In researching the latest doings at Preston Center, I also delved into the zoning maps handily provided by the Task Force. They show that St. Michael’s parking lot on Frederick Square is currently zoned straight MF-1(A) which limits height to 36 feet (three stories). However, the other end of that block contains 8100 Lomo Alto and it’s part of Tract 2 of the Preston Center PD 314. And that’s where it starts to get interesting …



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…)

Toyota groundbreaking 1.20.2015

At a ceremonial groundbreaking Tuesday, about 100 attendees watched as a Toyota Tundra truck moved the first shovels of dirt for the Japanese automaker’s $350 million North American headquarters in West Plano.

The relocation of Toyota Motor Corp.’s $350 million headquarters to Plano from Southern California was North Texas’ biggest corporate relocation of 2014. By the time construction is complete in late 2016 or early 2017, some 4,000 jobs will have been created at or moved to the 100-acre campus, including transfers from California, New York, and other states. Plus, for every one of the jobs Toyota brings to Plano, four more jobs will be created.

That’s a colossal business opportunity for Collin County realtors, who are getting ready to be a part of finding homes for those who need it. The company’s 1 million-square-foot campus is located off the Sam Rayburn Tollway and Legacy Drive in Plano, and many of the corporate employees will want to live close to that area.

“We’re all gearing up for it and we are ready to take them on, whether they’re going into Plano or Uptown,” said David Maez, broker and co-owner at VIVO Realty. “Another thing we’re going to see is all the corporations that do business with Toyota moving to the area. You’ll be adding all those other jobs and people to the area.” Jump to read more!

Toyota Executives groundbreaking

Toyota CEO Jim Lentz, President and CEO Michael Groff, and Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere (center). All photos courtesy of WFAA-TV.



Rob HarperRobert Ramsey “Rob” Harper died January 30 at his home in Carrollton from a pulmonary embolism resulting from a fractured leg suffered while on a family ski trip to Vail, Colorado in early January. He was only 52 years old. Rob had a lifelong career in real estate development and made a significant impact on Dallas real estate. He most recently managed real estate interests for the Lamar Hunt family, Unity Hunt, Inc.

Unity Hunt, Inc. has interests in Fairmont Heritage Place, El Corazon de Sante Fe, a beautiful hotel and luxury fractional ownership home development right in the heart of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Rob was also an incredible family man, who enjoyed a beautiful marriage and adored his two children. The Dallas Morning News spoke to his father, Bob Harper of Richardson, who says Rob had a “visionary insight to real estate development”:

“So many people follow the herd, or have a herd instinct,” his father said. “He had a very keen sense of entrepreneurship.”

According to the Dallas Morning News report, Rob graduated from SMU with two undergraduate degrees and a love for sports, particularly soccer. At Richardson’s J.J. Pearce High School he was selected a Southern U.S. All Star youth select soccer player, and was co-captain of the team. He played on the varsity soccer team at SMU and later coached young athletes. He began his career in real estate fresh from college, working with his father at the Willard Baker Development Co.,

“where he was instrumental in planning communities including High Pointe in Cedar Hill and Twin Creeks in Allen.

Harper had an independent vision that he used to find opportunity, said his father, a former sales and marketing director for Dallas homebuilder Fox & Jacobs.

After Willard Baker, Harper partnered with Ray Washburn in developing single-family home subdivisions and the Coyote Ridge Golf Club and (a) master-planned community in Carrollton.

“Based on the success of Coyote Ridge, he was asked by the Hunt family to … manage their real estate development and real estate assets,” Bob Harper said.

Those projects included a private residence dorm near the Texas A&M campus, and Fairmont Heritage Place, El Corazon de Santa Fe.

I had the good fortune of spending time with Rob both in Dallas and in Santa Fe, and he was one of the most fascinating real estate minds I have ever met. He had great insight into real estate cycles and trends and was a true visionary. His tragic death at such a young age is a huge loss for the Dallas real estate community.

Rob is survived by his wife, Caryn Rose Harper of Carrollton, two sons, Will Harper of Dallas, and Daniel Harper, his sister Patricia Van Voorhees of Dallas, and his mother, Betty Harper and father, Bob, both of Richardson.

Our hearts go out to his family and friends, as we grieve the loss of one of Dallas’ most brilliant real estate entrepreneurs and futurists.


Andy Keye + Whitney Photography

Update, 5:02 p.m.: I am delighted to report that the New York Times was completely wrong!  The Alta Lofts were NOT the first residential development in the district. Jim Lake Companies helped rezone the district back in 2005 to allow residential use, and shortly after built Trinity Loft, which was up and almost fully leased by 2007 — while PegasusAblon was still wet behind the ears, 2 years before the development. You can see the case study on the Lofts here: Like I said, Jim Lake rules the DD. Thought this sounded weird, but then I am in an allergy/sinus/icky something fog today.

I covered the Design District for years at D Home, and it got me into trouble. Why? Because I was buying way too much for my home: art, furniture, gorgeous objects. It’s grittiness and wide warehouses fascinate me. But when it comes to furnishing or finish-out, the Design District spoiled me, and I still go down there when I need to shop for anything for my home.

But would I go down there to LIVE?

Maybe. According to the New York Times, there are more reasons now than finding home furnishings to go into the Dallas Design District. With the influx of seriously great restaurants and bars, the 30-something crowd is going south on Oak Lawn for both cocktails and a place to call home:

Five years ago, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a cocktail-craving 30-something headed to a haute bar in Dallas’s design district, a once-industrial enclave centrally situated close to the Main Street district, near downtown. But now the design district is attracting new retailers, deep-pocketed developers and plenty of shoppers, thanks to a slew of buzz-worthy restaurants, chic stores and daring art galleries opening alongside brand-new apartments and lofts.

The article quoted Michael Ablon, whose real estate development firm, PegasusAblon, snapped up 42 of the warehouses, showrooms and galleries in 2007. Prices were not exactly cheap then, and the bust had not yet settled on Dallas. In 2009, he opened the area’s first main residential complex, and the article says one-bedroom lofts (at Alta 1900, 1400 Hi Line is under construction) now go for up to $1,500 a month. Who’d have thunk it?

“It’s always had a great ethos,” said Ablon. “We thought, let’s keep that authenticity and supplement it, not replace it,” Mr. Ablon said.

Of course, the REAL real estate expert down there is Jim Lake, whose father saw the vision of the DD years ago. Jim built The Trinity Lofts (and has another residential project in the works, stay tuned) and owns about 900,000 to a million square feet down there. I’ve been to Meddlesome Moth (1621 Oak Lawn Avenue), what the article referred as the DD’s version of the Cheers bar in Boston. It was packed. I love Oak (1628 Oak Lawn Avenue), run by chef Jason Maddy, formerly of the Mansion on Turtle Creek. I had lunch with the gals from SMINK and we ooo’d and ahhhed over Plan B’s upscale design spin including fixtures from arched floor lamps to modern chandeliers, and a large media screen against the back wall with an oak tree rustling in the wind. And wait ’till I tell you about some cool new million dollar listings down in the DD…