- Jon Anderson, Candy's Dirt

After a couple of months where a single project was proposed to the Oak Lawn Committee, last night saw scads of new high-rises within blocks of each other in Uptown. The fifth high-rise postponed their presentation, but we’ll see it soon enough (and perhaps a sixth). The four shown comprise two separate projects abutting each other – two office buildings, one apartment building and another hotel (I now count five hotels in various stages of development). We also saw the return of a shortened Oak Lawn and Lemmon Avenue project by StreetLights Residential.

A full night indeed made fuller by an appearance of new council member David Blewett. Amidst the usual political “supporting constituents” patter came a series of double-takes delivered by way of audience questions.

The first question asked for his thoughts on affordable housing. The shocking response came that in areas like Oak Lawn, dirt is expensive and affordable housing should be where dirt is less expensive (Note: In stark contrast, each residential project presented at the meeting committed to affordable housing). He did echo my comments that a lack of affordability is caused by a lack of housing, but whereas the informed opinion believes all neighborhoods need affordable housing for local workers, it’s unclear how far Blewett believes local workers should have to commute to their jobs.

The second question asked his thoughts on bicycle lanes. While he agreed that changes in mobility towards less impactful modes of transportation were growing as time went on (by “avocado toast Millennials”) he didn’t like rental scooters and bikes – although he supported “safe” scooters without explanation. To be clear, I detest rental scooters and bicycles, too, but what I hate is their being scattered all over creation instead of in dedicated racks as in civilized cities.

Finally, he said he’d be meeting with former-council-member-turned-developer-representative Angela Hunt, as well as Leland Burk, whose single-year stint on the OLC board was contentions at best. During his comments, I immediately knew that Blewett donors Lincoln Property Company would be back pushing their Katy Trail project again. So look forward to that war to begin again.

But enough politics.

The Quadrangle

 

We’ll start with the “small” new project at the Quadrangle. You know the Quadrangle – that place everyone knows but rarely visits? Current owners Stream Realty Partners plan to divide it in half and construct an office building on one section that’s fronted by a set of five small retail spaces that I’m going to just call restaurants. For those who do visit the Quadrangle, we’re talking about the side between the BBC and Siegel’s along Howell Street. The existing 1980s office building and low-rises on the other half will remain.

As you can see above, the bottom half will be new and a lot more green. The left side holds a small “village” of retail restaurants acting as a bit of a front yard to the right-side office building.  The street on the left is Routh which separates this project from the next (look forward to that project in a separate column).

There’s a lot to like here. In the “front” you can see how well the low-rise buildings connect proportionally with the existing older homes across the street. I keep wanting to call the grouping a fishing village but the architecture won’t let me. The greenery also makes Howell Street a lot more human-scale and walkable compared to the existing strip mall feel today.

The high-rise office building is very likable. It reminds me of century-old factory buildings that offered plenty of light/glass coupled with dark steel-framed, almost industrial, windows.

Zooming in, you can better see the element that makes this building cool.  They’ve taken a section and pulled it out of the flat plane of the building. The “yank” is about five feet and is further set apart from the main design with different, less mullioned windows and internal structural columns. The effect highlights the clear “cube” protrusion. Pretty spiffy.

This view of the backside of the building shows that the structural grid also extends beyond the skin offering depth. The design will create some very interesting shading as it further calls out the building’s redness. At first, I thought it was some sort of brick, but it’s something different.

Both the developer and I think this may be the first building in Dallas to use weathering steel, more commonly known by the trade name Corten. Developed by US Steel in 1933, Corten rusts on purpose, forming a crust that adds to its strength and limits corrosion. Yes, the rusting actually protects the steel from further corrosion. Odd.

There are issues with Corten’s rusting not stopping in excessively humid or salty environments. For example, a major reason Atlanta’s Omni Coliseum was torn down after just 25 years was because the rusting never stopped. For these and other reasons, Stream hasn’t committed to Corten, but here’s hoping it can work in Dallas. The red is eye-catching.

Another thing that makes the building’s glass seem generous is the ceiling heights. The 230-foot tall building will be just 13 stories. One of the developer’s asks is for height and the shuffling of height. The smaller buildings are zoned for 120-feet that Stream wants to legally transfer that to the tower. They also need straight-up added height. The back end, with the high-rise, is located in PD-9, which even though it neighbors higher buildings would need to be changed.

Seen from the Routh and Howell corner, the streetscape is inviting. One of the reasons is that all parking will be underground. This frees up roughly an acre of open space beginning at this corner. The village effect will pull nearby office workers and residents into the Quadrangle in a way that doesn’t happen today.

 

Along Howell Street, the effect is particularly noticeable as a continuous sidewalk replaces four driveways with one. It also removes the tatty strip mall parking to create a walkable entry.

All in all, I found little fault with this project. The only ding I gave Stream was the corner low-rise. It just wasn’t working for me design-wise – looking a bit more rural than I’d like.

 

StreetLights Residential: Oak Lawn and Lemmon Avenues

 

Let’s turn to StreetLights Residential’s project on its fourth visit to the Oak Lawn Committee. The first thing you might notice is that on the right, it’s dropped 41 feet in height down to 199-feet. I think from at least three approaches this brings the building more into alignment with neighbors across Oak Lawn Avenue. However, it comes at a cost. StreetLights isn’t proposing less than the 297 units previously shown. Instead, the “T-shaped” building gets a bump-out into a modified “C-shape.”

The result is a bulkier building that I’ve asked to see renderings how the bulk translated on Lemmon Avenue. Similarly, aboveground parking is unchanged. Between the new “C-shape” and the parking podium, there’s the potential of a big butt shown to those traveling down Lemmon towards Turtle Creek.

When I spoke with StreetLights earlier in the week, I really harped on articulating the rear of the building to reduce the visual brick-ness of the back. The added apartments above the podium (the “C-shape” bottom) make this even more important to design well.

There were some interesting notes on traffic. It seems that the existing Pizza Hut and gas station, being busier operations, generate more trips than the proposed building. What’s also interesting are traffic patterns. Pizza Hut has a huge spike in traffic during the evening rush. This means that not only are overall trips fewer, but specifically evening rush will produce fewer trips than existing uses. Who’d a thought?

 

Stay Tuned

 

Since I didn’t want a bazillion-word treatise on this meeting, I’ve separated the meeting’s projects in two. And frankly, Ryan’s triple high-rise project at 2500 Cedar Springs Road (Kung-Fu Saloon block) deserved its own column chock-full of pictures, right? Stay tuned for that.

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