At last night’s debate between District 13 Dallas City Council member Jennifer Gates and former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, I fully expected the political point-scoring and backbiting that is politics. What I didn’t expect was the paucity of actual answers to questions. Part of that rests on moderator Tim Rogers for not calling out either candidate for being non-responsive to his questions. Each question was supposed to net both candidates 90 seconds to respond. With such a short time, you’d think they’d get to the meat of an answer. Not really.

Instead, we saw an hour of political brinksmanship with little hard substance from either candidate. One of two things was behind this – either they had no detailed answers, or more likely, those answers were thought to be unpalatable to voters. As you will read, I’m not afraid of unpalatable.

But before I go there, Miller’s opening remarks contained one of the few truthful moments. She described herself as someone of “action” compared to Gates’ “indecision.” While Miller meant this as a dig at Gates, I saw the opposite. Gates’ appearance of indecision comes from her wanting information to help guide a decision. For example, within PD-15,  Gates has spent two years trying to reach a compromise. Only after two committees devolved into factions did she finally ask city staff to come up with something.

Compare that to a quick-to-judge, uncompromising Miller, whom I’ve seen in action on the Preston Center Area Plan committee, the proposed Preston Center skybridge, Highland House, and now PD-15. She’s someone who doesn’t allow new information to cloud her initial judgment. I have the patience for those trying to learn more to get a better result.

In a more visceral display, before the debate, Laura Miller asked me to carry her suitcase to the stage (seen in photo) while Gates glad-handed me as she did many in the room.  To Gates, I was a constituent, to Miller, a lackey, apparently.

Roads are Bad and You Don’t Pay Enough Tax

The topic of roads came up … (more…)

NarreIt’s not every day that a mansion on Narre Lane comes on the market at all — usually homes in the extremely exclusive Dallas if-you-have-to-ask-you-can’t-afford-it enclave of Savage Gardens are kept within the families that long ago claimed that tiny haven inside Dallas to themselves, or are quietly shopped among peers who tire of the social requirements of Highland Park.

In fact, most don’t even know that Savage Gardens exists at all, so obscured by greenspace and the conventional wisdom that says situating mansions near the Trinity River is foolhardy — unless, of course, you’re wealthy enough to afford the mechanics and technical workings to keep your home free of river water.

So when we heard that 401 Narre Lane was being offered as a hip pocket listing to potential buyers who can prove their bottom line, we jumped at the chance to pull back the curtain and show our readers how the other other other half lives.

Homes in this well-heeled sanctuary are a reflection of the families that owned them, always, with finishes and touches so unique you’ll never find them in another home. Even the exteriors are frequently changed through the years, peeling off older facades in favor of newer amalgamations of styles, in order to better blend in with the less-preservation minded neighborhoods around them.

“Nothing to see here, we’re just your average McMansions from 1990s Preston Hollow,” the homes in Savage Gardens seemingly say to anyone who accidentally happens upon them, adopting a hide-in-plain-sight motif that serves the cloistered residents well.

“It’s really amazing how private this neighborhood is, and how ingeniously these families have kept it that way,” said listing agent Dia Daspetas with North Texas Luxury Homeplaces. “If you’re looking for a place that only tells people your net worth once they’re fully vetted and allowed in by staff, this is the perfect place.”

“A few years ago, there was some deep-seated worry about a toll road and a park potentially clueing in Dallas residents to this spendy spot, but luckily, time and a rumored juggler’s strike forced the city to reexamine the idea, and once again Savage Gardens is safe,” she added.

While the outside conforms to a rigorous requirement to appear awkwardly normal, rest assured that doesn’t hold true once you enter the home. Inside is where the imagination runs amok, flowering with details you definitely won’t find on Strait Lane. Ready to look? Let’s jump, shall we? (more…)

scenic bluffThe neighborhood of Scenic Bluff has been described as a great neighborhood for new buyers looking for proximity to downtown and the Stockyards, but also want greenspace, yards, and a bit more privacy than the average apartment provides.

Which is why this adorable cottage at 2521 Dalford Street is a perfect example of what you can find in the Scenic Bluff neighborhood. It’s just a quick scoosh from Oakhurst Scenic Drive, where you can enjoy gorgeous greenspace overlooking the Trinity River, with its walking area and views of the city.

In the case of this two-bedroom, one bath home built in 1941, the sellers have done much to retain the original charm but still appeal to modern needs. The hardwoods throughout are original to the home, and there are original built-ins and moldings throughout as well.

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The Trinity Trails are part of the Trinity River in Fort Worth

527 Trail Rider Road in River Heights takes full advantage of the Trinity Trails (photos: Trey Freeze Media)

The Trinity Trails — concrete and crushed granite paths that follow the Trinity River — are yet one more tremendous benefit to Fort Worth living.

