Virgin Hotels dressing room

I wish Miami had a Virgin — making reservations there for NAREE (which starts tomorrow yeah!) was a little cray cray. But it looks like we rate even more than Miami, because Florida-based Virgin Hotels has decided to open the state’s first Virgin Hotel here in the Dallas’ Design District. The first Virgin Hotel is taking reservations in Chicago, and others are on the books for New York City, of course, and Nashville.

We had heard back in 2013 that the company, a hospitality brand that combines service, value, and a seamless hotel experience, is an offshoot of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, which brings us the same stuff on Virgin Airlines. The company was looking at downtown and Uptown. The Dallas Design District was a no-brainer. What started as an industrial, warehouse area that became home to one of the busiest design district in the country — the hot spot for wholesale sales to interior designers and exclusive furniture manufacturers — is now one of the hottest places to live in Dallas. There are more restaurants, apartments, and even some retail. Come six p.m. everyone is out walking their dogs. I still remember Jim Lake, Jr. telling me how he found bullets in the walls of a crummy warehouse he bought that was holding women brought here as sex slaves. To say it was a rough neighborhood is an understatement, but then, everything in Dallas seems to be getting rough.  (more…)

Andy Keye + Whitney Photography

Update, 5:02 p.m.: I am delighted to report that the New York Times was completely wrong!  The Alta Lofts were NOT the first residential development in the district. Jim Lake Companies helped rezone the district back in 2005 to allow residential use, and shortly after built Trinity Loft, which was up and almost fully leased by 2007 — while PegasusAblon was still wet behind the ears, 2 years before the development. You can see the case study on the Lofts here: Like I said, Jim Lake rules the DD. Thought this sounded weird, but then I am in an allergy/sinus/icky something fog today.

I covered the Design District for years at D Home, and it got me into trouble. Why? Because I was buying way too much for my home: art, furniture, gorgeous objects. It’s grittiness and wide warehouses fascinate me. But when it comes to furnishing or finish-out, the Design District spoiled me, and I still go down there when I need to shop for anything for my home.

But would I go down there to LIVE?

Maybe. According to the New York Times, there are more reasons now than finding home furnishings to go into the Dallas Design District. With the influx of seriously great restaurants and bars, the 30-something crowd is going south on Oak Lawn for both cocktails and a place to call home:

Five years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a cocktail-craving 30-something headed to a haute bar in Dallas’s design district, a once-industrial enclave centrally situated close to the Main Street district, near downtown. But now the design district is attracting new retailers, deep-pocketed developers and plenty of shoppers, thanks to a slew of buzz-worthy restaurants, chic stores and daring art galleries opening alongside brand-new apartments and lofts.

The article quoted Michael Ablon, whose real estate development firm, PegasusAblon, snapped up 42 of the warehouses, showrooms and galleries in 2007. Prices were not exactly cheap then, and the bust had not yet settled on Dallas. In 2009, he opened the area’s first main residential complex, and the article says one-bedroom lofts (at Alta 1900, 1400 Hi Line is under construction) now go for up to $1,500 a month. Who’d have thunk it?

“It’s always had a great ethos,” said Ablon. “We thought, let’s keep that authenticity and supplement it, not replace it,” Mr. Ablon said.

Of course, the REAL real estate expert down there is Jim Lake, whose father saw the vision of the DD years ago. Jim built The Trinity Lofts (and has another residential project in the works, stay tuned) and owns about 900,000 to a million square feet down there. I’ve been to Meddlesome Moth (1621 Oak Lawn Avenue), what the article referred as the DD’s version of the Cheers bar in Boston. It was packed. I love Oak (1628 Oak Lawn Avenue), run by chef Jason Maddy, formerly of the Mansion on Turtle Creek. I had lunch with the gals from SMINK and we ooo’d and ahhhed over Plan B’s upscale design spin including fixtures from arched floor lamps to modern chandeliers, and a large media screen against the back wall with an oak tree rustling in the wind. And wait ’till I tell you about some cool new million dollar listings down in the DD…