Three projects were reviewed at this month’s Oak Lawn Committee. One was a school addition, one was yet another apartment building, and the third was this looker of an office building. Since I feel pretty (oh so pretty?) tonight, I’m going to walk you through the looker first. That’s not to say the school isn’t nice, too … it’s just not this.
A new office tower was proposed at the intersection of Bookhout, Cedar Springs, and Maple across from the pointy end of the Crescent Court. And I like it for several reasons.
First, it’s not ugly! In fact, I like it. It’s not an upended shoebox but it’s not cartoon-y either. It has lightly stroked its architectural flourish without delivering blah. It’s very glass (and yes, architects GFF read my piece on solar-powered windows). You see the vertical white stripes? Those are minor setbacks into the skin of the building. They breakup the solid planes of the building and add subtle visual interest. They’re on the corners with one each on the long sides.
The building also has a visually interesting bump-out on one side. Again, a subtle touch that visually grounds the building by pulling the eye down. Less beer gut and more the building taking a knee.
Time to talk turkey … and beef and seafood. At ground level there will be two stand-alone restaurant spaces. The larger one will be a more formal option like a Hillstone or R+D. The smaller building is slated for something the architects call “fast casual” like a La Madeline or an equivalent.
Never short of opinions, here are mine: In the fast casual space, how about the first Nandos to Dallas? Nandos is a South African chain that operates in 21 countries with over 400 locations in the UK alone. In the US there are restaurants in Chicago (12) and the Washington, D.C., area (30). These guys are a rocket of growth and popularity. Adele, David Beckham, Drake, and Ed Sheeran are all fans. Beyoncé ordered £1,500 of their chicken after one concert to feed herself and her crew. They’re so popular, Vogue (the home of people who don’t eat) featured them.
While architects GFF talked about a sundry-type store in the lobby of the main building, Instead of ChapStick and scratch tickets, I see Pret a Manger, now known as simply Pret. This is a UK chain of sandwich shops that are staggeringly popular with office workers and aren’t generally open at night (perfect for the office building location). This is no Subway-esque variant. Summer menu items include lobster salads, lobster rolls, and a pesto chicken and mozzarella salad.
Pret has also eluded ICE and is firmly established in New York (58), Boston (7), Chicago (13), Washington, D.C., (10) and Philadelphia (3). It’s the kind of food workers could eat at their desk, but with the acre of green space, they’re more likely to eat outside for some fresh air.
Also in the plus column, it’s placed all 1,672 parking spaces across seven underground levels … without being asked. The result is pretty cool. The office tower connects directly with the ground instead of being set in the middle of a surrounding podium (parking garage “tutu”).
Between my arrows you see the resulting public green space that’s been liberated from concrete. From the 2.7-acre parcel, roughly an acre has been carved out as green space. Zoning required only 6,013 square feet of landscaped area … an eighth of an acre. The result is 50 percent lot coverage compared to the 75 to 100 percent lot coverage allowed by the connected parcels’ current zoning. It’s a big win for the neighborhood.
You’ll also notice in the picture above the two separate restaurant buildings. The one on the right has a green roof to remove the blight from above (fingers-crossed the left one goes green too). See? Green roofs can be done in Dallas … if developers want to (you know who you are).
But getting that green space comes with a tall ask by developer Granite: height. The parcels are zoned for 240 feet in height and they want to nearly double that to 425 feet. That translates to 25 stories of office, a two-story lobby, and a top-floor amenity space. They’re also asking for a nearly 50 percent increase to their allowed FAR (floor area ratio) from 4:1 to 6:1.
The reason is simple economics. The cost to dig seven underground stories is enormous – call it $59 million — yes, million. To offset that spend, the building has to go up. The question is whether the acre of green space in the middle of Uptown is worth the height.
Oak Lawn Committee Secretary Michael Milliken made a very valid point to those afraid of the height, essentially telling members that what Granite and GFF presented is precisely what the OLC has asked developers to bring for years. His point was to remind those wanting to “what if” a shorter, squattier building with far less green space.
In my book, a large part of that answer is in this picture. Try to find the proposed building. I’ll admit it took me a minute because from this angle it blends so well. Hint, it’s right of the Chase Tower on the left. And note, the view is of the long side of the building (they didn’t “cheat” and show the skinny side). As you can see, it’s not some barnacle on the skyline. The tradeoff isn’t an eyesore.
Now maybe I’d ask to see more angles to see if its camouflage holds up, maybe even a 3-D whiz around. It’s a big ask and open-minded caution isn’t bad.
Any way you look at it, you won’t be seeing this crop up next year. These guys wanted to get an early start with approvals, so you won’t see groundbreaking for two years once permits are secured (and the trade war is over?).
William B. Travis TAG Academy
Also presented last night was a proposed school addition that will house expanded drama, choir, orchestra, band and visual arts spaces along with additional classrooms and a storm shelter. In the rendering above, the multi-floor area in front is the proposed addition to the existing school.
The classrooms are much needed and will replace the portable mobile-home-like buildings currently used to house a growing population. If the porta-classrooms weren’t bad enough, we were told the girls’ locker room had been converted some time ago to a classroom. Hopefully the kids in the back of that classroom aren’t sitting in stalls. The school’s small ask of the OLC was to support a five-foot height increase accommodate the addition.
Build as many schools as we need, I say. I’m especially happy to see an emphasis on the arts, especially drama. Where else are future politicians going to hone their craft?
Provident’s McKinney and Hester Apartments
Our final walkthrough project was a retread of a project at McKinney and Hester that the Oak Lawn Committee saw back in December. You may recall I hated the first 14-story iteration, and the best I could say about the second, five-story attempt was that there was less of it.
Masterplan returned to ask for two additional stories in height and another 100,000 square feet of leasable space. The reason for the increase? To add 25 affordable units. However, the ask would give them an additional 53 units. What do you think, dear readers? Would you give developers two extra stories in return for 25 affordable units that impact their profit margins by less than half of a percent? (I suppose the giveaway is in my wording of the question?)
The project is designed by Houston-based Wallace Garcia Wilson whose portfolio is picture book of all that is terrible in mid-rise apartments. The developer is Provident.
For those Pink Wallers and PD-15-ers reading this far, remember that Provident is the contract holder on Preston Place. If this is the quality of their work and the creativity they engender in their architects, beware. Personally, I’d urge Provident to toss a few more coins in their architects’ fountain (or find new ones) because if this tarted-up gulag is any indication, I’ll be leading the pitchfork brigade.
In fact, Provident only needs to look at 2727 Turtle Creek or even the beginning of this column to see the quality (not the scale) the Pink Wall will demand.
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email email@example.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.