Who Better to Watch Over a Renovation Than Athena, Goddess of Heroic Endeavors

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Built in 1966, the Athena has plenty of outdated condominiums waiting for a renovator’s sledgehammer. What’s doubly great is the units are big and the prices relatively small. As I write about new apartment buildings crowing at their 900-square-foot average unit size, I think about the older buildings.  For example, the average unit size at the Athena is 1,721 square feet.  If you figure that most balconies have been enclosed, that jumps to 1,950 square feet. Where ya gonna find that for under $300-large?

Unit 1313 is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home with 1,770 square feet. Sure, the listing says 1,543, but that’s because DCAD is too asleep to count the enclosed balcony in their calculations. As you can tell from the photo above, most Athena balconies have been enclosed. As a balcony lover, I’ll also add that you can restore the balcony for some pretty big outdoor space. It’s not like a 1,543-square-foot, two-bedroom is tiny by any measure.

Basic floor plan with balcony enclosed

Let’s get the dreaming started with the floor plan. Walking in you are in a bit of a chute with a large wall blocking the dining room.  Dump that.  As I said, there’s plenty of space without enclosing the 7-by-28-foot balcony because the living room is naturally 21 feet long.  Oh, and good luck finding bedrooms that large in newer construction at this price point.

What’s the price point?  Try $279,000, or $157 per square foot (counting the enclosed balcony). It’s been on the market for about two months with Jeff Dater from Ebby Halliday.

In my opinion, the biggest downside to this floor plan is the kitchen. It’s a little pocket tucked away from everything.  It’s what everyone groans about in a high-rise kitchen.  Small and cut off. Also, given the mechanics of the building, the washer and dryer are located here, too.

The rest of the unit just needs a garden-variety renovation to replace the original cabinetry and fixtures as seen here in the master bathroom.  I wonder about the 1960s, when women needed dedicated makeup space under the greenish tint of a fluorescent light. Through that door is the toilet and bathtub.

Further illustrating the closed-off feeling is the dining area.  The wall to the left separates the front door while the doorway on the right leads to the kitchen.  The church-like, mirrored window reflects the light and view from the living room windows.

What to do, what to do …?

Reimagined floor plan

How’s this? From the lower left, close off part of the old kitchen and create a laundry room with split pocket doors to close it off when not in use.  Extend the kitchen out into part of the dining space.  This gives a huge generous kitchen whereby the cook can interact with guests and not feel trapped. Remove the wall next to the front door so when you walk in, you’re greeted by the openness of space. If you’re not a formal dining person, instead of a table, put in a large island for more kitchen prep, storage, and more importantly, guest congregation. And you’ll want to entertain. I mean come on, 13th floor, number 1313 … you’re ground zero for Friday the 13th parties!

The rest of my changes are minor.  In the guest bedroom and bath, I’d pocket the doors so they’re not banging into each other and the space feels larger.  I’d do the same entering the master bathroom where I’d also chuck in a second sink.  Not being a bathtub user, I’d swap it with a generous shower — your choice.

Also notice there’s pretty good storage. Entry closet, new laundry room, two bedroom closets, and a small hall closet leading to the master.  That’s not counting that every unit at the Athena has a storage locker.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot (not really).  Because I like balcony space, I’d restore the whole balcony. Unit 1313 looks north towards Galleria, on the quiet and cooler side of the building. Who wouldn’t enjoy an al fresco glass of wine at the end of the day with this view? (A lot greener in summer, trust me.)

How do I know this would gorgeously be worth the time and expense?  One enterprising Athena resident with the same floor plan has done it already.  Let’s peek.

Renovated kitchen and dining area. Island is where the dining table was in listing picture.

Breathtaking, isn’t it?  On the left is the front door with the separating wall removed. The kitchen has been pulled out of its cubbyhole. The new combination island-dining table offers guests front-row seats at any gathering.  You also get a hint of the coffered ceilings lining the rest of the living area. (Oh, and stop drooling, this home is being thoroughly enjoyed by it’s owner. You want it, DIY baby, D. I. Y.)

View from the new laundry room outwards. Once closed off, the kitchen is now a vital part of the home.

Usually we say that all it takes is money, but reimagining on this scale to achieve these results takes guts.  Hopefully seeing a taste of what can be done gives a skittish renovator the courage to tackle unit 1313. The goddess Athena is there to guide your heroic endeavors.


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.



Jon Anderson

Jon Anderson is CandysDirt.com's condo/HOA and developer columnist, but also covers second home trends on SecondShelters.com. An award-winning columnist, Jon has earned silver and bronze awards for his columns from the National Association of Real Estate Editors in both 2016, 2017 and 2018. When he isn't in Hawaii, Jon enjoys life in the sky in Dallas.

Reader Interactions


  1. Bruce Dewberry says

    Very impressive article! Not sure if the Athena paid you for this, but they should. Huge opportunities here. Now if you could just slip us a couple of contractor phone numbers…

    Keep up the great work!

    • mmJon Anderson says

      Not paid. I just like to renovate big units in older high-rises.
      To find contractors ask building management for a list of those who have recently worked in the building. Then ask those residents how it went and if they’d hire the contractor again.

  2. Vicki White says

    Awesome coverage on the Athena Candy! I really love that place, but then I am a Dallas native and have memories there. My mom lives at Preton Towers. May just live there someday. Don’t know why these buildings get poo-pooed so much.

  3. Dr. Timothy B. Jones says

    Athena has the charm of a building of its day. I agree with a John that the balcony enclosures are over modified and I think negatively impacted aesthetics. My only issue with the older buildings is the dreaded two-pipe systems and most lack laundry rooms.

    • mmJon Anderson says

      Athena has a 4-pipe central HVAC system and washer/dryer hookups in their units. All utilities are also included in their dues.

      • Dr. Timothy B. Jones says

        Nice….that was unusual for the time. Has the building always had a 4-pipe system or did the HOA retrofit it? Having a 4-pipe and individual laundry rooms is a huge advantage for The Athena! You are right, it represents an enormous value for renovating an original unit.

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