6934 Hammond ext

6934 Hammond Ave. $869,000

Is Dallas becoming LA?

We have been harping on this for quite some time, but now the mainstream media seems to have taken a whiff of real estate smelling salts. First-time homebuyers (who don’t get lump sum down payment help from Mom and Dad) are out of luck finding affordable homes and will continue to be out of luck, maybe forever.


CNU’s 23rd Annual Congress in Dallas this week has been described as a gathering of city designers who’ve all “seen the same UFO” – they all seem to share this experience of being looked at like they’re crazy when they begin explaining their practice of city design. Yet, to me many of these ideas seem a lot like common sense. Maybe it’s the millennial in me. Nonetheless it’s inspiring to be surrounded by so many healthy, engaged people working to make our cities places that people love.


The always-inspiring Gail Thomas began yesterday’s Opening Plenary  with video snippets of over 10 years of the Dallas Institute for Humanity’s symposium “What Makes a City”. Some of the most inspiring answers, from thought-leaders around the world posed that What make a city is….

Architecture & poetry; The character of the place; Form and process are interconnected. Form should allow groups to happen; We have a deep yearning for a place at the heart of city to just be there and experience the life of the City; Places where we can go to share ideas. We need places where these exchanges can happen; A city nourishes love,  rediscovering what it means to be human.

I’m running with Gail’s “Dallas the City of Imagination.” In Dallas, if you can dream it you just might be able to do it. I’ve heard others make similar comments – in Dallas you’re one of a few, rather than one in a thousand as in NYC. It’s a CAN-DO business environment. (Maybe that’s the Texan cowboy in us?)

Robert Wilonsky then introduced two local Mayors, Betsy Price of Fort Worth and Laura Maczka of Richardson. They had very similar advice about what’s worked to engage their resident and business communities.

Above all, Mayor Price stressed the importance of “true listening” as an art of hearing both the good and bad and making sense of it all to save tome, energy, and money. Fort Worth has engaged young leaders in its Steer Ft Worth program. Hundreds of residents under 30 showed up to their first happy hour at Joe T Garcia’s. No one had ever bothered to ask them to be involved. And when staff held the first all-Spanish twitter town hall, they gained 43,000 followers!

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Robert Wilonsky, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, and Richardson Mayor Laura Maczka

The other big take-away is their plea for us to give our elected officials the tools they need to be brave. Send them info on best practices and help them understand the argument for what makes good planning, design, and neighborhoods.

Both Fort Worth and Richardson, are focused on becoming modern cities, with great amenities, while keeping the small-town feel of a great place. Amenities are a large component of neighborhood attractiveness – not just for young hipsters living car-free in the city. Even families in the suburbs want trails, parks, transit diversity, retail and social vortexes within walking distance.

Millennial Nation

In all, 63 million Millennials are working through society “like a pig in a python” as put by Todd Zimmerman of Zimmerman/Volk Associates. The next bulge in the market extends from 2003-2036, a demand for family housing as we marry and have children. The question though is whether we’ll be buying detached housing or want to remain in walkable urban environments without owning two cars. That will probably be determined by the quality of schools and availability of workforce-affordable homes. Even in the close-in suburbs of Dallas it’s hard to find a decent house for under $300,000 — a bit out-of-reach for a young school teacher and a city employee.

You’ve probably heard, Millennials are mostly single, highly social, early or unsettled in their careers, sensitive to greenwashing and oh-so green themselves, 17 percent of Millennials are foreign-born, and they’re not very into: NASCAR, golf, driving cars, hunting, or fishing (well, maybe those last two vary in Texas.)

Four different opinion polls between 2003 and 2013 each found that between 55-60 percent of Americans want to live in compact, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods. In 2014, 62 percent of Millennials want that lifestyle. Demand far outweighs supply.

With walkable neighborhoods come clashes about street design. Smart Growth America has mapped pedestrian fatalities between 2003 and 2012 for their Dangerous by Design 2014 interactive analysis.


The analysis makes a strong statement that when we design streets for maximum speeds only, we’re neglecting the safety of the pedestrian. When does human life become a top priority? Even more, what about quality of life?

A person’s percent chance of fatality if hit by a car increases dramatically with the speed of the car.


