Adding more single-family housing in downtown Dallas has definitely increased the vibrancy of our urban core, as the once desolate city center now has more full-time families and businesses. The days of downtown turning into a ghost town at 5 p.m. could be over. 

If you want an urban lifestyle but don’t want to live in a high-rise, a townhome is the perfect compromise. Lucky for you, the Farmers Market area on the southeast side of downtown Dallas has a great inventory of relatively new builds, including this stunning unit listed by Sam Sawyer of The Collective Residential.

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3344 Hamilton Avenue with an inviting front porch in LoMo (photos: Trey Freeze Media)

Did you know that homes with a front porch outsell homes without a front porch? It’s true.  Surf the internet and you will find tons of articles about the value a front porch brings to a home. There is just something welcoming about a beautifully designed and furnished front porch that makes you feel at home and at ease. What goes hand-in-hand with a front porch?  A neighborhood where people can get out and walk around and get to know their community and neighbors.

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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

 

Vallera Building

Living inside 635 makes perfect sense for the under 40 set, especially considering how kid-friendly many neighborhoods are becoming as homebuyers are choosing to live closer to work, shopping, and amenities. For a low-maintenance lifestyle that allows you to lock and leave while not skirting amenities, this great unit inside the Vallera Condominiums is the perfect choice.

Holland Avenue Living

With two bedrooms, two baths, and more than 1,300 square feet, this condo is great for a young couple, or even a young family who wants to be close to arts and culture inside one of Dallas’ most walkable neighborhoods. Unit 107 at 3818 Holland Avenue is marketed by Hailey Hunt-Wagstaff of Dave Perry-Miller InTown for a reduced $274,900. thats a fabulous price considering the location and upgrades inside this unit. HOA dues are a reasonable $255, too.

Holland Avenue Entry

The first thing you’ll notice when you walk in this unit is the hardwood floors, which span all the way to the French doors to the balcony. The dark-hued wood really makes the moulding and lovely neutral paint pop. The unit is fantastically open — great for having friends over — and features a gorgeous kitchen with beautiful honey-colored cabinets, granite counters, tumbled stone backsplash, and plenty of lighting. Of course, you’ll find stainless steel appliances, including a wine cooler.

Holland Avenue Kitchen

The master suite is a great size, and has a perfect tone of grey on the walls, which is just a shade off from the carpet. I am not a lover of carpet in most cases, but in condos, I change my tune. Considering the fact that you’re not constantly tramping in and out, carpet inside a condo is a great idea to make the space feel more cozy and personal. And if you’re not a fan of what’s already there, it’s pretty inexpensive to replace.

Holland Avenue Master

The master bath is really lovely and just drenched in stone. It’s a five-piece affair with a generous-sized shower, a soaking tub, and a very nice vanity. The plain, frameless mirror is a bit boring, but if you’ve staked out Pintrest as much as I have, then surely you know that it’s a snap to add a frame around it.

Holland Avenue Master Bath 2 Holland Avenue Master Bath

I think what surprises me the most about this unit is the value. With a location like this and upgrades that many first-time homebuyers are looking for, this unit is a great place for someone looking to simplify inside the loop.

Holland Avenue Balcony

Park Cities sidewalksI sigh not because I do not enjoy walking, but because all this “walkable” talk is so annoying in our climate right now. Oh, I know we have had a really mild summer — last week we would have sat outside in the evening had it not been for the mosquitoes and West Nile.. Really, who walks when it’s 100 degrees outside? Do these walk-enthusiasts not understand that hair frizzes, clothing gets drenched, blisters are created in sweaty flip flops and overall walking is not the most pleasant of experiences come July, August and most of September in Dallas? Then there are the mosquitos! Walking is the best way to get around in New York City, but during the sweltering August I spent there two years ago, it was tortuous. And I avoided it as much as I could, then hit the air-conditioned gym.

So Dallas ranked as the 30th most walkable city in the United States, by Walk Score, a really neat site that started a few years back, measures a neighborhood’s walkability rating, among other things. Walking is great — people who live in walkable places weigh 6 to 10 pounds less, according to Walk Score. A score of 47, which we got, is not so hot. But it’s better than a score of  0 to 24, where almost everything is butt-expanding car dependent. A score of 50 to 69 would have been better, meaning that some errands can be accomplished on foot. 70 to 89 is super walkable, and 90 to 100 just rocks as a walker’s paradise. I could not find any large cities with scores higher than 90. New York City was first, with a walk score of 85, followed by San Francisco, 85, Boston, 79 and Chicago, 74. I will hasten to add that Chicago is the total opposite of Dallas come December, January and February: freeze your butt if you walk during those months unless you are wearing major cover. And I do mean major.

Most of the high-scoring walkable cities were up north, with the exception of Miami, score 73.

Next, Zip Realty zipped in to narrow the focus even more, and offered up the three most walkable neighborhoods in Dallas. They are University Park, Highland Park, and Addison.

What does University Park and Highland Park have that the rest of Dallas lacks? Sidewalks. Moment I moved to Dallas, I asked, where are the sidewalks? North Dallas does not have many. South Dallas has way more, like this photo from the Kings Highway Conservation District Conservation program shows:Kings Highway project

Of course the Park Cities, with some of the priciest real estate in town, would rate higher because they have dang sidewalks! In my ‘hood, you walk in the street and move over in terror to someone’s driveway or right of way when a Suburban comes tearing out like a bat out of you-know-what.

As for Addison, doesn’t surprise me at all. Nice little residential area springing up around Addison Circle with great planning, condos, restaurants and stores and everyone’s walking. Don’t believe me, ask Carol Blair who is selling real estate up there like crazy.

 

A New Dallas

As you’ve no doubt heard, there’s a movement afoot to tear down Highway 345 — a stretch of elevated asphalt that spans from Deep Ellum and north to Woodall Rogers Freeway. Doing so, proponents claim, will connect the east side of the city center to downtown and create a more walkable environment.

I’m all for more walkable neighborhoods, especially in our urban core, but I do want to know how we can make this work when projections show that the population of Dallas will double in a matter of a few decades, putting strain on our housing inventory and transportation infrastructure. Basically, just tearing down a highway isn’t going to cut it.

The Vision

We should be thinking about density with a more connected mass transit system, and I think that’s the main selling point for demolishing the highway. Not only will it bring a slower thoroughfare through downtown, but it will also create more real estate that can be developed into mixed-use buildings, as well as offering a hub for bringing back the streetcar to downtown Dallas (and yes, we should definitely bring streetcars back). We’ll need massive reinvestment in transportation and infrastructure to make it work, but where will the money come from?

What do you think of the plan?

 

 

A New Dallas

As you’ve no doubt heard, there’s a movement afoot to tear down Highway 345 — a stretch of elevated asphalt that spans from Deep Ellum and north to Woodall Rogers Freeway. Doing so, proponents claim, will connect the east side of the city center to downtown and create a more walkable environment.

I’m all for more walkable neighborhoods, especially in our urban core, but I do want to know how we can make this work when projections show that the population of Dallas will double in a matter of a few decades, putting strain on our housing inventory and transportation infrastructure. Basically, just tearing down a highway isn’t going to cut it.

The Vision

We should be thinking about density with a more connected mass transit system, and I think that’s the main selling point for demolishing the highway. Not only will it bring a slower thoroughfare through downtown, but it will also create more real estate that can be developed into mixed-use buildings, as well as offering a hub for bringing back the streetcar to downtown Dallas (and yes, we should definitely bring streetcars back). We’ll need massive reinvestment in transportation and infrastructure to make it work, but where will the money come from?

What do you think of the plan?