Most developers are hard-living, hard-drinking, stress-filled time bombs of roller-coaster energy, over-indulgence, extreme risk-taking, and compulsion.

Not Ari Rastegar.

Remember when Jon Anderson told you all about the Austin-based investor/developer of Rastegar Property Company – and his first new-build in Dallas, which has been 100% leased by the short-term stay company Sonder? (Condos are hard to get financing for, and because of the prevalence of construction defect litigation, many developers shy away from building condos: one reason why so many apartments are going up. But because of the lease with Sonder, Rastegar was able to get financing and de-risk the transaction: brilliant. Rastegar says he’ll lease his Uptown building to Sonder for 10 years, then convert the building to residential condominiums.)

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By Phil Crone
Executive Officer, Dallas Builders Association 

Craig Johnson had no idea who, if anyone, would turn up for Collin College’s first construction management course offerings. The newly hired instructor only had a few weeks to get the program up and running. Johnson expected around five students. He ended up with nearly 20.

These students enjoy a unique learning opportunity in the form of Collin College’s 340,000-square-foot technical campus, which recently broke ground in Allen. Once complete, the campus will include a 400-by-90-foot area exclusively dedicated to the construction trades.

Labs for plumbing, electrical, carpentry, and safety will be coupled with a 6,000-square-foot “build” lab, providing hands-on opportunities for students in all programs to work together on various projects. With a labor shortage hampering Dallas-Fort Worth’s construction industry to the tune of 25,000 to 35,000 missing workers, opportunities for graduates will be plentiful.

I recently met with these students while providing a guest lecture on the demands our fast-growing region is placing on the construction industry. I wish I was speaking to a stadium full of students who shared their interest. However, sharing an hour with them left me most excited about the quality of who is about to join our industry and optimistic that others will follow.

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Developer Tanya Ragan of Wildcat Management is hosting an event from noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 27 that will collect new or gently used handbags filled with toiletries and necessities for the “Pack the Purse” event.

It’s probably more than a coincidence that developer Tanya Ragan of Wildcat Management is both hard at work fixing up the Purse Building in downtown Dallas’ West End and hosting a “Pack the Purse” event from noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 27. While the Purse building will likely be packed full of occupants by its completion, Ragan is getting a chance to pack a different kind of purse in the meantime. 

The event, a partnership with the United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, is a way to get new and gently used handbags full of the kinds of everyday necessities women and children require to look and feel as successful as possible. For Pack the Purse, Ragan is asking the community to donate these handbags, as well as hygiene and grooming products that will fill the purses. The bags will then be donated to the Strong Start program, which focuses on providing the foundation for the lifelong love of learning and giving parents the tools they need so their children have the skills to enter kindergarten ready for a strong start in life. The event will be held at Full City Rooster Roasting Company in Dallas located at 1810 S. Akard St., #100 Dallas, TX 75215.

“It is so important for women to be a support system for each other and empower one another through acts of kindness and encouragement,” Ragan said. “It’s an honor to be able to use my time to support these women and help provide them with the essentials needed to successfully manage their day to day activities.” 

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Left: This outdated shower/tub unit was rarely used and presented a fall hazard. Right: Bruce Graf updated the bathroom with trendy tile and frameless glass, which is now wheelchair accessible. (Photo: Graf Developments)

Left: This outdated shower/tub unit was rarely used and presented a fall hazard. Right: Bruce Graf updated the bathroom with trendy tile and frameless glass, which is now wheelchair accessible. (Photo: Graf Developments)

“For most folks, their home is the biggest investment they own,” said Bruce Graf, a home remodeler with more than 30 years of experience in working with multiple generations of families.

Graf has helped families remodel a house to accommodate growth, and then returned years later to adapt their home to special health needs so they can continue aging-in-place within that same residence filled with lots of memories.

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BAD Aerial-small

Developer builds big project in Anywhere, USA.

If you’ve been following the Bishop Gateway project near the Bishop Arts District in North Oak Cliff, you know it’s been quite a contentious project. If you haven’t been following, here’s an overview along with an update. Either way, take note of the process they’re going through.

The first-pass draft of the project showed hideously sterile five-story blocks, just as the current zoning allows, covering three blocks in three phases.

Planned for both sides of Seventh St. from Zang to Madison and the northwest corner of Zang at Davis, the project would have replaced popular businesses such as Zoli’s Pizza, Local Oak, and Ten Bells. The neighborhood was in an uproar.

The properties had not yet been purchased — as with many large developments, the developers like to get the project details lined up before pulling the trigger on the purchase — so the plans were still somewhat negotiable.

And, luckily, the project is in a TIF (Tax Increment Finance District) and planning to apply for incentive funding. The process for TIF-elligible projects triggers a design review and requires TIF Board approval and City Council approval.

