The Deep Ellum district in downtown Dallas is home to a vibrant arts and entertainment scene. (Photo: Steve Rainwater via Creative Commons)

The January release of “The WalkUP Wake-Up Call: Dallas-Fort Worth” happened quietly, though the implications for investment are huge.

This is the largest study done on D-FW on the most profitable type of real estate in the nation. Walkable Urban Places (WalkUPs) are seeing higher property values, lower vacancy, and commanding higher rental rates. Even through the last recession, WalkUPs saw lower vacancy and quicker leasing rates than places designed in a primarily drivable sub-urban orientation.

Walkable Urban Places are also proving to be the most economically, socially, environmentally, and even psychologically beneficial type of real estate.

The report, assembled by a team of researchers from George Washington University’s Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis, identifies the places in DFW that exemplify this national trend. The study delves into the key indicators for successful Established WalkUPs and the Emerging WalkUP markets ripe for investment.

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Tanya Ragan, president of Wildcat Management, outside the Purse Building, which is available to tour Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The recently opened showroom has activated a long stagnant corner of the Historic West End.

The last time we told our readers about the re-do of the Historic Purse Building located at Elm and Record streets in downtown Dallas’ West End, Tanya Ragan and her firm, Wildcat Management, had just started the demolition process. Fast forward to yesterday, when Candy and I stopped into the Purse Building showroom to chat with Ragan about this building’s incredible transformation. 

The building — once a furniture warehouse and, in its previous use, an office building for the county — has revealed its stunning character as the process of restoration has uncovered, layer by layer, the beauty of what lies beneath the patina of neglect. Of course, we know that Ragan has accomplished other historic adaptive reuse projects, including the full-scale, brick-by-brick relocation of the Liberty State Bank building in the Dallas Farmers Market neighborhood. This building — and this neighborhood, even — is a study in comparison, though, as the building readies itself for tenants. 

For the full conversation with Ragan and exclusive new photos of the building’s incredible texture throughout its five available floors, jump!

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When you design a building, what’s the first thing you think about? Is it scale? Is it use? Is it presence? 

What about how the building and the way it is designed is part of a larger goal of engaging a community? All of these questions and more can be discussed at the next AIA Dallas summer happy hour panel, “Designing in Active Voice: Avenues for Professional Advocacy.”

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ULIFall2016

The Urban Land Institute held its 2016 Fall Meeting in Dallas last week with a tizzy of tours, sessions, networking events, and dinners. In my experience, the biggest benefit of a conference is in the networking. But the content at this one also covered a large array of subjects, from community engagement to redeveloping skyscrapers, to global trends, to niche discussions like “To Sell or To Hold,” and “The Fundamentals of Attracting and Keeping Companies North Texas Style.”

Tuesday I led a tour of the seven new development projects going up in the Bishop Arts District for the Colorado ULI chapter through the North Central Texas Congress for New Urbanism (more on that to come!) Wednesday and Thursday I got to catch a few sessions.

Highlights from the sessions included:

  • new metrics to qualify which dense urban cities are the best investment opportunities
  • innovative ideas for community engagement (from Detroit, of course)
  • the argument for building wood frame apartments above concrete podium parking.

And one topic repeatedly came up in each session — whether in the presentation,  in conversations with attendees, or by Q&A with audiences — affordable housing.

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Crescent-placeholder rendering

Just as our trolley track construction wraps up and the Bishop Arts stop comes online, expect the building construction to begin.

Developer Alamo Manhattan has made headlines with their infamous Bishop Arts project, hopefully designed a bit better now than at first. Their Phase 1 plans would create a five-story full city block with residential above ground-floor retail right at the newly minted trolley stop along Zang, at two corners of the Zang-Davis intersection.

Details are now coming together on the Crescent Communities development at the third northeast corner of Zang-Davis, scheduled for construction to begin December 2016 with a 22-month buildout.

