fort worthWe talk a lot about the downtown Dallas skyline and the amazing views you can get from high-rise life there, but in today’s look at available rentals, we’re trekking over to downtown Fort Worth, and the Neil P.

We’ve talked about the Neil P. before — our Eric Prokesh took a look at the building’s history when he wrote about a ninth-floor unit that was for sale. The historic building had it’s beginning as the Neil P. Anderson Cotton Exchange, designed and constructed by the leading Fort Worth architectural firm Sanguinet and Staats in 1921. (more…)

Lance Armstrong Lake Austin

We knew 2013 was a banner year for Dallas Realtors as our market pulled itself up by its bootstraps and posted post-recession growth that amazed even the most seasoned brokers. But according to research from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, the market posted year-over-year numbers that showed Texas flexing its economic muscles like never before.

Numbers are up across most demographics, with condo sales, luxury sales, and investment properties getting snatched up at record paces.

“The Texas real estate market showed strength in sales volume and price all year long and the fourth quarter was no exception,” said Texas Association of Realtors chairman Dan Hatfield. “We’ve now seen year-over-year increases in both sales volume and price every quarter for more than two years. This makes it clear – demand for Texas homes is strong and enduring.”

We agree, as the Texas tech industry continues to boom in Austin, pushing up prices and demand reminiscent of the Bay Area’s unfettered growth. High salaries and limited inventories — the statewide numbers show a precipitous drop to a 3.6-month supply of homes (6.5 is recommended for balance between supply and demand) — have resulted in huge price increases. But, as Candy pointed out, not all growth is good for everyone. As prices increase, housing affordability decreases, pushing out lower wage earners.

But Austin’s growth isn’t isolated, as every metropolitan area in Texas posted sales volume and price increases in the fourth quarter of 2013. According to the report, 60,998 single-family homes were sold in the state during the fourth quarter — 6.78 percent more than fourth quarter 2012. Median home prices increased 8.48 percent from fourth quarter 2012 to $172,600, and the average home price was a whopping $226,216 — up 8.88 percent from Q4 2012.

Real Estate Center economist Jim Gaines Ph.D. explained: “One thing that is notable about the price increases seen in the fourth quarter is that they are relatively consistent across the state. Those increases are being seen in markets of every size, not just in the largest Texas markets, so that indicates broad-based appreciation for Texas real estate.”

“Demand for Texas homes in 2014 should continue, but it’s possible that a shortage of inventory could inhibit sales volumes,” Gaines added. “The steady price increases we’ve seen recently should help alleviate that, enticing more sellers into the market, but buyers should continue to expect to compete for desirable properties.”

Interesting outlook for 2014. What do you think? Will the growth price-wise lure more sellers to the market?

downtown fort worth at sunset, texas

Trulia’s Chief Economist, Jed Kolko, isn’t necessarily infalliable, but he does have an interesting perspective more often than not. His views on the broader economy are often spot-on, though, which really puzzles me on his recent forecast for 2014 that says increases in home values will slow next year, and that many of the markets posting big increases in 2013 will grow stale.

But don’t write off North Texas entirely, as Fort Worth made Kolko’s list of places to watch for 2014. Why didn’t Dallas, Austin, Houston, or even San Antonio make the list, but Tulsa, Okla., does? Kolko explains (emphasis added):

Why are so many of the high-profile markets of 2013 missing from our list? We ruled out markets that were more than a little overvalued according to our latestBubble Watch, which eliminated most metros in Texas and coastal California. We also struck markets with a large foreclosure inventory (thanks for the data, RealtyTrac), like most of Florida. Our 10 markets to watch, therefore, should have strong activity in 2014 with few headwinds.

Interesting… I don’t know if many sellers in Dallas would consider the market overvalued, but considering what’s for sale and how brisk the market is moving, I’d say the increases in overall value would be more of a correction from being previously undervalued.

Still, Kolko had a list of trends to watch that rings true with what we’ve been saying for the past few months. Chief among them is that buying a house will become more and more unaffordable for Americans. Kolko also prognosticated that the home-buying process would become “less frenzied,” that 2013 will be the year of the repeat homebuyer, and how much prices slow will be more important than when they slow and where. Finally, Kolko says that renters will turn more to urban apartments than any other option — good news for the people who’ve constructed all those swanky buildings in Uptown and converted buildings in the downtown area.

Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments!

