The Katy at Victory Park facing down the opening edge of the Katy Trail

From the American Airlines Center and before even turning the corner and passing over the Tollway, the Katy Trail is lined with new apartment buildings towering over it.  From Victory Place, Camden Victory Park, The Alexan, and the latest — Magnolia Station and The Katy at Victory Park — walking at this end of the trail is something less than peaceful. Bleu Ciel will almost complete the curtain.  I’m pretty sure I can hold my breath long enough to see Little Mexico Village and the Magnolia condos fall to development to completely encase this end of the trail.

Of course these apartments have the manufactured hipster vibe residents have self-deluded themselves into thinking they possess.  Magnolia Station talks about apartments that evoke a “Modern Spirit” or “Vintage Soul” while The Katy at Victory Park harkens for residents who “live with intention,” whose “best friend” is their pet, and who want to “live inspired on the trail.”

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Hillwood’s 3001 Turtle Creek

In April, Hillwood presented their conceptual renderings to the Oak Lawn Committee (OLC) for a 16-story office building on the empty corner of Cedar Springs and Turtle Creek.  You know the lot … the one you’ve been wondering why nothing had been built on it for over 30 years. Nods and smiles turned to WTF guffaws when out popped the desire for a helipad on the roof.  Ross Perot Jr.’s LA buddies all had one, so why shouldn’t he? Then days later there was an announcement about Perot bringing Dallas to the test-market table for Uber’s Elevate program for flying taxis.  Regardless of whether these two events were connected by more than the hours that separated them, Hillwood has dropped the helipad from the designs they’re hoping to present at the Sept. 7 City Plan Commission meeting.

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Hillwood's proposed 3001 Turtle Creek project

Hillwood’s proposed 3001 Turtle Creek project

Tuesday night’s Oak Lawn Committee (OLC) meeting might not have had armed police in attendance, but there were some interesting goings on.  The two worth chatting about were Hillwood’s evolving plans for 3001 Turtle Creek (corner of Turtle Creek and Cedar Springs) and a proposed Starbucks at Oak Lawn and Congress (southeast-ish corner). I call 3001 Turtle Creek “evolving” because when asked when they wanted to break ground, the reply was, “when we get a tenant.”

But, since I know my readers, let’s start with a soupçon of hypocrisy … Starbucks … and end with a humorously gutsy ask … from Hillwood.

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Drees Custom Homes nabbed Builder of Year honors

Drees Custom Homes nabbed Builder of Year honors

I have to thank the Dallas Builders Association (DBA) for a very good “last meal” before a business trip to Orlando last week.  With 63 categories, it certainly wasn’t a small, small world that packed the Westin Galleria.  This year’s festivities were kept on track by former Good Morning Texas host Amy Vanderoef who did an enviable job of moving the crowd through its paces.

MC Amy Vanderoef amused by an appreciative audience

Emcee Amy Vanderoef amused by an appreciative audience

It was also a different kind of awards from our usual DBA coverage.  The ARC awards in the summer honor single-family homes and renovations.  The McSAM awards are for developers who build communities and their associated services.

Here are a smattering of the winners:

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John Backes and Candy Evans at a January RealTech event in Deep Ellum. Photo: Candy Evans

John Backes and Candy Evans at a January RealTech event in Deep Ellum. Photo: Candy Evans

Tuesday night, 200 people gathered at RealTech Dallas for a big announcement for Dallas real estate professionals.

John Backes, a young real estate entrepreneur and innovator, is launching Texas’ only real estate technology accelerator this fall. The MOTIVE Accelerator Program will fund selected commercial real estate (CRE) technology start-ups, as well as provide mentoring through a program oriented around customer and product development. The program is accepting applications for its first class to launch this fall.