Currently a Dallas County Schools property, the Crescent project would span two blocks east across Beckley Ave to Crawford St, and north just past Neely St. It could be another massive block of a project, but it appears the folks at Crescent understand “good” walkable design and what makes a place work for people. One example, since they own both sides of Beckley, is their focus on making the street feel like a real Avenue — emphasizing the importance of the way the buildings relate to the pedestrian realm along the street.

Site map

Phase 1 in red and just north of Neely. Phase 2 between Beckley Ave and Crawford St.

All that’s been made public is the site plan below, but an off-the-record conversation with the Crescent’s regional director and a handful of North Oak Cliff neighbors revealed a masterplan with an attention to detail. Oh, and the President & CEO, Todd Mansfield was Executive VP of Disney real estate worldwide. If Disney can be lauded for doing something right, it’s creating a pedestrian environment that, though fake, scores high on the principals of great walkable commercial environments. He “gets it,” and the company has a decent track record. And they quote Jane Jacobs, the mother of great urbanism.

 

Z156-222 DEV2-small

 

The site plan here is a bit different from the placeholder project image on their website — the project’s clearly still in development.

But it’s about ready for Prime Time, and I think we’re going to like what we see. They’ve enlisted design firm Lake-Flato, and you can see a few architectural elements in the site plan — a “flatiron” building corner comes to Zang and Davis where a  3,800-square-foot “gateway” plaza leads you from historic Bishop Arts and the trolley stop into a larger plaza between the fivee-story building along Davis and the five- and six-story building behind it.

First life. Then places. Then buildings.  – Jane Jacobs

At some point a developer’s vision is in the hands of its tenants — the goal is to flank the larger plaza with restaurants and great patios spilling into the plaza. They’re still on the hunt for the right tenant mix. More details coming soon, but I’ll leave you with: makers space (and other unique retail uses), boutique retail spaces, walk-up brownstone condos (as well as an emphasis on more affordable rental units), boutique hotel (inspired by the lobby of the renowned historic Ace Hotel in Portland), brewery, and grocer. Fingers crossed! It’s an ambitious vision.

Ace Hotel in Portland. By Kari Sullivan via Wiki Media

The historic Ace Hotel in Portland. By Kari Sullivan via Wiki Media

 

Lee, James NEW 2013

James Lee of the Counselors of Real Estate presented on the top 10 issues affecting real estate at the National Association of Real Estate Editors 2016 convention on June 8.

I had the chance to pick the brain of James Lee, 2016 chair of the Counselors of Real Estate, after he presented the Top 10 Issues Affecting Real Estate at the National Association of Real Estate Editors Spring Conference in hot-and-muggy New Orleans. While the full list (available after the jump) was far-reaching in scope, we wanted a closer look at issues affecting our region.

I had some questions for Lee about a few very specific issues and new realities that Dallas and North Texas is facing, highlighted by his list of issues. While densification and urbanization was No. 4 on the list, it’s either close to or at the top of the growing list of hurdles our region is attempting to surmount.

One of Dallas’ long-term goals is creating effective urban infill and adapting the existing landscape to the needs of today’s resident, but it seems that our suburbs got the message long before we did, and have worked with developers to build the kinds of town centers and live/work/play mixed-use developments that attract corporations that bring jobs and long-term stability.

Is it too late for Dallas to adapt? Can we really turn unused and stagnant existing structures into a vibrant, dense 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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SamsCityplace

Despite the decision from the Fifth District Court of Appeals, it won’t slow construction of the Sam’s Club at Cityplace.

A new decision on the proposed Sam’s Club at Cityplace is giving the East Village Association reason to celebrate. Robert Wilonsky has the news on the Fifth District Court of Appeals’ memorandum, ordering the case back to trial court. It’s a blow to city staff, which argued that the neighborhood association has no standing to sue.

According to Justice David Schenk’s opinion, Wilonsky says, “the court disagrees with the city’s assertion that the East Village Association — which was formed in opposition to the Sam’s Club — doesn’t even have standing to bring this suit in the first place. If nothing else, says the justice, at least one of its members lives close enough to the property to justify the lawsuit even without the association’s help.”

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