I’ve written about new developments in the Oak Lawn and Preston Hollow areas for a few years. Many of you have read about the PD-15 antics with the same hoary relish you watch a reality show. But as Dallas grows, and development reaches into more neighborhoods, there are lessons to be learned once you cut through the caustic tomfoolery.

By-Right vs. Zoning Cases

There are two kinds of developments – by-right and those requiring a zoning case. In a by-right situation, there’s not a lot you can do, it’s as it says on the tin, by right. A building permit is filed and they’re off to the races.

Construction requiring a zoning case is where the action is at. Whether large or small, any variance to a property’s underlying zoning requires the approval of that exception. Those cases are filed at City Hall and are then publicized in the immediate neighborhood – typically within 500 feet of the edges of the property filing the case. Those cases are taken up by and require approval from the City Plan Commission and the City Council. Between all that is the community wooing.

And if you’re going to be wooed by developers, there are some things you should know.

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Good, clean design. Something Dallas sees little of.

A thought has been percolating in my head recently. Having seen more than a few development proposals while stumbling around town for CandysDirt.com, developers always show the same thing: The perfect intersection of mediocrity and profitability.  It’s almost always higher than neighbors want, takes up more space than neighbors want, and is a density increase neighbors don’t want.  And it’s all wrapped in what I’ll gently call a ho-hum exterior.

I get it, you’re presenting an economic wet dream to squeeze the most profit from the least work.

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If you forgot Dallas’ torrential weekend rains, Monday’s return certainly brought those memories … flooding back.

What’s up with that?  It’s not like rain is something new to Dallas.  Sure, depending on whether your beliefs are fact- or fiction-based, climate change may be making rains heavier, but we’ve always had deluge-type rain (when we’re not in drought).

So why does this city flood like it’s never seen a drop of water? Why do we have to repeat, “turn around, don’t drown” and mean it when the water is coming up to the running board of the SUV? There are many reasons, some just mother nature, some brought on by neglect and — shocker — our city’s indifference to infrastructure.

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Bosco 2

Milan, Italy’s award-winning Bosco Verticale homes. Magnificence not seen in Dallas architecture.

Shortly after the deadly March 4 Preston Place fire, I wrote about several options for redevelopment within current restrictions. To recap, Preston Place is within the Planned Development District 15 (PD-15) that is subject to its own development limitations, outside city zoning.

The PD-15 documents were most recently updated to reflect the added units for an unbuilt high-rise on the Preston Place plot in the 1970’s era. Today, it’s those additional 80 units that are available to any lot within PD-15 to increase density, so long as they do not exceed 52.4 “dwelling units” per acre.

After that column ran, one commenter said they’d heard the Preston Place owners were already discussing rebuilding. My answer was that sure, they may rebuild, but it won’t be brick-for-brick the same building. Opening that can of worms with 60 separate owners will result in change. “As long as we’re starting from scratch…” will be the opening of many conversations.

Also, several readers questioned what could happen if a developer went to the neighborhood and city to change the PD-15 documents for expanded growth…and was successful.

A lot.

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The Iconic Meadows Building

What do new owners GlenStar have planned for the iconic Meadows Building?

The past year has been full of firsts for me at 1500 Marilla. First there was the Planning Commission (who, as unpaid appointees, I wonder how the commissioners live) and then a full council session. Today I was last-minuted into attending a meeting of the Dallas Landmark Commission. Each new experience in the Dallas City Council chambers has had its own frustrations … and free wifi.

Today’s agenda tipped the scales at 420 pages … yes, 420 pages. If I was ever going to start a 4:20 habit, wading through this agenda might’ve been a catalyst.

Anyway, the lion’s share of the agenda is for small, relatively piddly things … lots and lots of piddly things. Paint colors on historic structures, window restoration techniques, fence construction, brick repair, landscaping … every piddly decision an owner needs approved because they own a protected structure. Adding to the agenda’s bulk were pictures, paint chips and drawings for every morsel of work needing approval. Don’t get me wrong, these are all fine and right things someone has to do, but to someone not part of it all, piddly.

Luckily for us all, those types of decisions and deliberations are/were done in a work session before the Landmark Commission hit the horseshoe … otherwise we’d all need a 4:20 the size of a Sequoia tree.

