Hilton proposed at Hall Street, Oak Grove and Noble

No, you’re not reading tomorrow’s newspaper. District 14 council member David Blewett is holding a meeting at the same time as tonight’s Oak Lawn Committee meeting.  Blewett’s meeting is the first community meeting that’s part of an authorized hearing involving the zoning surrounding the Arts District. I figured you’d want me to be there (story tomorrow), so here we are.

There are four projects on tonight’s agenda – two new and two repeats. Let’s begin with the new. Above is a proposed Hilton Hotel on the end of the block bounded by Hall Street, Noble, and Oak Grove (a couple of blocks towards Central from Breadwinners). No, you’re not dreaming, its around the corner from the never-built Dream Hotel approved back in 2015. But it’s not just a Hilton, it’s two of Hilton’s 17 branded property types – Motto and Spark – both operating in the building. While “spark” might conjure up images of pacemakers at work, both Spark and Motto will target the same Millennials the Dream envisioned (as single-word “app style” names do).

What’s the difference between Spark and Motto?  About $20 a night.

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Most developers are hard-living, hard-drinking, stress-filled time bombs of roller-coaster energy, over-indulgence, extreme risk-taking, and compulsion.

Not Ari Rastegar.

Remember when Jon Anderson told you all about the Austin-based investor/developer of Rastegar Property Company – and his first new-build in Dallas, which has been 100% leased by the short-term stay company Sonder? (Condos are hard to get financing for, and because of the prevalence of construction defect litigation, many developers shy away from building condos: one reason why so many apartments are going up. But because of the lease with Sonder, Rastegar was able to get financing and de-risk the transaction: brilliant. Rastegar says he’ll lease his Uptown building to Sonder for 10 years, then convert the building to residential condominiums.)

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Before I begin, I have to give a shout-out to my Chicago brethren who have upped the bar for project location mapping. Usually we’re treated to a line drawing or a Google Maps image with various shaded boxes. The above map was supplied for Ari Rastegar’s project at 1900 McKinney Avenue. We have an earthquake-like epicenter where the project will go and well-labeled, shaded city neighborhoods.

If that wasn’t enough, they placed the building in situ to show its relationship to Klyde Warren and the heights of adjacent buildings and their proposal’s impacts (pretty minimal from this angle).

Dallas developers and architects, take note.

Anyway.

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Boll and McKinney

Let’s begin big. The Oak Lawn Committee saw four projects last night. The one above is a nice residential high-rise at the corner of Boll St. and McKinney Ave. We also saw a proposal for a 13-story retirement home around the corner from Al Biernat’s, as well as the more mundane signage variance in Victory Park and the reopening a drive-through that’s been on Cedar Springs for decades but whose permit expired.

Mixed-Use With Parking Underground

So you’re thinking … where’s Boll Street? It’s a couple of blocks up from Whole Foods, where Jake’s Burgers is (soon to be “was”). There are many aspects of the building that I like and all of them are below the fourth floor (handy picture, eh?).

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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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The August Oak Lawn Committee was thick with high-rise proposals. In Part 1 we saw an update on StreetLights Residential’s proposal for Oak Lawn and Lemmon Avenues plus a new office building and retail restaurant village for the Quadrangle.  Let’s now focus on 2500 Cedar Springs Road, a full block you may know as housing a Briggs Freeman office and Kung Fu Saloon.

It’s a four-acre site that gives developer, Ryan Companies, the space to do something pretty great. For us pedestrians it’s the 55 percent lot coverage to cheer for. They’ve created a winding pathway through the three-tower project along streetscapes lined with shops restaurants. Definitely more enticing than the existing buildings that almost tumble into Cedar Springs Road like so many bar patrons at closing time.

The project has been a long time coming, with Ryan working side by side with architects GFF to make this all happen. And GFF is no innocent bystander here. The back corner of the development is, and will remain, their home.

Let’s jump in.

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After a couple of months where a single project was proposed to the Oak Lawn Committee, last night saw scads of new high-rises within blocks of each other in Uptown. The fifth high-rise postponed their presentation, but we’ll see it soon enough (and perhaps a sixth). The four shown comprise two separate projects abutting each other – two office buildings, one apartment building and another hotel (I now count five hotels in various stages of development). We also saw the return of a shortened Oak Lawn and Lemmon Avenue project by StreetLights Residential.

A full night indeed made fuller by an appearance of new council member David Blewett. Amidst the usual political “supporting constituents” patter came a series of double-takes delivered by way of audience questions.

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A good start, but where’s the rest?

Streetlights Residential is trying to redevelop the corner of Oak Lawn and Lemmon Avenues where a Shell gas station and a Pizza Hut sits next to the original Eatzi’s. Their first go-around was a blah building that didn’t have a lot going for it.

The second visit saw a much improved Oak Lawn Avenue frontage that reimagines the original Melrose Theater that once sat on the site. It was after that meeting when I spoke to StreetLights that I congratulated them on the new façade but wanted the same care taken with the rest of the 240-foot apartment tower. They said they were working on it. At last night’s third visit, they hadn’t moved a brick since last time – which is disappointing.

To review, StreetLights’ plan is for a 240-foot “T-shaped” tower containing 297 apartments with ground-floor retail space along Oak Lawn Avenue. They’ve visited the Oak Lawn Committee in May and June.

After last month’s meeting I wrote, “In my book, there are four things that still need working out. First, the already-mentioned 7-story garage. Second, the skin of the building above the new façade still needs help. Third, the orientation of the parking lot entry from Eatzi’s needs to be aligned with the road. And fourth, a bit more explanation on traffic flow for deliveries, moving vans, etc.”

The 75-foot tall podium parking garage is untouched. The skin above the façade is unchanged. The parking garage orientation is unchanged, but they did show traffic flow for deliveries – simply adding pathway arrows to existing illustrations. One question came about whether large semi-trucks can make the corner from Oak Lawn Avenue onto the alley entrance to serve Eatzi’s. StreetLights’ answer was they’d have to look into the turn radius. (In one hysterical moment, StreetLights doubted whether that large of a truck was used – then an audience member pointed out you could see the trucks in their own pictures. Oops!)

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