 

FW FireworksThe Fourth of July came early to downtown Fort Worth. June 1 The Dream Vision Co. put on what may be one of the biggest fireworks shows of the century near the convention center, shooting from the heart of the Fort Worth Water Gardens. We were at The Omni Residences and had spectacular front row seats. This was to celebrate the soon-to-be 80,000-square-foot studio and office facility of Dream Vision,  relocating its 30-employee strong headquarters here from Orlando.

The Florida company, whose roster includes former Walt Disney Co. executives, says it will also unveil plans to develop family-oriented entertainment, including films, amusement parks and resorts, and music. All this right in and around Cow Town!

Head honcho, Rick Silanskas, Dream Vision’s CEO and founder, says “the company will return to a clear picture of family entertainment” with inspirational and “hope-based” themes.

Does this mean fewer more sicko, blood and guts-laden movies at the cinema? One can only hope.

Thus far, Dream Vision has kept a mighty low profile in Fort Worth, but that will be short-lived. Silanskas revealed the company has developed a proprietary animation technique that he calls “the next level” of computer-generated imagery, or CGI. And that has brought out the investors, this time right from Fort Worth. You may recall that one of the principal investors in Glenn Close’s “The Secret Life of Alpert Nobbs” also came from Fort Worth, Crescent Real Estate Equities CEO John Goff and his darling wife, Cami.Omni FW exterior

Speaking of fireworks, sales of high rise luxury condos at the Omni are also heating up, with all the spacious penthouse units on floors 29 through 33 now snapped up.  The units have state-of-the-art kitchens, luxurious bathrooms, spacious balconies and spectacular views from expansive windows. Homeowners enjoy all the amenities of the adjacent Omni Fort Worth Hotel–including 4 restaurants, the Mokara Spa, 24-hour room service, spacious parking, and an on-site business center. This 3300 square foot plus unit on the 32nd floor has two bedrooms, and three and a half baths for a selling price of $1,750,000. Listing agents, Allison Hayden & Margot Bentsen, Allie Beth Allman & Associates.Omni FW residences LR Omni FW residences kit Omni FW residences master bath Omni Residence FW master bath Omni Residences FW pool

 

Fort Worth Sundance SquareMeet Russ Sikes. The Plano resident –yes, Plano! — is a founding member of the North Texas chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism, or CNU, which advocates principles of good “place-making” as a key to improving our quality of life. Good “place-making” makes for a better environment. Actually, over drinks Russ told me he and his wife used to live off Greenville Avenue in Dallas. He moved to Plano like so many do, for reasonable housing and decent schools.

Which is why I really like Russ: he’s real. Never mind the fact that a couple hours with the Harvard-MBA, who is VP at Regal Research and Manufacturing Co. in Plano, flashed me back to the richness of social discourse in Harvard Yard. Russ was refreshingly not one of those “new urbanists” who wants us all to dump our cars in a landfill and scrunch into the city, live on top of 1500 others like cockroaches in two rooms. “New Urbanist” sometimes has made me think of the post-war scene in Dr. Zhivago, when Yuri returns to Moscow.  Through Russ and Andres Duany I am learning the the Congress for the New Urbanism wants to make our lives more WORKABLE, not necessarily all WALKABLE. Good neighborhoods require planning to create complete, compact, efficient and connected spaces, a variety of housing types, and integrate other building uses. The traditional town pattern was created by humans centuries before the automobile; cars, God love them, have changed a lot of the natural place-making.

When I told Russ that though I love our fair city, I just don’t think downtown Dallas is very walkable (especially in heels!), but downtown Fort Worth IS, he explained why. Herewith is Russ Sikes’ first great guest post:

A Tale of Two Cities

One vast metropolitan region anchored by two downtowns is certain to provoke constant comparison between them.

How often have you heard, “Downtown Fort Worth is improving, but I ADORE downtown Dallas!”  Never? Me neither.

Considering how thoroughly subjective aesthetic preferences are, this is interesting in itself, for it suggests an underlying consensus in our preferences concerning “place”.

What those shared preferences are, and why they exist, is central to understanding how we can make all of our urban places more appealing.

