Morse Code “Good Morning”

A few weeks ago I wrote about the pitiful communication skills many HOAs and management companies use when communicating with residents.  Who knew I would get a second example so soon?

Imagine your Saturday tranquility shattered by jackhammers ripping through concrete minutes after sunrise at 7 a.m. Turns out that a building with ground-floor commercial space chose Saturday morning to allow a renovation to begin after the space recently changed hands.

Needless to say, residents were unhappy and loudly voiced their unhappiness over the din of the demolition.

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Grapevines are an effective, but famously inaccurate. form of communication

We’ve all heard (and likely employed) the old saying, “Better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”  The inference is that while you were going to do something anyway, once it’s done, the resulting hassles are less than having to deal with the before-during-after trio of carping.  But that strategy doesn’t play well in multi-family dwellings that often operate as a Peyton Place of wagging tongues.

Of course the other issue here is that resident-representatives on HOA boards are generally untrained in the ways of communication. Management companies can be equally untrained. All seemingly unable to operate on even the most basic “what would I like” litmus test.

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3308 Throckmorton Front

There’s a lot to love about townhomes, especially when they’re in a prime location like Cedar Springs. You get your own garage space, perfect for storing your car and bike and maybe even a scooter, as well as plenty of outdoor living areas. But there’s a sticking point for me that has long been a turnoff to townhomes and condos: homeowners associations.

After reading Jon Anderson’s many columns on the issues, I’ve decided that HOAs just aren’t for me. Unfortunately, that means most townhomes and condos are also not for me. However, there is one great property that is in a fantastic location — right near Cedar Springs and Douglas Avenue — that is completely HOA free and ready for your personal touches!

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1550 N State

Chicago’s 1550 N. State Parkway; $12,000 and a time machine.

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!

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