I recently returned from a trip to Chicago where I walked around burning off calories and looking at the high-rises of my childhood dreams. Chicago had a golden age of residential high- and mid-rise construction from the 1880s to the crash of 1929. Some were co-ops but most were apartments billed as mansions in the air. Units were enormous— 5,000-plus square feet was not unusual, many were multi-floor, and most had tremendous views of Lake Michigan. Their exteriors are an array of styles from Tudor to Beaux Arts to Deco.
Unfortunately, the interiors are generally not conducive to today’s living. Servants’ quarters, miniscule bathrooms and closets, and kitchens at opposite ends from the living area do not fit today’s lifestyles or open-plan living – and reconfiguring is difficult. My fantasy building is at 1550 N. State Parkway built in 1911. Each of its 11 8,000-square-foot floors was a single apartment. The living area is 100 linear feet with fireplaces at each end. It’s the Nebraska Furniture Mart of apartments and had a rent in the 1920s of $12,000 a year – four times the salary of the average citizen.
But enough Chicago trivia, let’s move forward a century to Dallas of the 1980s, the era of round edges and inappropriate use of mirrors. Inexplicably, of the nine residential high-rises built during the decade, the only building name that didn’t begin with “The” was Park Plaza. You may be thinking I’m forgetting Latour, but “La tour” is French for “The Tower.” Ha!
I have no idea why residential high-rise construction was on hiatus for almost a decade and a half – I didn’t live here then, so it’s not my fault! But come back it did, and when it did, it seemed a touch cautionary. Of the nine, three had under 50 units and only four had more than 100 units – just one with over 150.
Also noticeably missing from this era are the centralized utilities found in Dallas’ older high-rises. Billing was now based solely on individual unit usage with system maintenance also transferred from building to unit owner. HOA dues per square foot can be lower in these buildings, but not seemingly enough to make up for the utility shift.
Fear not, acres of popcorn ceilings remain!