Several principles underpin this consistent response.Fort Worth bike trail

 SpatialDefinition

We humans are hard-wired to feel most comfortable in places with identifiable centers and edges.  Throughout all of human history prior to the recent rise of mechanized transport, centers have offered safety and security, while edges presented danger and uncertainty.   Be it a neighborhood, town center, complete village, or simply a distinct district, our inclination is to seek orientation by locating the centermost spot in any environment, and to look outward for its boundaries.  Identifiable centers and edges create psychological comfort.  The compact size, palpable center and tight contours of downtown Fort Worth create a tighter identity of place than Dallas’ diffused, distended collection of downtown places.

Visibility, Access and Egressdowntown fort worth at sunset, texas

Humans are also above all visual creatures.  We are most comfortable where we can actually see our surroundings, and routes of approach and escape.  (Who wants to venture down dark, enclosed alleys?)

Downtown Dallas is comprised of many buildings that are much taller than those of its smaller neighbor.  For all their virtues of impressive scale, skyscrapers tend to block light, or, in some rare cases, reflect it. They darken the streets below, as they form wind canyons that make Dallas colder and draftier than it would be with shorter buildings.  Cold and drafty versus warm and light explains the difference in feel, and one is clearly more appealing than the other.

This dimensional contrast extends horizontally as well.  Downtown Dallas tends to have very long blocks, especially along its east-west axis.  Its “superblocks” emphasize the canyon-like quality of the street.  In contrast, the short blocks and frequent intersections of downtown Fort Worth create a visual porosity that bathes the city in light, enabling people to see multiple pathways nearby.

 HumanScale and OrientationFort Worth court house

Openable windows suggest human activity and control.  Brick streets slow cars, calming traffic, and embrace us with warm color.  Frequent Intersections activate the street by providing corners, visibility, porosity, options, actively embracing pedestrians and thwarting the speed of vehicles.  In short, places scaled to our own physical size and approach are much more appealing than those that clearly aren’t.

The material composition of human places matters too.  Bricks, stone and other materials of natural color are warm and accommodating to humans.  Cool tinted glass, over-sized blocks of concrete or gray rock, and unnatural colors are less inviting.

Dallas has grander scale, bigger projects, a longer list of attractions.  But viewing the two downtowns through these lenses explains the uniformity of people’s emotional responses to each.  And it all adds up to a cohesive, welcoming, human Place in Fort Worth, versus a distended, diffused collection of adjacent spaces, colder in comfort, color and accommodation in Dallas.

Fort Worth Sundance SquareMeet Russ Sikes. The Plano resident –yes, Plano! — is a founding member of the North Texas chapter of the Congress for the New Urbanism, or CNU, which advocates principles of good “place-making” as a key to improving our quality of life. Good “place-making” makes for a better environment. Actually, over drinks Russ told me he and his wife used to live off Greenville Avenue in Dallas. He moved to Plano like so many do, for reasonable housing and decent schools.

Which is why I really like Russ: he’s real. Never mind the fact that a couple hours with the Harvard-MBA, who is VP at Regal Research and Manufacturing Co. in Plano, flashed me back to the richness of social discourse in Harvard Yard. Russ was refreshingly not one of those “new urbanists” who wants us all to dump our cars in a landfill and scrunch into the city, live on top of 1500 others like cockroaches in two rooms. “New Urbanist” sometimes has made me think of the post-war scene in Dr. Zhivago, when Yuri returns to Moscow.  Through Russ and Andres Duany I am learning the the Congress for the New Urbanism wants to make our lives more WORKABLE, not necessarily all WALKABLE. Good neighborhoods require planning to create complete, compact, efficient and connected spaces, a variety of housing types, and integrate other building uses. The traditional town pattern was created by humans centuries before the automobile; cars, God love them, have changed a lot of the natural place-making.

When I told Russ that though I love our fair city, I just don’t think downtown Dallas is very walkable (especially in heels!), but downtown Fort Worth IS, he explained why. Herewith is Russ Sikes’ first great guest post:

A Tale of Two Cities

One vast metropolitan region anchored by two downtowns is certain to provoke constant comparison between them.

How often have you heard, “Downtown Fort Worth is improving, but I ADORE downtown Dallas!”  Never? Me neither.

Considering how thoroughly subjective aesthetic preferences are, this is interesting in itself, for it suggests an underlying consensus in our preferences concerning “place”.

What those shared preferences are, and why they exist, is central to understanding how we can make all of our urban places more appealing.

