01 14 15-Preston Center Pavilion(email)_Part3-1

This is an artists’ rendering of what the proposed skybridge to connect Preston Center Pavillion to the 2-story concrete parking garage at the center of Preston Center west will look like from the garage interior. The garage is owned by the City of Dallas but has numerous parking rights deeded to the property owners surrounding it. It’s really not that complicated: when you sell a property, you can deed someone rights to use it, like an oil lease. It could be worse: I once looked at a ranch near Stephenville that had a small cemetery in the middle of it and people were sure deeded rights to visit their loved ones.

In the case of Preston Center, all 70-plus owners of the properties surrounding this garage have a right to park there, including, of course now, Crow Holdings. That’s the problem with getting anything done to the old structure: you must have all 70 plus peeps in agreement. GOOD LUCK! As Eric Nicholson explained in the Dallas Observer: (more…)

01.14.15-Preston Center Pavilion(email)_Part2-1

We have been enjoying Valentine’s Day too much it seems, with this beautiful day in Dallas. As promised here is the first of three exclusive renderings depicting the proposed skybridge at Preston Center Crow Holdings wants to connect a possible second story grocer with the top level of the Preston Center parking lot. Note this rendering includes a roof over the parking lot, which may or may not be in the plans.

As you can see, the skybridge will be wide enough for people, strollers, even a few cafe tables and chairs for folks who might want to grab a quick lunch at this (as yet nameless) grocer. It’s a very interesting and attractive bridge. There will be a rampway down to the parking for carts because the skybridge will be slightly highers than the second floor parking lot level. Crow Holdings says there will be no basket corrals in the lot, and no parking spaces will be lost. Carts may be corralled on the skybridge. You are looking at an elevator here to0 the first floor. I like the railing with a bit of a contemporary mode — you?

Preston Center SC

Photo courtesy of Dodd Communications


Friday I got a first peak at the skybridge Crow Holdings wants to build across Westchester, connecting the Preston Center Pavilion Building (Marshalls, Ross Dress for Less) with the two-story concrete parking lot owned by the City of Dallas with deeply rooted legal parking rights designated to the Preston Center parking association, all the various property owners surrounding the square lot in the heart of Preston Center, West.

Those exclusive photos are coming right up!

And you know what? From what I’ve seen, it is not all that bad! One of the classiest skybridges I have seen. And it doesn’t mean we still cannot have some kind of a major change on that parking lot. In fact, one of the biggest take-aways from my meeting with Crow Holdings Anna Graves was an acknowledgement that something needs to be improved on that parking garage site.

“There is no question there’s a higher and better use for that site,” she told me, “and even if we build a skybridge, you can still tear down the parking garage and build something else there.”

Skybridges are apparently a lot like those walkways the airlines use to get you from the airport to the plane: they don’t attach permanently to the structure. So if the parking garage became, say, a hotel, the skybridge could be removed and re-attached to the new structure. Or not.

My other take-away was that this skybridge will add a critical safety measure to Preston Center West. Was not too long ago that folks were talking about a skybridge over Northwest Highway at Preston, which still shaves years off your life if you cross it and survive. I have recently become familiar with the skybridge Texas Health built over Greenville Avenue, connecting a series of physicians office buildings with the hospital. The skybridge saves time and gas because you don’t have to move your car or risk your life crossing Greenville Avenue. (more…)


Mark Cuban PH props (7)

So as Eric Nicholson over at The Dallas Observer pointed out, Mark Cuban seems to have plans to build some commercial buildings in Preston Hollow. We are talking on his 10 ish acres at the north-west corner, behind Ebby’s Little White House. In June Cuban added another acre and a half to his holdings.

Eric says Cuban bought 8601 Jourdan Way, which I have not confirmed yet. (I’m sure he is correct.) The home did sell on June 15 for $2.900,000, after an asking price of $2,999,999. So the seller shaved off $99,000. The home was incredible as we told you when Dave Perry-Miller had it listed: 7703 square feet on 1.46 acres, main house of Austin stone, expansive, mint condition, large study, huge master with his and her’s dressing areas plus work-out room, separate guest house with bedroom suite and even a below ground, temperature-controlled wine cellar and dining room. (more…)

ImageI have a huge new crush, HUGE: Andres Duany, founding partner at Duaney Plater-Zyberk & Co, and widely regarded as the Godfather of the New Urbanism, a movement that seeks to end suburban sprawl and ignite a return to urban living. I met Andres in, ironically, downtown Atlanta at a national real estate convention and it was like meeting a real estate George Clooney, maybe better.

