Photo: Google Maps

1401 Elm as it looks today. Even though developers started some work on the skyscraper, redevelopment efforts ground to a halt last week and lenders are forcing a foreclosure auction. Photo: Google Maps

Last week, we told you about the mess happening at 1401 Elm, a landmark $240 million redevelopment deal in downtown Dallas facing forced foreclosure after a developer pulled out.

The city of Dallas had committed $50 million in economic incentives to further progress. But with of the departure of New York-based Olympic Property Partners from the project, early lenders, who shelled out $53.5 million in loans to start redevelopment efforts, are forcing a foreclosure sale Dec. 1.

Rendering courtesy of Olympic Property

City leaders say they’re still committed to the redevelopment of 1401 Elm. Rendering courtesy of Olympic Property

But city officials say they feel compelled to try and help the skyscraper. The deal is considered to be a major milestone in downtown Dallas’ forward progress, and they reiterated their support for the planned mixed-use redevelopment project, which was supposed to create a combination of commercial space and apartments.

“We are absolutely committed to the redevelopment of the 1401 building, but will need to see how the ownership situation shakes out before making a specific recommendation to the city council,” Karl Zavitkovsky, directory of the Office of Economic Development, told Steve Brown of the Dallas Morning News. “The good news from the city’s perspective is that almost all the environmental mitigation and interior demolition is completed. Redevelopment of 1401 Elm remains a high priority for the city.”

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Monte Anderson, right, with Wana Smith, an agent for Options Real Estate that focuses on Oak Cliff. Photo: Monte Anderson

Monte Anderson, right, with Wana Smith, an agent for Options Real Estate who focuses on Oak Cliff, champion the idea of small business ownership to rebuild communities. Photo: Monte Anderson

Monte Anderson thrives on shaking up standard ways of thinking about development in Dallas.

After he sold the historic Belmont Hotel five months ago, a bellwether renovation and restoration project that put his name on the map in 2005, he got right back to work doing what he does best.

“I took all the money from the hotel sale, and we invested it into more ugly properties to turn around, every penny of it,” he said.

Those “ugly properties” are in south Oak Cliff, around South Polk Street and South Beckley Avenue, and Anderson is ready to perform microsurgery.

“With microsurgery, you go into an area that has good bones, like Elmwood southwest of Bishop Arts, and you start by buying one property and fixing it up or building one small building and making it into a good retail or residential space,” he said.

He’s one of the original Dallas pioneers of urban “gentlefication,” moving into distressed neighborhoods and slowly redeveloping in an effort to reduce crime, create harmony, and build community.

This is radically different from gentrification, which usually forces out low-income residents with high-income folks seeking the next hip place. Gentlefication helps long-term residents take back their neighborhoods, stabilize property values, and build safe communities for their families.

It’s also different from what Dallas is doing with its Grow South plan, Anderson said.

“The mayor’s Grow South plan is nothing but superficial marketing—it has no sustainable wealth-building characteristics,” he said. “Find the one deal that has changed somebody’s life that lives in South Dallas. It’s typical Dallas thinking: the rich people in Dallas think it’s got to be big; it can’t be good unless it’s big. Yet all the special places we love are small.”

Anderson is a self-proclaimed “hard-core new urbanist,” spreading his message of gentlefication with his company Options Real Estate, which specializes in southern Dallas County.

“Owner-occupied neighborhoods is really the message I have for gentlefication,” he said. “The only way they can get in and own is to get in early…I’ve got so many of these kind of business success stories, everything from pet stores to call centers and yoga studios to insurance offices and restaurants, all kinds of people that own their own buildings now, not to mention the housing.”

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Photo: Google Maps

Photo: Google Maps

Downtown Dallas’ 1401 Elm was once touted as the tallest building west of the Mississippi River, with 52 stories and 1.5 million square feet of office space.

This Central Business District skyscraper, formerly the First National Bank, has stood depressingly vacant since 2010. Plywood boards and “keep out” signs mar the once-impressive edifice.

Rendering courtesy of Olympic Property

Here’s what the redevelopment of 1401 Elm was supposed to look like. Will a foreclosure sale make these plans go down the drain? Rendering courtesy of Olympic Property Partners

Plans were underway for an encompassing $240-million redevelopment until this week, when the New York-based developer leading the deal announced it was pulling out. Because of that, 1401 Elm is now slated for a foreclosure auction to meet the demands of lenders, who shelled out $53.5 million in loans to start redevelopment efforts.

To add a layer of drama for the landmark deal, another real estate investor based in Chicago is suing the current owners of 1401 Elm, claiming it was kept from buying the property through fraud.

