Oak Lawn Committee Sees Repeat Office Project And Melrose Hotel Port Cochere Changes

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Proposed office building at Fairmount and Cedar Springs Road

After skipping a month, the Oak Lawn Committee saw two projects last night. One was a fine-tuning of the long-delayed addition to The Melrose Hotel and the other is at Fairmount and Cedar Springs (making its third appearance).

Since we’ve all waited years for The Melrose to get going, let’s start on Fairmount.

Back in December, I thought the project had its good points. I particularly liked the underground parking, front setbacks/green space, and that the owner was not only going to office in the building, but the top floors were to be his personal residence. How many people build a high-rise with their home on top? This and Craig Hall’s Hall Arts are the only two that come to mind in Dallas. I had no height issues given its much taller neighbors and liked the idea of a signature restaurant “event space” on the top.

But the Oak Lawn Committee had concerns and the project returned in February. Turns out that while I foresaw a tony restaurant and sedate lounge on the top floor, they saw “swingin’, swayin’, movin’, groovin’, slidin’, glidin’, rockin’, reelin’” to the disco beat. And so in February, the top-floor restaurant and entertainment space was gone, replaced by a ground-floor restaurant.

It’s worth seeing how the building has progressed. What’s most notable to me is that as stories were lost, the building got fatter from the side. In an area where new neighbors (here, here, here, here) will be skidding 400-feet, why the bugaboo about 13 stories or even 12? It’s resulted in the Fairmount-side ground-level experience being less open – all you have to do is look at the trees disappearing on the right of each rendering to see that.  Was dropping 16,198 square feet from the building worth the encroachment at ground level – the area most of us will interact with the building?

The other reason for the fattening is found in the side yard setback which went from a laughable zero feet to a meager three feet to now 20 and 25 feet – which is a good thing. But It just makes me wonder why the new setback couldn’t have added back the removed floors to make it thinner overall?

It was a point also raised by Wayne Garcia, District 13 Plan Commissioner. And to be honest, the answer was less illuminating than my explanation here.

On this third time, the developer asks are for 32 additional feet than zoned height and an increase from 2:1 FAR to 4.9:1 FAR (results in 91,383 additional square feet to the building). For this they’re offering generous setbacks on all sides, all underground parking, three loading areas, no event space, and wider sidewalks than required. Being ever appreciative of tree canopies, they’re doing a double row of trees on Fairmount. Of course I’m as appreciative of green roofs which this project won’t have.

The biggest ding on the developer representatives was a lack of neighborhood outreach and resulting support. However, there was concern about traffic flow which the developer was amenable to. The removal of the mature trees on Fairmount was also concerning – a victim of the underground parking garage.

The Warwick Melrose Hotel

The Bronx restaurant closed around 2013 when the Melrose Hotel announced their plans to expand the hotel’s operations. It took about seven years for the first shovel to move dirt. Not that far into the project, developers are asking for a reworking of the hotel’s back entry/port cochere.

Essentially, they want to re-do the overhang by extending it by three-feet for better rain protection. They’re also rejiggering the stairs by pulling them further away from the building so that there’s a better threshold by the doors (which is a little cramped today for luggage).  

What I like about this modernization is that the decoration at the leading edge of the port cochere mimics the decoration found at the hotel’s front entrance. So while this is new, it takes its cues from the original and ties it together well.

Also, those familiar with this drop-off point will see that the stairway will now be a light stone versus the darker existing stone. This makes is better visually for safety – especially at night. It also makes the whole entry lighter – again mimicking the lighter elements found on the Oak Lawn Avenue side of the building.

History buffs will be comforted that this isn’t a historically significant part of the building – the existing port cochere is the third structure on the back door. Remember, the main entrance was designed to be on the Oak Lawn Avenue side.

That’s a wrap on the summer Oak Lawn Committee meeting. Given last month’s miss and this months lack of new business, it’s not hard to see the COVID-19 effect on new development here.

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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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