And… Andres has great taste in ties.

I have pined to meet this man. You’ve heard me talk about one of my favorite New Urban communities, Seaside in Florida, a 30 plus year old planned community now being replicated across the country, not to mention Highway 30A near Panama City: Andres fingerprints are all over it! Then there’s Watercolor, Rosemary Beach, and Alys Beach.  Here in Texas, Cinnamon Shore is a Seaside clone on the Texas Gulf coast. Andres evoked that hallowed real estate community several times in his presentation.

Sean Payton's place in Watercolor

Sean Payton’s place in Watercolor

Full disclosure: I tend to be skeptical of New Urbanism, because I (A) like my car and (B) believe we cannot just wipe out suburbia and herd the masses into mass density. And I really, really like Joel Kotkin.

Well, Andres calmed my fears. He told me that New Urbanism does not mean we are going to take a sledge hammer to suburbia and herd everyone into high density urban multi-fam units like ants. No, I came away with a whole new respect. It may have helped that we were in Atlanta, which sure made me appreciate Dallas all the more. Heck, I might even support tearing down a highway or two. Atlanta is humid, terrible congested and so dang spread out that even security at the airport uses those Segways. Took friends an hour and 45 minutes to drive 25 miles in from Dunwoody downtown. Over cocktails, I told Andres how I had walked the skybridge to PeachTree Mall from the Hilton and how dreadful it was — like walking in a tomb!

Here are rambling notes from his presentation — which filled the house:

The New Urbanism Congress was formed around 1990, a group of 2000 to 3000 people who meet yearly. This year was the 21st Congress. It’s a Protean organization… like the ocean it has a core and depth at the edge, the charter of the New Urbanism at the core. There are 27 principles. The New Urbanism arose out of the private sector, says Duany;  smart growth (which some call Big Brother-istic) arose out of the public sector. The best example is Seaside, Florida.

In 1980, Robert Davis wanted to make a place that reminded him of where he grew up as a child. He developed Seaside, a walkable town on the Gulf coast of Florida near Panama City. Davis’ grandfather left him 80 acres of land when he died. He wanted to create a different kind of living place, something more traditional and not dependent on cars. He enlisted the help of architects Andres Duany and his wife Elizabeth Plater- Zyberk, two large players in the New Urbanism movement. After the place was built, it increased in popularity as a resort town and gained attention for its groundbreaking planning and architecture. The basic premise is that you should have all your ordinary daily needs within walking distance so much so that a six year old could have the run of the place. Dogs don’t need leashes because there are no cars to get hit by. (The Seaside dog, says Andres, lived to age 18 without ever having been a leash.) You get to Seaside, you park your car and don’t touch it again until you leave. The community began as a vacation beach community and is so photographic, The Truman Show was filmed there. This walkable vision was implemented and embraced, says Andres, because Seaside was a resort: people coming there and living there were on vacation.

Great point: in everyday life we must drive to work, to the market and various chores. So Seaside worked because people were OFF THE CLOCK and there to enjoy the idyllic experience.

In fact, anti-sprawl-ist James Kunstler  says Seaside’s reputation has almost been taken too far, and the public has expected it to be a “coal miner’s town for the working class.”

An English professor at Hope College, who lived in Seaside for awhile as part of a program in which she could live in one of the houses to write while its “residents” were at their other home, said she did not feel comfortable living there—the kitchen was upstairs, the “corner grocery store” was too expensive to get real food, and she was starving for “real community” while there. It felt like an empty resort town to her.

