Is Turtle Creek Cursed? Planned Developments Struggle to Break Ground

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Probably even before the Sheppard King mansion was built in the 1920s, Turtle Creek was one of Dallas’ most fabled boulevards. Unlike other tony streets, Turtle Creek has been known since the 1960s for its residential high-rises – attracting a Venn diagram of acrophiliacs and downsizers. However, in recent years it’s become our boulevard of broken developer dreams.

A Graveyard of Pitched Projects

First there was Canadian developer Great Gulf’s Limited Edition at Turtle Creek and Fairmount (“red” on map), billed as the ne plus ultra of high-rise living. But after years of marketing its ultra-ness, only a handful of contracts materialized – it remains an empty lot. The smaller, left-er, darker red is the same owner’s planned apartment building that too remains dirt.

Next to that is Turtle Creek Gardens (blue) who in recent years has done the dance with no pants with two developers I’m aware of – both ended, I’m told, due to developers unable to stump up the cash to close the sale, let alone build.

Next to that we have the old Republic Bank building (green), left of The Mansion on Turtle Creek. Just this past year, Prescott secured the site and planned a trio of high-rises – one office, one luxury apartments, and one a lavish combo hotel and condo project. They blew up the old bank building last September (in one go), but that’s where things have stalled.

Next up was the Mandarin Oriental project at Turtle Creek and Gillespie on the other side of The Mansion (purple). It was to have also been a hotel and likely record-breaking luxury condo project.

Next to that at Cedar Springs and Turtle Creek (orange) there’s the planned Hillwood office building that admittedly said they wouldn’t build until they had tenants – which apparently in the past three years they still haven’t got.

Sprinkled into this are two Turtle Creek-adjacent projects (grey) planned by Portugal-based Teixeira Duarte – their first in North America. Corporate financial issues saw them abandon the projects and sell their parcels.

Totaled up, we’re talking about roughly 15 acres of announced developments who couldn’t get a shovel into the ground in recent years. The only successful large-scale project close to Turtle Creek seems to be the most controversial – the Toll Brothers high-rise at Welborn and Congress. It’s been steadily rising for many months.

Will any of these grand projects be built?

Update or Something – Turtle Creek Gardens

Events were reported last week for two of these sites. Let’s start with Turtle Creek Gardens. Cushman & Wakefield has been retained to market the 4.5-acre property (yet again). Call it at least the third bite at the apple. But sources tell me that at least one developer, cash in hand, had offered to purchase the property for the same amount of their last failed sale.  They were refused because ownership felt the market had changed and their property was worth more.

I never understood the parameters of that second offer, but the first was more than whispered to be $43 million – roughly $10 million per acre.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that now that a broker is involved, trying to best their last deal, plus the brokers’ fees, will be difficult – in fact the cash buyer is said to have balked. One who might be interested in paying those broker’s fees is Houston-based Hines who are also working on high-rising Maple Terrace’s back parking (by-right so they don’t have to face compromise).

Given its similar lot size to the neighboring Prescott trio, I suspect a deal would involve two, if not three, high-rises.

Personally, I’d have thought “twice burned, thrice take the outstretched hand full of cash” would have been the better move. We’ve seen this affliction before – PD-15’s Preston Place owners are also waiting for their next better offer.

Update or Something – Mandarin Oriental

Last Thursday, JMJ Development, the folks behind the Mandarin Oriental project, were at CPC getting an OK to re-present their plans. You see, once a zoning case has passed the city, there’s a two-year moratorium before you can go back to the well.  JMJ wants to re-diddle their plans significantly enough that it requires a restart of the approval process.

Their plans were to ditch the 2004 French Chateau office building built by John Eulich and construct a 235-foot tower containing the Mandarin Oriental hotel topped by MO-branded condos. Apparently, a new architect has found a way to preserve the chateau.

I’m sorry, as grand as it is (and it is luxe inside), it’s not historic. At 16 years old, it’s one man’s folly. I can’t imagine what new design would incorporate its “Beverly Drive” exterior into something to propel Turtle Creek into the next century.

What has me twitching is the zoning agreed to supporting the new tower was generous. It passed Oak Lawn Committee, Plan Commission, and City Council – it also, at the 11th hour, passed the local resident gauntlet of Turtle Creek money and power who successfully demanded no entrance or exit on Gillespie. To get all those entities, plus their high-cotton neighbors, to agree was no easy task. To petition to return to square one, unless something else is afoot, seems ludicrous.

I’m also concerned that council member David Blewett, who’s already in dutch with the locals over Reverchon Park, would be more apt to placate residents wanting a lesser project. Politics would say that you don’t piss-off your wealthiest constituents, but since that ship has sailed, maybe you hesitate to being summoned to The Mansion’s woodshed twice.

What is perhaps an unrelated note, back in April, the Dallas Morning News reported that Chinese investors in other JMJ projects were seeking to push the firm into bankruptcy due to missed payments.

I reached out to JMJ Development’s and Mandarin Oriental’s PR representatives after Thursday’s Plan Commission meeting.  Mandarin Oriental’s Abbey Nayor responded stating that “Mandarin Oriental was still attached to the project” but after at first seeming unaware, later had no followup comment on recent developments.

Similarly, JMJ media representative Melanie Bonvicino acknowledged my inquiry but did not respond by press time.

And there you have it. Between all these tracts, there’s roughly a dozen high-rises probable on those 15 generously-zoned acres. And yet, no one can seem to get any of them out of the ground.

So I ask, is Turtle Creek cursed?

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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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Comments

  1. FestinaLente says

    Long time ago, they razed a nice midcentury building on Fairmount @ Turtle Creek for the Gulf development that isn’t. The only deal that did go thru in the same relative area is the Marriott at Fairmount/Carlisle – the sale of that 12-unit townhome place to Alamo was inked in 2017, if memory serves, and that hotel did get built.

  2. Steve Porter says

    TCG news is wrong. There has never been a 43M offer. If it had been then we the owners would have snapped it up muy pronto, amigo. The one offer rejected in the past 6 years was for 32M. Whoever your source is for news needs to check their facts.

  3. Sharon Quist says

    When I read “attracting a Venn diagram of acrophiliacs and downsizers”, I knew the author had to be Jon Anderson. His witty repartee always amuses and engages me.

    I am disappointed that things have stalled on Prescott (rumored Waldorf Astoria) & Mandarin Oriental properties.

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