Tuesday’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting wasn’t the chock-a-block agenda November was, but there was still an interesting project to see and a presidency to decide. First up was an application for a landscape special exception by the 703 McKinney Athletic Club. If you’re like me — more used to dealing with four-digit McKinney Ave. addresses — it will help to know 703 is north of Woodall Rodgers at the Interstate 35 connector at the south end of Victory Park. To the more uncouth, it’s kitty-corner from Hooters. To Realtors, it’s south of The House. To those of a certain age, it’ll always be The Starck Club.
In the mid-1980s, a lot of cities birthed signature dance clubs (or discos as they were called). New York had Studio 54 and Danceteria, in London it was Heaven and the Hippodrome. In Dallas, it was The Starck Club – an over-the-top nightly extravaganza that brought everyone with rhythm and shoulder pads out onto the dance floor. It was designed by a very young (weren’t we all) Phillipe Starck (who designed neighboring high-rise The House much, much, more recently).
While this chat with the OLC involved landscaping, there’s more afoot here than trees and shrubs. In addition to an athletic club overhaul, Mr. Starck himself is working with the building’s new lease-holder to revive The Starck Club. The club’s bones still exist, most recently as Zouk. Lord knows this country needs a good dance.
Another very cool part of this is who the architects are – Gruen Associates from L.A. The firm was founded in 1951 by Austrian-born Victor Gruen, an early proponent of urban design and the need for vibrant spaces called “third spaces,” or social places that weren’t home or work.
He began designing urban storefronts that enticed shoppers in. In an era of often drab streetscapes, he felt that compelling windows and displays would bring shoppers inside – and he was right. They entered and they spent.
As American car culture was firing on all cylinders, Gruen designed the first indoor shopping mall in Edina, Minnesota, for Dayton Department stores, which opened in 1956 (and like most indoor malls, struggles today). To be fair, Gruen’s design was to have been a new town center surrounded by a community of schools, healthcare clinics, park land, and residential. Once the mall was built and raking in the cash, the rest of the plan was abandoned (I suspect Dayton’s felt they didn’t need it).
Both his storefront and shopping mall designs were revolutionary in how the spaces were arranged. Ever wonder why the milk is the furthest away from the cashier? Ever wonder why malls are circuitous, safe, and familiar? It’s all part of what’s become known as the Gruen Effect, which encourages more buying and lingering, which also encourages more impulse buying. Even though Victor Gruen is known in merchandising circles as the father of the shopping mall, he later regretted the mall’s impact on sprawl.
But enough meandering…
The image above re-imagines the main entrance to the building with an overhead trellis connecting to the parking lot. The wall to the left is part of a possible second story addition to the surface parking lot. The parcel has plenty of parking already, but you never know what could happen if Starck is reborn to its earlier success.
Also note that while the building is shown as a gray box, it too will be spiffed up. The current exterior is kinda rundown and in need of spiffing. Underneath the neglect is an OK, large-windowed commercial building.
This is the Continental and Houston corner. Lots more trees and greenery added. Remember, this is about landscaping. What they’re trying to do is beef up where they can because there are places where they can’t. Specifically along Woodall Rodgers, where there’s no ability to plant trees under the highway (except maybe plastic ones that don’t need light and won’t grow).
There’s also not a lot they can do about landscaping Continental Avenue. On that border there’s the road, then sidewalk, then retaining wall. There’s no space to plant anything without tearing out the retaining wall. Their compromise is to plant at the top of the wall and use creeper vines to drape down the wall. Not a perfect solution, but a darn sight better than the stained concrete that’s there now.
I’m excited to see how this progresses … and whether Starck will rise again and how much tamer it will be than the original – because we’re culturally more tame.
Presidential Election Revisited
In October of each year, the Oak Lawn Committee elects its officers. This past October, something happened that hadn’t happened in memory – a tie for the presidency.
The OLC rules didn’t really cover what to do in a tie, so in November, the members voted whether to hold a re-vote for president. The alternative was to retain Hilda Rodriguez as president equating a tie as going to the incumbent. A re-vote passed a vote.
Tuesday’s meeting was that vote … and current president Hilda Rodriguez retained her seat by a reportedly unambiguous margin ending Leland Burk’s year as vice-president on the executive committee.
The remaining three officers won their seats in October – Sue Krider was reelected as City Hall Liaison, Cricket Griffin was elected Secretary/Treasurer (former Secretary/Treasurer Michael Milliken passed away before the election), and Kyle Lyon became vice-president.
The business of the month concluded, and the OLC turned into a jolly holiday party.
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.