If a resort is not Utopian, says Andres, it won’t succeed. Original resort towns were discovered for summering. Davis took the model of resort town and made it fill a Utopian need. Fast forward 33 years later: Seaside now has a public school and church and businesses. A natural evolution brought it to full-time community: the private sector for profit development was an enormous success, so much that people wanted to live there year round. And as I have mentioned, clones sprang up: WaterColor by the St. Joe Company, one the largest landholders in Florida, Rosemary Beach, and Alys Beach. Cinnamon Shore in Port Aransas is also closely patterned after the original Seaside..

New Urbanism started in the private sector and worked because it proved profitable.

The environmental movement in this country is becoming ever more powerful, says Andres,  draconian in its power but yet on the defensive constantly. The environmental movement has discovered urbanism. The claim is that density is the solution to our environmental problem.

The old way of living in a home surrounded by a lot with lots of lots on a street is part of the problem because to get to that lot,  you have to drive there.

So does that mean we just ditch the suburbs?

Back to Seaside. At Seaside, some houses were built on stilts for drainage, garages are in the back of the houses, the streets are brick and made for walking, and that private space is redefined by the houses being very close together.

Seaside, says Andres,  turned out to be ACCIDENTALLY environmental.

Urbanism tries a high tech solution, but we need to look to the past for low-tech, economical solutions that worked. With so many cities broke, we cannot come up with solutions that cost money. For example: the original green window insulator is thick curtains — that’s the old way.

The underlying revelation, says Andres, is that we are broke. With cities owing so much for pensions, infrastructure and repairs, funds to go green are not available.  The least broke city I ever worked, says Andres,  is Salt Lake City.

When it comes to the Tea Party, Andres says 10% have a strong case, a full 50% cannot stand the red tape — these are people who have a problem with bureaucracy.

40% are simply maniacs.

The New Urbanism is bringing green tech levels down to the original green. They are studying 1874: how did the Mormons with nothing built over 700,000 villages. The future focus is on low-tech environmentalism and Pink Codes, a reference to any code that reduced red tape.

That, and retrofitting suburbia.Image 1







Update 11:54 pm: I’m told the building was completely sold out to a developer who revamped it in 2005. No active foreclosures now, but like life anywhere, you can never say never.

This unit at the historic Santa Fe Terminal Building #2 , also known as “SoCo Urban Lofts” at 1122 Jackson #1006, is being billed as the most unique loft in downtown Dallas. You know, I think they have something! It’s a 3-story, 1173 square ft., open floor plan – loft! — with bedroom alcove, one knocked out bath, it’s own private rooftop terrace and a (condo) rooftop swimming pool on the 10th floor. In fact, it’s the only non-penthouse unit in the building that extends up to penthouse level. The top two floors create a box on top of the building that can be etched out and recognized on the Dallas skyline, even with binoculars. There you are at a party, having drinks at The Ritz: you point over to BofA Plaza and say, see that, that is my loft! Once inside, you have the exposed 90 year old brick, polished original wood floors and loft ladders as in any SoHo or Bowery loft.

Building #2 was known as the Garment Center, 10-story warehouses in light brown brick with open spaces and concrete columns housing offices and showrooms for manufacturing companies, chemical companies, and building supplies. A 2-story structure was added on the roof that once held the University Club, an exclusive private club for men. A skybridge once conveniently connected Santa Fe Building No.1 with the clubhouse. Radio station WFAA moved into and turned the former University Club space into a broadcast station in 1940.

But here’s the good news: this home comes renovated to the nines. The owner took it down to studs to gut for a personal home, then did not move in. So you’ve guessed it: you get higher-grade finish out than what Joe. Q. investor/flipper might put in. Check out this PC/Preston Hollow-worthy kitchen with stainless appliances, custom cabinetry, granite, and designer fixtures. The bath is spa-like, and the entire home boasts incredible acid-etched concrete floors where there is no wood. Young single or newlyweds, bingo, but I am also thinking a great empty nester urban retreat at a fraction of the price of many downtown condos, even the soon-to-be discounted The House. Hmmm… let’s look at what you get: 24 hour security, gated, attached parking garage. There are 202 units in this building, at least half are sold and no foreclosures, I’m told.  The new Omni is right next door. Seriously, folks, this would make a great urban second home and I should hold a contest to make you guess the dues but no, no one would ever get it: $422 a month. That’s what, $.36 a square foot? Did I do my math right?