Alamo Manhattan hired former City Council rep Angela Hunt to assist, and held a number of community meetings to gain feedback. The one I attended in May was a bloodbath of criticism. But the developers seemed to have heard what was being said on multiple levels.

At the community meeting in September, all stakeholders seemed to at least accept the proposal as “less objectionable.” The project has been scaled back to two blocks, which takes out fewer beloved buildings and businesses, and the design and project focus seems to be a huge improvement. Some of the highlights:

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New-Transwestern-rendering-Preston-Rd

As predicted, we are all two-weeks older since the Planning Commission fobbed-off the vote on the proposed Transwestern development at the northeast corner of Preston Road and Northwest Highway. What, if any, votes changed in those two weeks is unknown, but I suspect few. Certainly attendees were not treated to German band Texas Lightening popping out of a cake as I’d hoped.

In those two weeks Transwestern held a meeting largely for angry single-family homeowners upset that the proposal had moved on without them paying attention and seemingly their neighborhood association not informing them. Thankfully I was busy elsewhere that evening. However, I invited Candy over after the fireworks to spill the beans while I plied her with wine.

Also in those two weeks the opposition became a bit more organized and vocal, certainly putting up more of a show at today’s Planning Commission meeting.

And a show it was… hours of tedium and speechifying. It was like church without the wine and crackers.

The same tired rubrics about density, traffic and parking ultimately found no purchase with the Commission. Especially after both the Transwestern-hired traffic engineering representative and the City traffic planning representative spoke. Those arguments were shot, gutted, stuffed and mounted on the rumpus room wall. (more…)

Chris-Craft-House

The Chris Craft House, designed by architect Vince Snyder, at 22 Vanguard Way in Urban Reserve, the brainchild of Dallas developer Diane Cheatham.

Dallas developer Diane Cheatham is a dedicated modernist and committed environmentalist.

As CEO of Urban Edge Developers, Ltd., Cheatham has brought those values to her work in multiple settings, from small infill condos and townhomes that won multiple design awards, to her masterpiece at Urban Reserve, a signature modern neighborhood that uses sustainable features creatively.

Diane Cheatham

Diane Cheatham

It’s a trend she’s happy to say is showing up more in North Texas.

“I see more developers and builders responding to consumer demand by building modern and green,” Cheatham said. “The style is much more accepted in Dallas now, and a growing segment of homebuyers are interested in green building and a more modern aesthetic. I’d like to see more developers thinking out of the box, providing more options at all price levels.”

Cheatham envisions and creates enclaves that are both eco-friendly and people-friendly. At Urban Reserve, for example, a reservoir that gets neighborhood run-off water is used to irrigate common spaces and individual lawns. Every house is required to have LEED-H certification. Her own house at 1 Vanguard Way, which she shares with her husband Chuck, has geothermal heating and cooling, energy-saving windows, and an 18,000-gallon cistern that collects rain runoff from the roof. Homeowners in the community are encouraged “not to do the standard Dallas fences,” and many of the homes feature indoor-outdoor living spaces that encourage interaction with neighbors and passers-by.

These efforts have not gone unnoticed. Urban Reserve has earned multiple recognition and awards, like the 2007 Dallas AIA Excellence in Sustainable Design, 2007 CLIDE Award (Celebrating Leadership in Development Excellence), and a 2009 award from Eco-Structure Magazine, where Urban Reserve was distinguished as one of seven innovative projects.

All this took rule-breaking by Cheatham as she customized street widths to slow traffic, created rain gardens and retention ponds, and made the basic infrastructure and layout of the development conducive to her overall vision.

“It’s taken longer than expected, but there are only six lots of the 50 left and work is proceeding on six homes with eight more in various stages of design,” she said. “The realization of Urban Reserve has been the hardest [of all my projects], and as it nears completion, it is also the most satisfying. Being out there on the cutting edge proved to be more complicated than I anticipated.”

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Mockingbird Station developer Ken Hughes has died. Hughes was instrumental in the birth of this mixed-use development that still remains a standard-bearer in Dallas. (Photo: Dallas Morning News)

Mockingbird Station developer Ken Hughes has died. Hughes was instrumental in the birth of this mixed-use development that still remains a standard-bearer in Dallas. (Photo: Dallas Morning News)

We were saddened to hear that the developer of the transit-oriented development by which North Texas judges all other rail-adjacent construction, Mockingbird Station, has passed.

Ken Hughes was the brains behind the mixed-use project that was anchored to the DART Rail station on Mockingbird Lane near US 75. It was a revolutionary concept when built in 2001, and still remains the standard-bearer for much of Dallas’ urban mixed use projects.

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