I’ve never used the same general contractor twice. That says something right there. So every time I do a renovation, I have to start from scratch. The usual reason I don’t repeat contractors comes down to communication. I say things that don’t happen. They do things without asking that aren’t on the blueprints. They ignore installation instructions so an item won’t install properly (so I get the right part and do it myself over the weekend only to be met with wide-eyed stares). They try to install a shower drain a foot off the ground (literally) because they don’t have the right drain – which I source and have FedEx-ed. They cut an active water line that floods the place and send me a Jimmy John’s sandwich as a “sorry.” And once they just ghosted for a month and I had to sue to recoup my deposit.
Those who read this column know that clarity isn’t typically one of my faults nor is suffering fools.
So given my track record, how do I find a contractor?
The Butler Brothers Building got green with PACE help. (Courtesy Photo)
Recently, the New York Times wrote about the rapid growth of the green financing initiative called PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) and the infusion of cash available to lend. Many NYT stories are national or international in focus, so some digging was required to discover what Texas and Dallas were doing with the program.
Created in 2008, PACE enables a type of financing for new and existing commercial and multi-family buildings whereby owners can update their energy efficiency standards – e.g. water, electricity, or natural gas. This isn’t a bank, but rather a program that can be used by banks (or anyone with money to lend) and property owners. States and municipalities have independent nonprofit PACE operations that act as clearinghouses between the parties and administer the outcomes (the bank isn’t going to check an electric bill).
What makes this different from straight funding are the low interest rates (perhaps half the prevailing rates) and the longevity of the loans – up to 30 years at a fixed interest rate (Texas says it averages 10-20 years). But PACE isn’t typically the primary lienholder. They only support up to 20 percent of a project’s costs. Repayments are lumped in with other bills like property taxes – and because of the way they’re structured, when an owner sells, the obligation is transferred to the new owner. This is particularly interesting for energy efficiency.
“And that’s my fear. A city that is more lenient than the neighborhood, resulting in even more being built. Many think of the towers as being an aberration in the neighborhood. They’re not — they’re a harbinger.”
I wrote those words in December 2017 after having resigned from the first PD-15 task force. The quote was near the end of two columns on what I thought would be the best solution for PD-15. With the issue unanimously passing Dallas City Council last week, let’s revisit those columns.
Residential Proximity Slope
The first part outlined the rationale of my thinking. Rereading it, it still holds water. I said the rest of the Pink Wall outside PD-15 was unlikely to redevelop due to ancient deed restrictions and the height limitations brought about by the Residential Proximity Slope (RPS).
The deed restrictions are particularly tricky.
Pink Wall Neighborhood – Preston Road on left, Northwest Highway on bottom
Dallas City Council chambers were not as packed as expected on Sept. 11, 2019, as PD-15 came up on the agenda.
- Dallas City Council unanimously passed city staff’s plan for PD-15, which compromised on height, topping out at 240 feet.
- Some small changes were made to the plan.
The general wisdom is that any city council vote requiring a supermajority due to opposition will be a nail-biter. And while certainly many a nail was chewed to the quick, it was all for naught. After blissfully little speech-a-fying on both sides, Dallas City Council voted unanimously to pass city staff’s sorta plan for 240-foot heights on Northwest Highway – instead of the full cherry-on-top 310-foot heights Plan Commission had passed one vote shy of unanimously.
Will this result in affordable housing? Unlikely. And that’s a pity.
Councilmember Jennifer Gates listed a slew of minor tinkers to the staff recommendation that I’ll have to get to later (I can’t write as fast as she can rattle off). But generally, it’s 240-feet across Northwest Highway and 96-feet behind. Assuming a 10-foot ceiling height, that’s essentially 21-stories and eight-stories.
While some in the neighborhood might say it’s too much, I will say it’s a heck of a lot less than was proposed decades ago. And it’s a bit sad to live in a future that’s less bold than yesterday.
