Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Developers consider building luxury housing at Northwest Highway and Preston
What a primo location.
Soon, it may be the site of an Alamo-sized real estate battle.
If there is a vortex of Dallas, this intersection is it. Sometimes you can even see downtown heading south on Preston. It may also be the highest valued intersection. On the western side is Ebby Halliday’s Little White House, once the town hall of the Village of Preston Hollow. Ebby Halliday herself lives right next door. In that quadrant lies some of the highest priced dirt in Preston Hollow, leafy acreages, mansions and a pond. This is where the late billionaire harold Simmons lived with his lovely wife.
On the east side, however, is a not-so attractive brown, metal-sided complex of 35 years really out of context with the neighborhood. It has more in common with the Chevron gas station across the street. But along the two blocks that edge Preston Road on the east side, north of Northwest Highway, are charming stone and brick townhomes circa 1960.
This is the area known as the Pink Wall, so named by Ebby Halliday herself, legend has it, who once lived here in the uber cool Jaguar Apartments. There are older, but graceful apartments turned into condos, with kidney shaped pools housing retirees, divorcees and widows. There are two high rises (the Athena and Preston Towers), a couple of mid-rises and several condo complexes from the 1950s and '60s.
“It was a very big deal and very prestigious,” Mary Frances Burleson, CEO of Ebby Halliday Realtors, Dallas’ largest residential sales firm told someone, probably Steve Brown. “It was very glamorous to live there.”
This is where Gennifer Flowers, the first paramour of former President Bill Clinton to go public, lived in the mid 1990s, in a place on Bandera.
In 1954, Hal Anderson, the area’s biggest developer, built his first apartment project on the north side of Northwest Highway and put a section of curvy pink-bricked wall out front. Residents in the rental units would say, we live at Preston and Northwest Highway, “behind the pink wall,” probably to indicate which corner. It had a catch to it. You know what happens when one successful development goes up: Others follow. Anderson developed the high-rise Athena and Preston Tower apartments in the 1960s, creating upscale living in the Honeypot: others followed.
Correct me if I’m wrong: I believe Curtis Dahl also developed some of the units — like the Imperial House?
While older, most of these condos have large rooms, spacious closets and tiny kitchens – with a servant’s entrance, or a place for the maid to do the laundry outside. (Not all have inside laundry facilities.) They have been kept up beautifully for the most part. This is where many Park Cities and Preston Hollow retirees downsized, especially as development headed east towards Edgemere. God’s waiting room? Some people even joke that once behind the Pink Wall, you are closer to Sparkman Hillcrest.
Well, a real estate firm named Transwestern wants to mow down that brown building right on the corner, and take down the townhomes. In their place: a luxury rental community of more than 290 high-end rental homes with a $100 million price tag. Cheapest rents would be $2,000 a month. And the developers say the homes would be larger units than what you see, say, in Uptown.
“We are not trying to create something from Uptown at all,” said Mark Culwell, Transwestern’s managing director who’s heading the deal. “We think this is more of a Turtle Creek type project. We are going to have larger home sizes than typical,” he said.
Transwestern has to get new zoning for the eight story high-rise it plans -- Addison-based Wilder Belshaw Architects Inc. drafting blueprints -- for the corner. There would be two large landscaped courtyards facing Preston. Nice. All parking would be underground, and the northern end of the project (where the townhomes are now) would be three story units. A small park would separate the new luxury apartments from the existing condos on Averill Way and Bandera.
“We are trying to blend into the neighborhood,” Culwell said. “We want to treat this respectfully and get the input of the neighborhood and find out what their fears and concerns are.”
If everything falls into place, construction would start later this year.
How do homeowners feel? Most of the larger complexes just east of this area are condos, most owner-owned, and they fear two things: apartment buildings and tenants. They prefer owners occupying units to maintain quality. Some feel that eight stories is excessively high, and density of 290 units will clog traffic. Traffic studies need to be done: Northwest Highway and Preston is the vortex of the worst traffic jams in Dallas. Come 5 p.m., it can take you 35 minutes to get through the intersection. Plus so many retirees live in this area, you have to have eyes in back of your head while driving.
There is talk, too, that the new city councilwoman for the area, Jennifer Staubach Gates, may have an affiliation with the developer.
Full disclosure: I own property on Averill Way, and I have a vested interest in making sure the real estate values stay sound here. Developing — stay tuned.
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