If you have ever been to Austin and seen the vibrant gatherings of walkers, joggers, or cyclists along Town Lake, you will have a glimpse of what the Trinity Trails strive to become.

In recent year numerous shops, restaurants, outdoor venues and residential establishments have popped up throughout the Fort Worth fully taking advantage of the natural beauty of the Trinity River and trails.

(Assuming the federal government bails out one grossly over-budgeted project involving the Trinity River, in time there will be even more commerce along the Trails — but let’s get into political graft, greed, and nepotism at a later date)

One recently developed neighborhood in The River DistrictRiver Heights, takes full advantage of the Trails.

River Heights was once a garden nursery

Beautiful views of the river and easy access to the Trinity Trails make River Heights a highly desired community.

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rivercrest bluffs-logo-final

Not everyone wants to live in the suburbs.  While the lure of larger homes and yards, newer schools and lower (somewhat) prices are attractive to many, plenty of homeowners still want to the convenience and lifestyle that in-town living brings.

Rivercrest Bluffs, the newest development of James R. Harris Partners in Fort Worth, is the perfect solution for those who love new construction but don’t want to live in the ‘burbs.

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Under the Houston St Viaduct. Taken by Amanda Popken

Kayaking Under the Houston St Viaduct, 2013. (Photo: Amanda Popken)

This Wednesday you’re invited to join a discussion about the Trinity.
A river that has defined our city for over a century.
Yet its place in our lives still remains little more than afterthought.

Millions of taxpayer dollars funded a very extensive plan:
To build, beautify, and manage this park — has anyone actually read it?
Years have passed applying for approvals, securing bonds, political wars, a design contest, expert opinions and decades later we have:
A few more trails, fewer trees, stunning bridges, and a death-defying rapid.

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Real Estate Story

Dallas earthquake

If tornadoes are not bad enough — and they are really, really bad –— we have to worry now about earthquakes in North Texas. With the recent identification by seismologists of the two-mile fault line near the Trinity River at the center of the activity, many homeowners are wondering about the safety of their houses.

The biggest January (2015) quakes were measured around 3.6 or 3.7, which is relatively minor, but with this ancient subsurface fault reactivated from Irving to West Dallas, nobody can say whether that’s the biggest we’ll see in North Texas.

Dallas earthquake

So I got in touch with two area experts and asked what Dallas-Fort Worth homeowners need to know about how their homes are built, and how much quaking a North Texas house can handle.

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dallas rain

Dallas rain is causing major delays at homebuilding sites, like 5802 Anita St. in East Dallas, a JLD Custom Homes site. Photo: Joanna England

Thanks to nearly two months of non-stop rain, DFW homebuilders are experiencing major delays and expect months of playing catch-up even though it has stopped.

Based on weather forecasts, that break might finally be here!

More than 26 inches of rain have fallen at DFW International Airport so far this year, including a record-setting 3.3 inches a week ago Sunday. This is now the wettest May on the books.

“The rain has been a killer on schedules—we currently have three homes under construction and have taken them as far as we can go in the inside, and are now at a dead standstill until we can finish the driveways and walkways on the exterior, not to mention fence, sprinklers, and landscaping,” said Michael Turner, owner of Classic Urban Homes. “We are telling potential new clients we are six-to-eight months out from being to take on any additional work.”

dallas rain

“I always keep a pair of old mud shoes in the truck, these days, I’ve got two pairs,” said JLD Custom Homes President Jeff Dworkin. Photo: Joanna England

Other custom builders are in the same boat. Jeff Dworkin points to his house at 5802 Anita St. in East Dallas, pictured above.

“We’ve finished the inside, but the yard is a mud pit!,” said Dworkin, who is President of JLD Custom Homes and Past President of the Dallas Builders Association. “We can’t get fence in, irrigation, or landscape. It’s hard to make it look pretty when your ‘drive-up’ is just dirt. We have also been trying to get another one started at 5731 Vickery Blvd.—got the permit a week ago, but we are just stuck in the mud for now.”

Homebuilders are able to get work done up to a certain point inside new houses, but the risk of tracking in mud onto new carpets or hardwoods means even that part of the process is delayed. And every part of completing the homes’ exterior is delayed. A Prosper developer tells me one of his largest volume builders is 90 days delayed, the longest delay in the history of the company.

“We can sell homes, design homes, and permit homes while it’s raining—we just can’t start them. We have five queued up and all in the holding pattern until the weather breaks,” Turner said. “No sense in selling a new home and then not being able to start for six months without telling clients upfront. For the most part, people are willing to wait, as builders are all in the same boat.”

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