[Editor’s note: Jon Anderson is a columnist for CandysDirt.com. His opinions are his own.]
While Thursday’s meeting fell short of the usual fireworks PD-15 brings about, the City Plan Commission asked some great questions regarding city staff’s proposed changes to PD-15.
In the lead-up to City Plan Commission’s public hearing on staff’s proposal for updating PD-15, staff briefed plan commissioners Thursday morning at Vital. Groups. Knee. Senior Planner Andrew Ruegg, who’s led the process so far, presented essentially the same slides as were shown to the community two weeks ago.
What the few who went to the meeting were most interested in were the questions and comments from the other commissioners. I give a “Hallelujah!” to CPC chair Gloria Tarpley for commenting that the 3-D images shown of the proposed changes would have been welcome at other cases. How the city can be devising “words on paper” documents reflecting 3-D realities without 3-D models has always been a mystery. It should be ante to the game.
The first questions were from District 11 appointee Janie Schultz. First, she was curious whether the requirement for a street lamp every 50-feet was adequate. While boilerplate, staff said they’d look into it. Schultz’ second question concerned the affordable housing sweeteners and whether anyone would use them. The suspicion is that along the northern side they will be unlikely to be used, while on the Northwest Highway side they may if the developer wants to get near tapping any height. It kind of goes to what I’ve been saying that if the buildable envelope doesn’t grow, it’s just cannibalizing market-rate units for affordable units.
The Athena is an odd duck of a high-rise. Built in 1966 by the same Hal Anderson who developed Preston Tower, the Athena was originally marketed as a luxury property. The units are large — four center 2/2 units with 1,543 square feet and four corner 3/3 units with 1,899 square feet (there are a handful of small units on the fourth floor that no one talks about). Darn near all units have (unfortunately) enclosed all or part of their luxe balconies adding another 227 potential square feet to the mix.
However, its more recent history has not been as glamorous. Since 2002, units cracking the $200-per-square-foot mark might be counted on your hands. Why? The recession, but in part because the Pink Wall in general has not kept up with the times, and even more partially, units had not kept pace either.
Midday Monday, residents in my high-rise received a double-forwarded note containing a letter I later found out was written by former mayor Laura Miller. The letter (after the jump) makes the case for opposing the sky bridge at Preston Center.
Since moving to Preston Hollow, I’ve noticed that any whiff of development is met with one-sided opposition. I’ve never seen any discussion or debate on whatever proposal is at hand. If it’s development, the knee-jerk seems to be to oppose it without giving the prospect an airing. I like air.
As I did with the latest Transwestern proposal for their much-diminished development on Preston and Northwest highway, I responded to the letter to provide counterbalance to the pointedly negative position.
Anyway, Miller responded to my note and in turn I replied back. You can read the exchanges that were sent to those 137 residents in the email exchange after the jump.
By Jon Anderson
Correction: In last week’s column, I made a rookie mistake of believing a friend without checking (he’s been flogged and I’ve been humbled). The history of the “21” building at 3883 Turtle Creek is far more interesting than the story I was told about the 21 name reflecting the number of stories. In fact, as pointed out by reader/commenter and 21 resident John Rogers, 21 refers to the number of acres of the original plot. Development began in the 1880s as the site of Holy Trinity University which in the 1940s became Jesuit High School before being sold for the development of “21” and other commercial uses. The building was originally envisioned as low-income HUD housing. But when the original developer was arrested for skimming money from the project, ownership reverted to HUD before changing ownership again and being converted to condos.
On with the show…
The “Sticks” (the Pink Wall)
The Athena and Preston Tower were built in what was considered “the sticks” back in the day. If you’re under 60, you may not have heard of “Behind the Pink Wall.” It was a marketing phrase that made its way into local parlance. Today, the “pink wall” is a low, curvy faded beige brick wall you’d imagine Humpty Dumpty to preside over. It runs along the north side of Northwest Highway from the Athena to Preston Road and rounds the corner heading north for a bit. Locals think of it as a shrine. Practically, it’s a barrier keeping crazy folks from driving into building lobbies (and they do plow into the wall with some frequency).
Both Athena and Preston Tower were to have had two towers each. Preston Tower was to have had a second oppositely-curved tower also facing Northwest Highway. The Athena would have gotten a matching big-box tower as well (which a friend calls the Bob Newhart building). I assume interest wasn’t strong enough to make the second towers viable. By the time condos rolled around, I’m guessing the moment had passed. Today a pair of forgettable low rises occupy the space.
As we wrote about last year, the intersection of Preston and Northwest Highway is one of the highest-profile in all of North Dallas (and probably one of the highest-valued, too).
It’s not just the current real estate prices of Preston Hollow that give this area its prestige—the intersection has a fascinating history.
The northeast quadrant has a wavy, pink brick wall, and to live “behind the pink wall” was an address with serious social cachet in midcentury Dallas (legend has it Ebby Halliday herself coined the phrase).
The pink wall was built in 1954 by developer Hal Anderson in front of his first apartments; he later built the high-rise Athena and Preston Tower apartments next door. Parts of the wall might be a bit faded now, but to live here in the 1950s or 1960s was to have arrived. (You’ll likely get raised eyebrows if you talk about the real estate “behind the pink wall” to a young person, but older folks will remember the phrase well.)
Today’s Tuesday Two Hundred takes us one block north to 6126 Averill Way #208W, located in the Imperial House Condominiums, built around the same time, 1964, by Sid and Ada Lynn, with George Dahl as architect. These charming French-style condos have a fanciful, throwback feel, with a grand, circular staircase, domed ceiling, and retro metalwork in the entryway. Can’t you picture Betty Draper from Mad Men gliding down the stairs in kitten heels on her way to cocktail hour?
Unit 208W is located on the second floor (there is an elevator in the building, as well as those stairs), a two-bedroom, three-bathroom condo with a roomy 2,134 square feet. It is newly listed by Peter Livingston at Realty One Group Partners for $239,000, or $112 a square foot.
Unit 208W has plenty to offer a buyer, but parts of it are a bit dated need freshening. A similar size, but renovated, unit in Imperial House sold last November for $345,000, or $139 a square foot. If that sale tells you anything, it’s that you could make the upgrades on this unit and see a return on your investment. Jump to read more and see photos!
How much is a view of downtown Dallas worth to you? I mean, when you’re shopping for a high-rise unit, you’re going to have limited outdoor space. That’s a given. So the views have to really be fantastic. So really, how much is a view of the skyline, one of the most distinctive in the United States, worth to you?
Is it worth $1 million? $700,000?
What if I told you that you could have a luxurious condo with fantastic amenities and downtown Dallas views for less than $350,000? You can with this beautiful unit inside the Athena, owned by none other than Mary Jane Young.
“We enjoy incredible downtown views from every room,” Young said. “These views are normally only found in properties double the price point.”
Jump to see more!