Oak Lawn Committee Zooms Through Crescent High-Rise and Landscape Variance

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2811 Maple’s skin isn’t a simple grid. Note the shadow-catching angles

After a COVID-19 break in April, the Oak Lawn Committee met via Zoom last night to view one new project and one approved project that needs a variance – because oops. The meeting kicked off with District 14 council member David Blewett. Given that he presented a roundup of coronavirus-related stuff we’ve all been reading unendingly for weeks, I don’t know why.

Crescent’s project is next to Uchi at 2811 Maple Avenue between The Stoneleigh Hotel and Cedar Springs Avenue. It’s also kitty-corner from Crescent’s re-do of a 1980s office building at Cedar Springs. It’s a busy location with Granite’s coming 399-foot-tall building touching this project’s lot and the two big projects in the Quadrangle area.

Normally the lead shot, but the first shot puts this in context

This is a blessing and a curse. On the upside, the requested 372-foot height will not be out of place next to Granite’s project. Also, the 220 units are considerably less than the 307 units that could be built by-right (although to be fair, that would be 307 studios that no one would build). Lot coverage is significantly less than by-right. This reduction in lot coverage is coin of the realm when increased height is asked for. In fact, I never want to see a lardy building asking for height.

The downside is largely unavoidable – the result of increased density – however more constrained it might be. After all, there isn’t a “Crescent” subway stop to ameliorate the number of cars. And let’s be real, no one is moving to Uptown for a pastoral life of contemplation.

Larger Unit Size = Upscale Dwellings

These will also be larger units – no studios and about half being one-bedrooms. The average size of 1,200 square feet is considerably larger than the norm. In fact, it’s tailor-made for condo conversion which Crescent’s rep admitted freely. This is all to say that the tenant profile and economics of this project don’t scream Craigslist roommate listings.  

Articulation and out of sight columns

This is a building best experienced close-up. The renderings I’d seen earlier were long shots that did nothing to expose the handsome articulation of the building’s skin (which is why I lead with that picture). Articulation is important if you want to avoid the typical slab-sided high-rise seen everywhere. It creates visual interest on a cloudy day and a riot of ever-changing shadows when the sun is out.

The other thing to note is the lack of visible columns. I was told that the columns were purposefully placed in dividing walls and exterior skin. This was an “amen” revelation having seen so many high-rises riddled with poorly placed columns.

I also liked this image. It shows the building’s placement relative to the Stoneleigh Residences (S) and the Granite project (GR). The three buildings jog enough so they’re not flat on each other’s view plane – or as I called it “mutually assured destruction” of views. Of course they’ll see each other, but at an angle.

Of course I had a couple of niggling questions and was able to speak with Joseph Pitchford from Crescent and Evan Beattie, CEO of GFF Architects.

Put Out Over a Podium

The biggest concern was that the podium was of a different material from the tower and that the articulation on the tower stopped at the podium and appeared to flare out from the tower’s footprint.

I hate podiums. But I see no way to avoid this one and unlike most, it’s a single, double-story in height. All the parking is underground. Being unavoidable, I wanted to see the tower’s skin wrap and extend to the ground to anchor the tower. I also wanted it to match the footprint and not extend out from the tower on the street-visible edges (the dreaded muffin top).

That way, the building appears to go straight to the ground – the same way the Stoneleigh Residences do, and the soon-to-be-neighboring Granite building and Crescent’s own re-do across the street.

A mismatched podium is more suburban, less cohesive and reminds me of houses with nice brick out front and siding on the sides. Pitchford wasn’t pleased with my suburban characterization – good. He and Beattie said the renderings weren’t done-done, and they were still finalizing things. Maybe I’ve helped mask the podium?

The other minor comment is also found in this rendering. While I applaud the almost 50-feet setback from the curb, I think there’s too much concrete out front. More greenery would be welcome but also, I wonder if they can mimic the color of the tower in a darker sidewalk material (maybe pavers that would absorb water and reduce runoff?).

Come to think of it, a darker material might trap more heat in the summer. 

Overall, I’m good with this building. Fiddle with the podium and I’m super good with it. Architecturally, it’s more interesting than Dallas-blah and there’s the very real chance in 10 years and a day it will become condos. Given the average size of 1,200 square feet, it’s not going to steal away Stoneleigh or Ritz buyers. And that sized unit is what Dallas needs more of in high-rise form.

Hopefully as the project matures, I’ll be able to report back with an update.

4714 McKinney (at Hester)

Masterplan was back to ask for a variance on the already rezoned 4714 McKinney apartments (that’ll never be condos – tandem parking). Seems that during permit review, the project was told they needed an 18-inch utility easement in the alley which would result in a five-foot planting area. Also, the project was required to detain storm water runoff onsite before releasing it into city storm drains.

These were unforeseen in the initial permitting phase (the building is already under construction) and now have to be mopped up on the back end.

The issue with the easement and resulting five-foot planting strip is that the trees agreed to won’t grow well (or live long) in such a cramped space. This means that of the 14 trees originally agreed to, just five would be planted on the property and none in the alley. To offset this, the developer is offering to bury the power lines in the alley which are an eyesore to all. They’ll also net a dog park out of it, but that’s a benefit to their tenants, not the neighborhood per se.

Normally the loss of so many trees would annoy me, but given that this project faces the windowless parking garage of the beige stucco McApartments across the alley … whatever.

I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the Oak Lawn Committee via Zoom and hope they continue to be an option. It seemed to go faster, questions were better bracketed and I didn’t have to be seen. The only downside was the after-meeting, glass of wine chit-chat in the Melrose bar: cannot do that virtually, unfortunately.

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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.

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  1. Sharon Quist says

    I always enjoy your coverage of the OLC meetings. I often wish you would ask your always thoughtful questions in front of the entire committee, instead of privately, so the committee could benefit from the questions and answers.

    • mmJon Anderson says

      I sometimes spend hours meeting with a development team. The OLC question/answer/next format doesn’t lend itself to in-depth conversations.

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