Boll and McKinney
Let’s begin big. The Oak Lawn Committee saw four projects last night. The one above is a nice residential high-rise at the corner of Boll St. and McKinney Ave. We also saw a proposal for a 13-story retirement home around the corner from Al Biernat’s, as well as the more mundane signage variance in Victory Park and the reopening a drive-through that’s been on Cedar Springs for decades but whose permit expired.
Mixed-Use With Parking Underground
So you’re thinking … where’s Boll Street? It’s a couple of blocks up from Whole Foods, where Jake’s Burgers is (soon to be “was”). There are many aspects of the building that I like and all of them are below the fourth floor (handy picture, eh?).
One of four NOT Chihuly chandeliers for sale
Once you’ve checked out the Elite Auctions preview of 11322 E. Ricks Circle on Sept. 14, join me from 5 to 7 p.m. at The Claridge (3510 Turtle Creek Blvd., Units 18 A and B) for your chance to tour my Penthouse Plunge before demolition as I revive and return two Turtle Creek penthouses to their glory, and one to the market.
Renovate: Reuse and Recycle
Every renovation has items from the existing home that no longer work with the new design. For my Athena renovation, I donated appliances, built-in cabinetry, lighting, doors and frames plus bathroom fixtures. The Claridge penthouses are no different. In and amongst the wine and nibbles, you’ll see what doesn’t fit with my plans and so is being donated, bartered, and frankly, for sale to anyone interested.
Respectful renovation isn’t the HGTV spectacle of sledgehammer-wielding destruction. It’s about taking a few minutes and finding a new home for eminently usable items that just aren’t “you.”
For example, kitchen and bathroom cabinets would be welcomed by housing charities. Ditto doors, windows, faucets, etc. You’re doing good and getting a tax write-off.
So far, in the “for sale” bin are four NOT-Chihuly chandeliers – one in each entry and two in the office (and my future bedroom). The clear/white one seen above is in the B-unit entry.
Back in June when the results of the PD-15 traffic study were presented, Winstead attorney Tommy Mann noted that if the neighborhood wanted Tulane Blvd. opened to Northwest Highway, they needed to seize “lightning in a bottle.”
Mann represents Preston Place owners, which paid for the traffic study.
What Mann was saying was that with all the focus on rewriting the antiquated PD, there would be no better time to get the right people in the room to figure this out. Those people finally got into a room last Thursday led by Preston Hollow South Neighborhood Association city liaison Claire Stanard.
The meeting included council member Jennifer Gates, Michael Morris of North Texas Council of Governments (NTCOG), Mo Bur of TxDOT and two of his colleagues, plus David Nevarez, senior traffic engineer for the City of Dallas.
Stanard’s overarching point was that given that the parcels within PD-15 would likely be developed by multiple developers, there needed to be a master plan for how traffic would function as a whole. Otherwise, the developers might not come together for the heavy lifting of opening Tulane Blvd. to flush traffic directly on/off Northwest Highway instead of circuitous routes through the neighborhood.
It’s an idea I floated a year ago and have continuously supported. Stanard took the “lightening in a bottle” and ran with it.
Armed with scant facts and heavy hyperbole, hired hand Brett Shipp held a “press conference” next to Preston Tower Wednesday morning to bemoan the PD-15 zoning case that will finally land in the hands of the Dallas City Council (for better or worse) on September 11.
Around 50 to 60 people attended. As Robert Wilonsky dubbed them, “the party of no,” consisted of the same handful of people including Bill Kritzer, Carla Percival-Young, and Steve Dawson — all of whom you will see featured in any other press coverage. But not all were there to protest development. I stood with a dozen who supported the city’s recommendations.
Those against the restructuring of PD-15, which includes much of the neighborhoods behind the Pink Wall at Preston Road and Northwest Highway, also continued their upwards march on how opposed the area is to the city’s plan. We’ve seen 60 percent, then 70, now we’re up to 80 percent opposition. The funny thing is, their numbers aren’t swelling. With that much opposition, “the party of no” this morning would have swelled to hundreds, but it hasn’t.
And of course, this press conference was choreographed …