Several principles underpin this consistent response.Fort Worth bike trail

 SpatialDefinition

We humans are hard-wired to feel most comfortable in places with identifiable centers and edges.  Throughout all of human history prior to the recent rise of mechanized transport, centers have offered safety and security, while edges presented danger and uncertainty.   Be it a neighborhood, town center, complete village, or simply a distinct district, our inclination is to seek orientation by locating the centermost spot in any environment, and to look outward for its boundaries.  Identifiable centers and edges create psychological comfort.  The compact size, palpable center and tight contours of downtown Fort Worth create a tighter identity of place than Dallas’ diffused, distended collection of downtown places.

Visibility, Access and Egressdowntown fort worth at sunset, texas

Humans are also above all visual creatures.  We are most comfortable where we can actually see our surroundings, and routes of approach and escape.  (Who wants to venture down dark, enclosed alleys?)

Downtown Dallas is comprised of many buildings that are much taller than those of its smaller neighbor.  For all their virtues of impressive scale, skyscrapers tend to block light, or, in some rare cases, reflect it. They darken the streets below, as they form wind canyons that make Dallas colder and draftier than it would be with shorter buildings.  Cold and drafty versus warm and light explains the difference in feel, and one is clearly more appealing than the other.

This dimensional contrast extends horizontally as well.  Downtown Dallas tends to have very long blocks, especially along its east-west axis.  Its “superblocks” emphasize the canyon-like quality of the street.  In contrast, the short blocks and frequent intersections of downtown Fort Worth create a visual porosity that bathes the city in light, enabling people to see multiple pathways nearby.

 HumanScale and OrientationFort Worth court house

Openable windows suggest human activity and control.  Brick streets slow cars, calming traffic, and embrace us with warm color.  Frequent Intersections activate the street by providing corners, visibility, porosity, options, actively embracing pedestrians and thwarting the speed of vehicles.  In short, places scaled to our own physical size and approach are much more appealing than those that clearly aren’t.

The material composition of human places matters too.  Bricks, stone and other materials of natural color are warm and accommodating to humans.  Cool tinted glass, over-sized blocks of concrete or gray rock, and unnatural colors are less inviting.

Dallas has grander scale, bigger projects, a longer list of attractions.  But viewing the two downtowns through these lenses explains the uniformity of people’s emotional responses to each.  And it all adds up to a cohesive, welcoming, human Place in Fort Worth, versus a distended, diffused collection of adjacent spaces, colder in comfort, color and accommodation in Dallas.

Houston Street View

I love a good loft, don’t you? I do get a little tired of everything being exposed and stained  concrete floors, but sometimes I see one and I just fall in love. This loft condo inside Fort Worth’s Houston Street Lofts at 910 Houston St. is a great property with a little extra.

Houston Street Living

Like most lofts, this one is a one-bedroom, one-bath unit. It’s spacious, though, with 1,067 square feet. This is a 107-year-old building, too, and Unit 303 benefits from having the city built around it. There’s a lovely park you can seen from the gorgeous arched windows, and the exposed brick is just enough detail to give this condo some texture.

Houston Street Kitchen

The kitchen features stainless steel appliances with maple cabinets and granite counters. It hugs a wall opposite the main living area, and while there’s very little prep space, a well-placed island could fix that problem. And priced at $254,000, you’ll have a little extra in your budget to make that happen.

Houston Street Bed

The bedroom is divided off in to a master suite area, which is perfect to give you a little privacy from the rest of the unit. As with the rest of the condo, there are brand new bamboo floors inside the suite. It’s a great touch that keeps this unit from feeling sterile.

Houston Street Entry

This unit is perfect for anyone who works downtown in Fort Worth or in the suburbs and wants to live in a fantastic historical building. What do you think?

Built in 1931, the Texas and Pacific building has tons of ironwork and charm, which made it a perfect candidate for redevelopment.

I love redeveloped historic properties, and it turns out Curbed’s Chris Berger and I share that passion. He’s covered some really interesting buildings, including a jail-turned-luxury-apartment-building! But one of the more recent focuses of his Past Lives column is the Texas and Pacific Lofts in Fort Worth, which is pretty incredible in its own right.

This stunner, which was originally constructed in 1931 and redeveloped by Wood Partners in 2006, was — gasp! — wrecking ball fodder at one time! It was saved, obviously, and now has a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

If you want to find you’re own spot in this lovely building, which has its own tavern and is super close to commuter rail, there are a few for sale, including this penthouse-level loft for just $158,900.