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Doug Chesnut-cropped

 

DFW Reimagined and CNU North Texas hosted their Fall Breakfast Seminar Wednesday, with an interview of Doug Chestnut, CEO and Founder of StreetLights Residential.

With their eight recent and current projects in Dallas, and many more nationwide, StreetLights Residential is on a roll. In Dallas, you’re probably familiar with their work. Recent and current projects include:

The Jordan on McKinney Ave at Pearl St, The McKenzie just off Knox St, The Case Building in Deep Ellum, The Taylor on Carlisle St in Uptown, Trinity Green on Singleton in West Dallas, The Union at Field and Cedar Springs, Residences next to Deep Ellum’s Knights of Pythias building, and another yet-unannounced residential project in Deep Ellum featuring artist living and artisan shops.

The Jordan

The Jordan

Doug confirmed that this demand wave they’re riding, for more urban residences, is a demographic trend that will not be changing anytime soon. Many Baby Boomers who lost a lot of equity in the financial downturn of 2008 decided to liquefy their home equity and change their living situation. That, plus the 2 million Millennials turning 22 years old every year for the next eight years, is a lot of demand. Many of these young professionals don’t have the income to buy a home, nor desire a lifestyle that requires driving. In essence, they’re looking for quality of life through an urban lifestyle with amenities close at hand.

StreetLights Residential has built its business on this principle — that a building and the neighborhood’s design creates lasting value and quality of life. Said Chestnut: “Endearing neighborhoods have activated streets, parks, and entertainment nearby. You go to bed exhausted and can’t wait to get up early and do it all over again. Entertainment doesn’t have to be Six Flags or million-dollar museums, it can be as simple as having a glass of wine on a patio.” Great cities flow.

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BarPolitics-napkin

By Amanda Popken
Special Contributor

It’s only the fifth installment of Bar Politics, so if you have no idea what this is, you’re not that out of the loop. You’ll definitely want to check out this amateur roadshow this month if you’re at all interested in housing, development, real estate, and the gentrification-storm we’re preparing for in North Oak Cliff.

Hosted by Josh Kumlar, the event is formatted similarly to the Late Night Show or the Daily Show. Political news jokes, a skit or two, and interviews with special guests. And music, of course.

Once a month they pick a topic, pick a bar, and start talking smack. Josh is a recent SMU grad, a theatre major. His friends help him with the show’s shenanigans. The interviewed guests are local celebrities, knowledgeable on the issue at hand. As Josh describes it: (more…)

Gabriel Barbier-Mueller

The Barbier-Mueller family, from L to R: Alexis Barbier-Mueller, Niña Barbier-Mueller Tollett, Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, Ann Barbier-Mueller, and Oliver Barbier-Mueller at the the Samurai Collection traveling exhibition in Quebec City. All photos: Gabriel Barbier-Mueller

Many diners at Saint Ann Restaurant & Bar and passers by admire the Virgin de Guadalupe monument standing outside, a tile-and-brick structure that murmurs the history of the area.

This Harwood Avenue location was Dallas’ first school for Hispanic children, the 1927 St. Ann’s school house. It was located in the heart of Little Mexico, in what is now the Harwood District of Uptown, the signature development of Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, Founder and CEO of Harwood International.

After buying the historic schoolhouse, Barbier-Mueller’s company brought in an art preservationist to refurbish the tile mural of Our Lady of Guadalupe. They kept the original brick school building and transformed the interior into a sophisticated-yet-comfortable eatery in 2010. The second level houses The Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection, an assemblage of samurai armor and related objects that is one of the largest and most complete in the world. Outside, the patio is one of the biggest and most lovely in the city.

This is just a tiny part of the Harwood empire, which spans the globe and has offices and developments in select parts of Dallas, Beverly Hills, Sunnyvale’s Gold Coast, Geneva, London’s West End, Paris, and Zurich’s Golden Triangle. But it speaks to Barbier-Mueller’s vision and European sensibilities when it comes to his work.

It’s not “out with the old, in with the new,” but rather a reimagining of space, with a focus on robust capital investment, energy conservation, leading-edge technology, green spaces, and designs that are built to stand the test of time.

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