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Photo: StreetLights

The Case Building will be the first residential highrise in Deep Ellum. Photo: StreetLights

People have been calling Deep Ellum home since the late 1800s, and the historic district in downtown Dallas is entering a new era with its first residential highrise.

The 17-story, 337-unit Case Building will be the largest new real estate project ever built in Deep Ellum, located near Hall and Main streets, just south of Baylor Medical Center. Dallas-based Westdale Properties and StreetLights Residential are teaming up to develop the property.

“Deep Ellum is known for its rich art and music scene. The ability for residents to walk or bike to local galleries, music venues, restaurants, and shops fits well with Streetlights’ vision of a neighborhood-friendly urban development,” said StreetLights CEO Doug Chesnut in a statement. “The population in this area continues to grow, and StreetLights is excited to provide a building inspired by the architecture and style of Deep Ellum for this expanding community.”

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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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Alamo Drafthouse is a likely tenant for the Lakewood Theater, but parking issues and rent price are sticking points. Photo: Mike Merrill

Alamo Drafthouse is a possible tenant for the historic Lakewood Theater in East Dallas, but parking issues and Alamo’s offered rent are proving problematic in negotiations. Photo: Mike Merrill

As we reported in January, the now-empty Lakewood Theater has an interested suitor, the Alamo Drafthouse, and negotiations are quite a ways along now.

Property co-owners Craig Kinney and Bill Willingham of Willingham-Rutledge talked to multiple restaurants and businesses that could fill the historic space in various incarnations, located at 1825 Abrams Pkwy. in East Dallas. It has stood empty since the last tenant’s lease ended at the end of January.

Things seemed most promising with Alamo Drafthouse, according to the Lakewood/East Dallas Advocate, but two issues are creating problems. And those issues could mean Lakewood Theater’s chances of staying a theater, and not getting broken up into multiple spaces, are at risk.

Built in 1938, Lakewood Theater is not protected by any official historic designation, and while the co-owners have verbalized their commitment to keeping the marquee intact, the interior is another story. If the Alamo Drafthouse doesn’t work out, “We have other options that may involve carving up the space. We just don’t know yet,” Kinney said back in November.  

But let’s get back to the current issues at hand.

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Photo courtesy A. Vandalay via Creative Commons

Photo courtesy A. Vandalay via Creative Commons

The lease for the current tenants of Lakewood Theater is over at the end of January, and it’s anybody’s guess what will happen to the beloved East Dallas landmark, but there are confirmed rumors of interest by Alamo Drafthouse.

As we reported last November with our story Lakewood Theater Makeover Concerns Preservationists, Neighbors, property co-owners Craig Kinney and Bill Willingham of Willingham-Rutledge have been talking to restaurants and businesses that could fill the space, located at 1825 Abrams Pkwy.

Two theater groups have expressed interest, and one of them is the Alamo Drafthouse, confirmed Kinney, who also co-owns surrounding properties in the southwest strip.

“We’ve talked to everybody,” Kinney told Dallas Morning News reporter Robert Wilonsky.  The situation remains, though, “Nobody’s committed. So I can’t tell you whether they’re interested or not.”

Wilonsky also talked to Alamo Drafthouse COO Bill DiGaetano, who wouldn’t confirm any plans on the record, but emphasized his company’s interest preserving in historic theaters.

“Alamo has a policy not to comment on real estate negotiations, whether real or fictional,” he told Wilonsky. “But we have a long history of preserving 35mm film and, as shown by our Ritz Theater in downtown Austin and the current restoration of the New Mission Theater in downtown San Francisco, we have a huge passion for preserving great classic movie houses. I personally love the Lakewood Theater and would love to see it stay a theater.”

DiGaetano also made a point of addressing what seems to be the biggest concern of neighbors and preservationists: the colorful tower. “If anything came to fruition, we wouldn’t touch the marquee or the tower.” Jump to read more!

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Photo courtesy Oak Cliff Blog

The clock is ticking for the old Mission Motel in West Dallas as Trammell Crow Residential begins work on a new development on the site and adjoining lots, which will include 300 rental units, as well as 14,000 square feet of retail space.

“We are tearing it down. We just finished asbestos abatement and will start demo soon,” said Matthew Enzler, Managing Director for Development at Trammell Crow Residential.

We reported on the developer’s purchase of the Mission Motel last July. Over the holidays, the developer tore down an old bank at Fort Worth Avenue and Yorktown Street. The Mission Motel and two other nearby properties will also be cleared soon, Juan’s Body & Frame and Nino’s Body Shop. Jump to read more.

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