“Dallas is the best place in the world to innovate at the intersection of real estate and technology,” said Backes, MOTIVE Partners President (we will be profiling him here on CandysDirt tomorrow, so be sure to check back!). “Two of the top five real estate CRMs are based in Dallas. RealPage is here. CBRE Innovation Lab is here. JLL [Jones Lang LaSalle] tech group is here. Trammell Crow is here. Dozens of startups are here. Dallas real estate tech is one of the great untold stories of our city.”

MOTIVE will fund up to 10 selected commercial real estate technology start-ups each year, investing approximately $40,000 in each venture. Applications are open now, on a rolling basis, with increasingly active interest from both start-ups and industry veterans.

“We really are interested in the best teams, reflecting what is important to us: intensive focus on the lean entrepreneurial process, a strong and cohesive team, a give-before-you-get mentality, and strong desire to change the built environment,” said Backes.

Applicants for the MOTIVE Accelerator Program will be asked to supply detailed information on their organization’s founders, who their target customers are, and what problem their products will solve. They must also provide details on how they are organized and what existing funds are in place.

Acceptance into an accelerator is a huge boost for entrepreneurs, and these organizations have been growing steadily in the last five years. Forbes found more than 200 accelerators when ranking the best for 2015. Research mentioned in the article found that accelerators can increase early stage capital in a region by 13 times, and serve to attract more entrepreneurs, mentors, and investors.

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A quarterly report from Metrostudy says Dallas-Fort Worth new home construction was up 7 percent, and closings on new homes up 9 percent, in the third quarter July, August, September, compared with the second quarter. And housing starts were up 6 percent from the same period last year. Analysts now says the market is coming down off the post-home buyer tax credit bottom that occurred in the first quarter of 2011, almost like withdrawal. David Brown, director of Metrostudy’s Dallas-Fort Worth office, says he continues to hear that sales are sneaking higher than for the same months of 2010.

Home builders closed sales of 3,805 new homes from July to September, and started construction on 3,839 homes.

Last week I told you about the “sweet spot” of pricing on new home sales up in Allen. Hillwood broke ground on the last phase of Twin Creeks; StarCreek and other Allen developers are breaking ground and moving dirt like crazy, I caught up with Hillwood’s president, Fred Balda, who told me it’s not surprising, in times like these, to see consumer home demand in the great master planned communities. It also helps that we have jobs in Texas, particularly tech jobs, drawing in buyers.

What drives the band for our Allen business is employment in the George Bush corridor,” says Balda. “We’ve hit a bit of a dip, but we are still positive. And you need new jobs to create buyers for these homes.”

Last year, says Balda, Hillwood, with 60 major residential master-planned communities across the continental U.S, Hawaii and Costa Rica, only started 300 new lots in Dallas Fort Worth. Tough year. This year, the company has doubled the number here. In the golden years of the boom peak, Hillwood was churning out 1500 lots a year in D/FW.

It’s not just jobs: another Allen draw, says Balda, is great schools, especially “one neat high school that is like a mini-college.” There’s great retail, shopping and restaurants. 

Twin Creeks is the tail end of a development started back in 1993; only 60 lots left to develop, then it’s a completed community adding to the heft of Allen. As a city, Allen saw 425 new home starts in the last 12 months. There are about 800 lots on the ground right now, or an 18 month supply. Equilibrium for this area is 24 months, says Balda, so Allen is actually below equilibrium.   

And Balda agrees: the sweet spot of home sales in this area is below one million. When I asked where the buyers are coming from, he said  20 to 25% are move up buyers coming from other parts of the market — moving away from the private schools, perhaps? — as well as relocations.

Texas is a good buy, f you have great credit,” says Balda. “At this price point housing here is still very competitive with interest rates so low.”

And the upscale dirt here is not too shabby when it comes to sales. The only gated area in Twin Creeks is exclusive Wimberley, where sales are also cooking. Wimberley’s lots are larger and pricier, with homes ranging from $1 million to $3 million: only 50 left to sell. Who’s buying? Upscale buyers — remember, there are plenty of them — businesspeople and professionals who love the hillier terrain and living near ponds and creeks.

I’m just glad to see the dirt flying.