…and you still happily shop here.

One of life’s joys is the “I told you so,” because it is so often precluded by a period of scorn and disbelief. Last week I had a bumper crop, but let’s talk about Amazon’s HQ2.

You remember that? The corporate welfare pageant where municipalities fell over themselves, checkbooks flailing in the breeze, trying to lure Amazon to places its corporate relocation team had already picked? Yeah, that.

The Metroplex was one of those entries, and we even made it past the first culling before being sent home roseless, our taxpayer checkbook tucked firmly between our legs. New York may have kicked them out, but Amazon continues to hire there, albeit fewer than the 25,000 expected from their half of HQ2. Amazon wanted a presence in New York regardless of the freebies.

On the other hand, Virginia, happy to accept the Amazon bouquet, has seen home prices surge by 17 percent while property owners hoping for more, have caused new listings to crater – one zip code near HQ2 saw an 85.3 percent decrease in new listings. This has essentially frozen the market and caused property tax bills to swell.  Everyone’s expecting that once hiring picks up with HQ2, the lid will be blown off valuations. The same thing is playing out in the rental market especially in areas with the lowest rents as REITs and investors move in.

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Two weeks ago, District 13 council member Jennifer Staubach Gates debated rival candidate and former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller at a luncheon hosted by the Dallas Builders Association. The event was live-streamed and later posted by CandysDirt.com. About 20 minutes into the recording, the topic of PD-15 was raised. (Planned Development district between Preston Tower and Athena on Northwest Highway).

The proposed updating of the area’s decades-old governing document has been one of two zoning issues at the center of this campaign. In mid-February, I pointed out that Laura Miller’s ownership of an Athena condo would constitute a financial conflict from which she’d have to recuse herself.

At the debate, Gates pointed out the conflict to Miller. Here is Miller’s response:

[The city of Dallas’ ethics code says,] “If you are involved financially in a situation that’s voted on by the Dallas City Council, where you will personally be making money where other people will not be making money but you are personally involved and will make money from it, then you have a financial conflict of interest …

My living in the area plan area and having a rental unit that we bought for my mother-in-law before she passed away has nothing to do with the code of ethics and any financial conflict of interest. I do not have a conflict of interest nor would I be or will I be recusing myself from any vote involving zoning in the area.”

According to Miller’s own words, “you have a financial conflict of interest” if “you will personally be making money where other people will not be making money.” Whether redevelopment is good, bad or indifferent to surrounding property values, that trajectory will be influenced by city hall’s vote.

Steve Long, SMU’s Maguire Chair of Ethics wrote that using Aristotle’s definition of truth, “I’m puzzled by the candidate’s response because it appears to violate this basic tenet of truth-telling.” He continued, “If she is making a profit from a rental unit then her conclusion makes no sense.”

Mayor Mike Rawlings echoes this sentiment, “I think that your assessment of the situation is absolutely correct.” (more from Rawlings further down)

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Windmass Capital’s Vision for Colorado Blvd at Marsalis Ave in North Oak Cliff

After over a year of meeting with neighbors, stakeholders, and City of Dallas staff, the WindMass Capital development team has thrown in the towel just before this Wednesday’s City Council meeting where they would have been on the agenda to move forward on a very complicated deal.

WindMass owns the Founders Square Apartments. Over the decades the building became surrounded on three sides by Oak Cliff‘s Founders Park. Long story short, they hoped to swap their 1.37 acres for the adjacent 1.37 acres on the corner of Colorado Blvd. and Marsalis Ave., build a new mixed-use apartment building with retail on the ground floor, then demolish their old building, give it to the city all cleaned up like park land should be, and give a half million dollars to the city for additional park improvements. Sounds pretty crazy amazing, doesn’t it?

As Willis Winters, Director of the Park Department, said at the last Park Board meeting, the city has tried to purchase this property for years to make Founders Park more contiguous, but hasn’t been able to afford it.  This project would essentially accomplish that goal for the Parks Department.

Even neighbors and stakeholders were in support, a rare feat in itself!

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Indigo River Tiny Homes’ offers both tiny homes on wheels and those built on permanent foundations. This 24-foot model, dubbed ‘Baby Blue’ is on the market for $55,500. (Photo: Indigo River Tiny Homes)

And, to be honest, not all tiny homes are created the same way. When Peter Huggler launched Indigo River Tiny Homes, he sought to fill a small but increasingly important niche in the North Texas housing market. The veteran-owned firm, based in Garland, specializes in custom tiny homes on wheels that bridge the gap between pricey prefab and DIY jobs. Not only are they building beautiful, functional, and energy-efficient tiny homes on wheels, but they’re also starting to build tiny homes on permanent foundations, too.

That’s good news for Dallasites who want to take advantage of changes to the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) regulations in Dallas that now allow for homeowners to build income-producing space on their property with full kitchens and baths as a way to hedge against our growing affordable housing problem. 

