Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for CandysDirt.com. His opinions are his own.
It was with sadness that I saw the proposed development slated for the old Old Warsaw restaurant lot on Maple Avenue across from the Crescent Court. My sadness increased when I realized Kairoi Residential wasn’t visiting the Oak Lawn Committee to vet the building itself, but rather for a “landscape special exception.”
Architects and builders tell me that the exterior of the building is pretty easy to change in the grand scheme of things. While it has no impact on the interior leasable space, it has a tremendous impact on everyone who walks and drives by.
Given the existing and announced components of the four-corner intersection, constructing what appears to be a low-slung chair of “blah” is an opportunity wasted.
Back in 1986, the Crescent Court was the progenitor of Uptown’s gentrification and revival. Spreading out from that epicenter, other 1980s and 1990s office buildings lined its borders. In the past decade, some of those 1980s buildings have given way to larger, newer development.
In the past year, two of the Crescent’s corners have visited the Oak Lawn Committee. On the upper left is Granite’s Cedar Maple project and upper-right is Crescent’s 2401 Cedar Springs – a reimagining of a 1980s structure.
Both projects showcase pedestrian interaction and additional green, whereas Kairoi is asking for landscaping and garage screening relief on the back alley (or “promenade” as it was sometimes called). Both of the other projects are heavy on transparency to bring light and foot-traffic into their buildings.
Kairoi’s project by GDA Architects is a lumpy series of dark boxes sitting on a light-colored plinth of above-ground parking. The result is an uninteresting and uninviting skin easily confused with the under-construction Uptown Marriott. It’s another shopworn example of Ornamental Gulag-style architecture with a pool.
While I didn’t like the pedestrian and valet traffic patterns created by Crescent’s design above, it’s an otherwise attractive reuse of a sterile 1980s office building. The bottom floor hikes-up its skirts to reveal an open glass ground floor lobby and restaurant. What was a dark stone turret becomes a signature glass cylinder on Cedar Springs Road.
Literally, the empty plot in the foreground of Cedar Maple (above) is the future Kairoi project. Its residents will get views of a gracious glass tower and its generous front yard, and look upon architectural royalty with the Philip Johnson and John Burgee-designed Crescent Court. Occupants of those buildings get no such vista in Kairoi’s project.
Instead, those better buildings get a blocky block of apartments. GDA’s design inserts itself into an increasingly vibrant Uptown neighborhood without adding to it – an architectural leech. Turning a 12-story sheer spine towards a century-old residential neighborhood (converted to offices) doesn’t help. Better design could have mitigated the damage.
There were only two asks of the Oak Lawn Committee. To be excused of the required 10-foot setback and accompanying green space along the alley and allow less parking lot screening across the back. This leaves the alley a bit of a threadbare afterthought with moving vans and delivery vehicles relegated to the fire lane. Of course, when they shift gears and talk about dog parks, bicycle racks and quick passage to Whole Foods – that same alley Cinderellas into a promenade.
There was little joy in Mudville for this project, so they’ll be making a return to the OLC. If not a complete redesign, I fervently hope it will be with a better skin – one worthy of its surroundings.
2025 Cedar Springs Road
Making a return is a boutique hotel on the far end of the Crescent at Cedar Springs Road and Olive Street. You may think you’ve seen this before and you have, last month. The OLC wanted to see more elevations and so here they are again.
They fiddled with the valet parking circulation and spoke to a lot of neighbors to get support. Otherwise, it was very little changed from last month and looks good for support and their next stop at Plan Commission.
Yup, just two cases this month.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.