How does a developer get a better project? One way is to hold a design competition among five firms. This is just what Trammel Crow did for this mixed-use office project coming to the Truluck’s site on McKinney Avenue next to The Crescent Court.
We have a winner …
The winner is this design-off was boutique east coast firm Pickard Chilton. The more I studied the design, the more the fenestration (window stuff) reminded me of the architect-driven City Center in Las Vegas whose architects include Gensler, Foster + Partners, Helmut Jahn and Cesar Pelli – the designer of McKinney and Olive. Turns out, firm founder Jon Pickard worked with Pelli for a time. No clue if there’s any connection, but I like connecting dots.
Crow is also bringing in HKS to manage the build and OJB for the landscaping. I like the choice of OJB who have done many areas in Uptown including Klyde Warren. It’s nice to have someone with that local experience.
So regardless, stepping up the architecture quotient is admirable. The result is light-years away from the gawd-awful, tacky projects that litter Dallas. While this week’s new Kroger at Hall and North Central Expressway (topped with apartments) is fresh dreck, I mean the Kairoi project next door on Maple. That project was designed by someone whose only award will be for tireless service as a church bingo captain.
But, as usual, I digress.
The site is shown in green with the triangle set of buildings being the Crescent Court. One thing that is missing is a height illustration. Uptown is getting taller as downtown slinks north. The project is asking for 405 feet in height, which is 165 feet taller than zoning permits. However, last month saw a 372-foot proposal from Crescent and a 399-foot tower from Granite approved in 2018 – both on the Cedar Springs side of The Crescent. It’s not short, but it’s got company.
The first image and the one above tell the project’s exterior story. The lower levels are heavily articulated providing visual interest for pedestrians and frankly a little pizazz. Those various outcrops also allow for outdoor spaces for building tenants. For example, the first “roof” on the corner will be used by a fitness center bordering the space.
The other thing to note is that this isn’t a monolithic building. Thanks to those articulations, the building shrinks its lot coverage as it grows. What this does is offer roof areas full of landscaping. While the team said official green roofs are not planned, they are planning heavy and mature landscaping with the exception of the 13 percent uppermost roof.
Since I’m hungry, let’s talk about the Maple and McKinney corner that will be home to Truluck’s (yes, it looks a little del Frisco-y). What was an unfortunate rebuilding of Truluck’s a few years ago gets a do-over. Instead of a parking lot so vast it needed a water fountain on the way to the front door, this project, and Truluck’s diners, now meet an active pedestrian experience. You can also make out that the “Truluck’s” sign extends over the valet area to keep folks dry.
Continuing around the corner onto Maple there’s another bit of Las Vegas found in the sculptural metal backdrop of the circular driveway. Very focal point. Certainly it will draw attention away from The Crescent.
Landscaping and Right-of-Way
One thing you can see better on the site plan than the rendering is that there are trees on both sides of the sidewalk on Maple Avenue to create a walking canopy of greenery.
For pedestrians walking along McKinney Avenue, there will be 10-foot sidewalks bracketed by green areas and trees. The central bricked portion is the pedestrian entrance for the office building – it’s not an Uber drop off place (keeping that element off the McKinney face).
To keep congestion created by entrances and exits to a minimum, there are no curb cuts on McKinney. Instead, the main parking garage and freight area are along the back of the building off Fairmount Street.
All in all, there is a lot to like in this building. It’s articulated façade and broad sidewalks serve a pedestrian-friendly present and future of the neighborhood. The restaurant and retail spaces give life to a block that currently makes the neighboring Shell station enticing. It’s use of setbacks and windows produce a crisp enticing exterior. It, along with Granite, McKinney and Olive and others, show that good architecture is worth the money and time to get right.
Asks, Gives, and Questions
But there are asks here. They are asking for 405 feet in height instead of 240 feet. In exchange for the height, they’re taking up less ground space (100 percent lot coverage is zoned; 65 percent coverage is asked). This results in over 5,500 square feet of open space. They also need a jump in FAR from 4:1 to 7.48:1 which means there are more square feet inside the building. Net-net, it’s bigger than zoning, but not a huge amount compared to neighbors. For pedestrians, they’re increasing six-foot required sidewalk widths to eight and 10 feet.
There are also questions. How will traffic generated by 735,000 square feet of office space be handled? It’s good that there are no entrances on McKinney but how does that impact the Maple and Fairmount intersections at their Cedar Springs and McKinney ends?
I’ll admit to not really caring a lot about traffic here because I’d never drive there and if I worked in such a white-shoe office, I’d similarly live close enough to walk. And if we view car use diminishing over time, are the above-ground parking levels being built in a way that they could be recaptured into office space?
These are questions (and more) that will be asked of the project as it works its way through the Oak Lawn Committee and City Hall. But from what I see, count me in.