court is a modern, 12-unit townhome community in the heart of Uptown East offering three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom units ranging from 2,096 to 2,380 air-conditioned square feet. All homes have full-sized two-car garages and rooftop decks. Custom designed by TKTR Architects, materials and fixtures selected by interior designer Roz Murphy, living areas will include the third floor and rooftop decks connected through an outdoor staircase.

And when Cobalt builds outdoor staircases, like at Crestfield Place, don’t think those 1980s spiral deals — these are solid, high-quality staircases uniting the spaces visually.

Crestfield Place is a modern, five-unit town home development located off Moser Avenue south of Henderson between Fuqua Street and Capitol Avenue. The three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom homes have 1,959 to 1,989 air-conditioned square feet in addition to 175-square-foot private grand balconies, 400-plus-squar- foot private rooftop decks, and two-car garages. Designed by AIA award-winning architect Josh Nimmo, interiors and exteriors are knit together so well, you may well ask, are we really inside?

Standard features in both contemporary developments include touch-sensitive faucets in the kitchen, built-in central vacuum systems, tankless waterheaters, and Nest thermostats, as well as high-end lighting fixtures, hardwood floors, waterfall quartz countertops, energy-efficient construction, solid-core doors, and Bosch appliance packages. Living areas are located on the third floor, allowing a more natural flow from the indoor living areas to the rooftop deck. Bedrooms are on the first and second floors. And yes, the dumbwaiter “elevator” can move groceries, luggage and other items between the garage and the kitchen or the bedrooms up and down.

Coming soon is Caxton Court, located off Prairie, just one block south of Fitzhugh. These are 3 detached homes with 2,200 of air conditioned space, 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a separate study, entry studio that opens up into a gated yard, two balconies and a two car garage. Caxton Court Townhomes offer 1,900 air-conditioned square feet, 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a balcony, a two car garage, and optional dumbwaiters and roof top decks. Foundations are being poured as we speak.

Dumb waiters, central vacs, no rinky-dink back stairs, how can these homes be affordable and how can the Wall Street dudes turn a profit?

“The townhomes are fee-simple, so there are individual owners, hence no HOA’s or condo fees,” says Greg McGowan. “We crunched numbers and found our buyers can basically afford $30 to $50K more house because they will never have to pay HOA or condo dues.”

Prices hover around $500,000 in both communities, $479,900 up to the mid $500’s. The homes are being marketed by Modern Living Real Estate with Katie Aspen and Jeff Mitchell, who were chosen from an impressive field of modern-focusing Dallas Realtors an brokers.

“Jeff and Katie were just starting their Modern Living platform, and we loved their personalities and passion for beautiful modern architecture, which is a foundation of Cobalt Homes,” says Greg.

Modern Living’s fresh energy and out-of-the-box approach to marketing sealed the partnership. They meld with the buyer profile: young professionals, some newly married, couples with kiddos.

“The thought we’ve put into the design and the features we provide will be valued by our customers, and we needed agents to teach that, ” says Greg McGowan, Managing Principal of Cobalt. “We love creating homes where people can really enjoy life inside and out. These town homes are designed for living and entertaining at home in an urban environment where the fruits of the city are outside their door, whenever they want to go there.”

Stay tuned to for news about the Cobalt launch party on February 22, 2018.

The Builders from Cobalt Homes on Vimeo.

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Candy Evans

A real estate muckraker, Candy Evans is one of the nation’s leading real estate reporters. She is also the North Texas real estate editor for, CultureMap Dallas, Modern Luxury Dallas, & the Katy Trail Weekly. Candy has written for Joel Kotkin’s The New Geography, Inman Real Estate News, plus a host of national sites. Constantly breaking celebrity real estate news, she scooped former president George W. Bush's Dallas home in 2008. She is the founder and publisher of her signature, and, devoted to the vacation home market. Her verticals have won many awards, including Best Blog by the venerable National Association of Real Estate Editors, one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious journalism associations. Candy holds an active Texas real estate license but does not sell. She is on the Board of Directors of Braemar Hotels & Resorts (BHR).

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