No, you’re not reading tomorrow’s newspaper. District 14 council member David Blewett is holding a meeting at the same time as tonight’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting. Blewett’s meeting is the first community meeting that’s part of an authorized hearing involving the zoning surrounding the Arts District. I figured you’d want me to be there (story tomorrow), so here we are.
There are four projects on tonight’s agenda – two new and two repeats. Let’s begin with the new. Above is a proposed Hilton Hotel on the end of the block bounded by Hall Street, Noble, and Oak Grove (a couple of blocks towards Central from Breadwinners). No, you’re not dreaming, its around the corner from the never-built Dream Hotel approved back in 2015. But it’s not just a Hilton, it’s two of Hilton’s 17 branded property types – Motto and Spark – both operating in the building. While “spark” might conjure up images of pacemakers at work, both Spark and Motto will target the same Millennials the Dream envisioned (as single-word “app style” names do).
What’s the difference between Spark and Motto? About $20 a night.
Sidenote: Am I alone in seeing hotels like the U.S. automakers of old? You remember. When GM sold Oldsmobiles, Pontiacs, and Saturns to appeal to different buyers who were more interested in better quality? Fewer sub-brands with a consistent experience should always be the goal. We shouldn’t have to pick a new trendy name just to better the odds there’ll be a newer mattress or carpet you don’t need antibiotics to walk on. Anyway…
They’re saying it’s most comparable to (another) Hilton brand called Canopy located blocks away – and from an architectural blandness perspective, they’re right (although Canopy has a great rooftop bar which seems to be repeated here). You’re not alone in thinking this bland, cookie-cutter building, designed by Merriman Anderson, screams neither “young” nor “hip”– of course, this rendering’s Soviet gray skin isn’t helping.
It’s typical Hilton, reminiscent of their New York Midtown property, with a recessed glass ground floor for hotel operations and restaurants that are being “held down” by a two-story muffin-top of a parking garage (that’s only enclosed on two sides). The muffin top’s top is the hotel’s amenity deck which will be the subject of noise complaints from the adjacent, quite spendy townhouses.
The hotel is a combination of 15 and 19 story elements that’ll house 121 rooms (Spark) and 196 rooms (Motto). Either way, there will be just 76 parking spaces for 317 rooms (current zoning would require 300 parking spaces). For comparison, the Dream had been approved for 264 rooms.
Since the restaurant is proposed at 2,200 square feet and the meeting space just 1,350, this isn’t a convention or wedding venue that would attract event-driven traffic. I’m on the fence about diminished parking in commercial spaces like this. In a residential building, if there’s no parking you don’t buy/lease. But in a hotel, you don’t know until you arrive. There’s a planned agreement with 3232 McKinney for overflow, so that alleviates some anxiety.
On the upside, there will be wider sidewalks, buried power lines and lower lot coverage. It’s also three stories shorter than it’s zoned for. There’s not much difference from the numbers approved for the Dream – although enough to illustrate that projects grow with the economics of time.
But I would like to see a less bland exterior with the muffin-top parking garage moved out of sight. Oh, and maybe for Hilton to have just five brands delivering consistently clean carpet and fluffy pillows.
3120 N. Haskell: North Dallas High School Addition
Built in 1920, when West Village was considered “North Dallas”, the three-story high school is located just north of West Village and south of Zippers on the west side of Central. There was a three-story addition in 1983 and now a proposal for another three-story extension that will largely house athletics.
As you can see above, the school has two baseball fields in their backyard. Some or all of this space will be given over to the new athletic complex (the presentation was unclear how much space it will take). While I’m unsure about trading outdoor activities for indoor ones, I trust the school knows what it needs.
What I can say is that the addition, designed by (pretty darn famous) Perkins + Will is very nicely done. The glass box they’re calling the “overlook” does overlook Cole Park. And while not the traditional “south-facing” view, its northerly face will pick up the winter sun making it easier to heat and less withering in the summer. There aren’t windows on the sides because it’s a gym.
I think it’s a neat add-on to an historic building with its own language that isn’t trying to imitate the past.
2702 McKinney Avenue: McKinney and Boll
Last seen in September, this reworking of the HKS-designed McKinney and Boll building was worth it. There’s one big change that vastly helps this project. If you look above, you’ll see a car turning right into the building. In the first iteration, that driver would be ramming the building. Now, they’re entering the valet and parking garage area.
The reason is simple. In the original plan, all traffic was shuffled to the back alley (“1” above) and/or around the building due to McKinney’s traffic flow. The new plan (“2”) where cars pull through the building is a much better solution.
5205-4217 Herschel; Herschel Senior Living
The first thing the Oak Lawn Committee asked of the developer was to return with “a legible presentation.” Amen. I’ve bagged on these guys for their terrible presentations since their first trip to the OLC. It’s still not going to win any presentation awards, but there’s more there.
The above graphic shows their zoned height (240-feet) and what they’re proposing (142-feet + 15-feet for elevator housing and mechanicals). They’re also showing it in reference to nearby buildings – two stories plus mechanicals taller than the Park Highlander condos – so not outlandish. They do want to increase FAR from 4.5 to 5.5 of buildable square footage for each square footage of lot. That increase results in two additional floors – not dire. Some protesters say the height will “stick out like a sore thumb”. Not really. And in theory, it could stick out 10 more stories.
They’re proposing 140 units total with 64 parking spaces, all but a dozen underground. That might seem like too few parking spaces, but code only requires 42 for senior living and besides, do you want people in “memory care” to be driving anyway?
I’ve never had a problem with this project’s intentions. The issues arose from their slapdash presentation causing them to revisit the Oak Lawn Committee multiple times. Will this iteration be enough? We’ll see.
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.