Right now they have two spec models ready for purchase: Baby Blue (pictured above, $55,500) and Big Blue (below, $68,500). These two models show just how customizable Indigo River Tiny Homes are, with Baby Blue offering more of a stripped-down, minimalist aesthetic with bright white, streamlined interiors. Big Blue, on the other hand, features gorgeous custom finishes in a variety of wood tones, with a bent-wood spiral staircase and beautiful butcher block counters laid in a chevron pattern. 

Kyle Becker of Indigo River Tiny Homes in Garland gave Rosy and Conrad a tour of Big Blue and Baby Blue, the two spec builds for sale. (Photo: Jo England/Staff)

When you talk about what’s beneath the really fabulous finishes, you’ll be impressed, too. The company uses an innovative construction method using dense Styrofoam encased between layers of dense fiberglass. It’s durable, light, and has an outstanding insulation — which means you have to run your air conditioning less. It’s just one of the creative features Indigo River Tiny Homes sport, making them well-suited for either year-round occupation or as a lakeside weekend getaway spot. 

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If you’ve looked to soften the blow of your property tax bill by renting out your back house or guest house, you may chafe under the rules which Dallas Development Code restricts Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs. But with a dearth of affordable rentals, more residents are keen to offer an option that wasn’t previously available. 

That’s why the City Plan Commission will review amendments to chapters 51 and 51A of the Dallas Development Code to allow ADUs and create more workable rules so that homeowners and renters can meet in the middle and close the housing gap. The draft ordinance allowing ADUs will go in front of the commission Thursday, June 22. The meeting starts at 9 a.m.

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 airbnb dadaAirbnb’s meteoric growth has shaken the hospitality industry, and is making homeowners mighty nervous about who their next-door neighbors might suddenly be. There have been regulatory fights to leash the short term rental site from New York to Barcelona.
5800 Palo Pinto guest house

District 14’s Philip Kingston is proposing a change to city ordinances that will allow the construction and rental of guest houses like this one at 5800 Palo Pinto, as well as garage apartments. Some M Streets residents object.

Head over to Stonewall Jackson Elementary tonight at 6:30 tonight as Dallas City Council member Philip Kingston will be hosting an informational session regarding the recent proposal to allow homeowners to build and rent garage apartments and guest houses inside the district.

Right now, city code precludes the construction of a full-sized kitchen in an “accessory dwelling.” To add one constitutes a duplex — two separate residences on one lot — which is another zoning category entirely. Of course, we have heard that what constitutes a “full-sized kitchen” varies significantly depending on who you talk to at Dallas City Hall. But as more people choose to tear down homes in the M Streets and build new, the lure of rental income compels many property owners to go ahead and put an apartment on top of that detached garage while they’re at it.

Proponents of urbanization and say that in order to generate the density that will create the kind of critical mass for truly walkable neighborhoods, garage apartments and their more innocuous relative the “granny flat” will become a necessity. Plus, with property values soaring and tax assessments climbing in step, more people are being priced out of the M Streets. Building and renting a back house is a great way to generate income, helping people afford their homes and providing affordable rentals, all in one step.

Sounds simple, right?

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midcentury renovationmidcentury renovationI’ve known Rebecca Nolen since our high school days at Ursuline Academy of Dallas. Even back then, her design aesthetic was refined—she had the best-looking bedroom of anyone I knew. She also offered me Welsh rarebit as a snack when I came over to study one afternoon, far more sophisticated than the Little Debbie Star Crunch Cosmic Snacks I was used to eating after school.

The subsequent years only improved her taste, as evidenced by the discerning midcentury renovation of the Lake Highlands home she and her husband Richard bought in 2005.

“We had visited a number of houses we loved over the years—the Eames house in Los Angeles and a Neutra house in Palm Springs, especially—and those gave us a good idea of how we want to live,” said Richard. “The Eames house looks almost like a child’s toy from the outside with its red and blue panels, but it’s filled with treasures from Charles and Ray’s travels around the world. They really lived there; it wasn’t a sterile monument to design. That’s what we’re going for.”

When Rebecca and Richard purchased “the ranchette” in 2005, it was dated and drab, but with potential: corner lot on a quarter acre, 1,341 square feet, three bedrooms, and a big kitchen and backyard.

“Honestly, we only looked at about three houses, and this was the first one,” said Rebecca. “It had a lot of problems—it was pretty much a dump, with torn up carpeting, ratty wallpaper, broken fiberglass shower enclosures, and an HVAC system that was falling apart. But it was filled with light and the kitchen was enormous. Something about it felt right. And it didn’t have a popcorn ceiling, which still ranks among my worst nightmares.”

The work they’ve done over the years is nothing short of spectacular. They took a boring, blah house and added major midcentury personality, elegant style, and thoughtful design.

“We have neighbors who get what we’re doing and raise the bar themselves—there are some serious midcentury modern remodels that are giving us great ideas,” Rebecca said. “Our next-door neighbors even went midcentury modern last summer with an outdoor update. They bought oversized aluminum house numbers, replaced their brass lantern with a giant globe pendant, and used a quirky chartreuse paint color for their trim.”

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