Four DFW Neighborhoods

How do all these ideas play-out in DFW? To demonstrate, CNU brought three planning teams of professionals to join local professionals for a close analysis of sites in Burleson, Garland, and Fort Worth.


Sites were chosen by the strength of their local political leadership, where plans are most likely to be implemented. The projects are a reflection of CNU’s desire to make a lasting impression on each city they visit for the annual congress. In Dallas, the program inspired the Local Host Committee to also begin an ongoing Local Legacy Partnership project in South Dallas with Frazier Revitalization Inc and Partners in Progress.

You can see the results of the Legacy Charettes at a reception in the Adolphus Lobby today 5pm-6pm, open to the public.

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Creative Gateway into Crowdus Parkfrom Elm St in Deep Ellum

If you haven’t yet stopped by the temporary Crowdus Park in Deep Ellum (video linked here), you’re in for a surprise. Architecture and design firms Collision and TBG created an oasis with the help of an army of volunteers. It’ll be up through Saturday with musicians playing throughout the evening and a movie showing today at sunset. WFAA covered last night’s events. The Crowdus Park Facebook page has all the details.

Mike Lydon, Tony & Julie of the Street Plans Collaborative after their workshop building these benches from pallets.

Mike Lydon, Tony Garcia & Julie Flynn of the Street Plans Collaborative after their workshop building these benches from pallets.




Light Farms

Or as urban as we are led to believe. Jed Kolko is the chief economist at Trulia. I’ve heard him speak a few times, even had drinks with him at NAREE (National Assn of Real estate Editors) events. I mentioned this to him last time we talked — that I really wondered if the case for millennials being the most urban generation ever was being overstated. For one, the only millennials who can truly afford to be “urbanites” in cities like New York City, Washington DC and San Francisco, are millennials whose parents are subsidizing their living in those uber expensive cities. And while there are plenty of those thanks to the explosion of wealth in this country while these kiddos were growing up, there are many kids who come out of school saddled with three-figure college debt. Many millennials had a tough time finding a job during the recession, when they graduated. That college debt — some of it not for tuition, but trips and study abroad programs — makes it harder to pay rent or get a mortgage, if they want to buy. In California, kids starting out on $30k annually did what my son did: share a house with others, because rents are too high on starter salaries. Homeowners will jam 6 to 10 kids in a house, even turning the living and dining rooms into bedrooms. Now my kids live in an urban California environment that they are itching to escape to have a larger yard and less congestion.

The Urban Land Institute also says that this generation of kiddos is marrying later and delaying child-bearing longer than previous generations. And I thought I took forever! I can confirm that women are waiting longer to have their children, I’ve read this in my husband’s OB/GYN literature. You don’t really get the yen to move to the burbs until the kiddos arrive, keep you up sleepless for a few years, and then when they hit school age you think, gee, we really need more space, a yard with a fence, and a way to make life easier. (more…)

Millennial Homebuyers

Millennial Homebuyers are missing from the market, but Austin and Dallas may be better values first-time homebuyers in this generation over San Antonio and Houston.

Where are all the first-time homebuyers? In their cozy rentals, that’s where!

With a market almost completely devoid of newby buyers, and the rental market being as competitive as it is (just ask my friend looking for a single-family home in East Dallas!), and prices going up across all segments, it’s just hard to find a place to put your leather couch and Le Creuset stock pot. Millennials hold a lot of potential when it comes to real estate purchases, but where can the find the best value? Is it San Antonio and Houston?


Best Neighborhoods for Millenials Niche Graphic

Being a Millennial, I think there’s a lot of truth in this listicle from Niche.com, offering insight in the top 25 cities where adults ages 25 – 34 want to live. Some of it is kind of cliche, including New York (Brooklyn, natch) scoring a place at No. 1 , but other spots are accurate and insightful.

Austin nabs the No. 2 spot and Dallas/Fort Worth comes in No. 8, with Houston trailing far behind at No. 21. Austin and Dallas are in good company among the top 10 cities for Millennials, with “world-class” cities such as Washington, D.C. (No. 3), Chicago (No. 4), San Francisco (No. 5), Boston (No. 6), Denver (No. 7), Minneapolis – St. Paul (No. 9), and San Diego (No. 10).

So, why did our little Texas towns make the list? According to the story by Forbes: