Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dallas mayor encourages progress in Deep Ellum


It wasn't Mayor Tom Leppert's usual scene, standing behind a flame-emblazoned lectern at the Sons of Hermann Hall on Elm Street.

But Friday's community meeting was serious city business with a focus on the future of one of Dallas' most distinctive neighborhoods, Deep Ellum.

Its history stretches to the early days of jazz and blues, but Deep Ellum has fallen on rough times. Mr. Leppert and leaders of the Deep Ellum Association acknowledged those troubles but also expressed optimism that better times are ahead.

"In Deep Ellum we have something we have very few places in Dallas," Mr. Leppert said.

While Dallas is busy trying to construct or retool neighborhoods where people can easily walk from their homes to shops or restaurants or even work, Deep Ellum already has it.

But infrastructure needs improvement. Construction around two scheduled DART stations has disrupted business. And crime, or at least the perception of it, has driven away potential visitors along Elm and Main streets.

Few question that the area will charge back. It has a central location and, by September 2009, it will have a rail station one stop from downtown.

But the idea that new development could wipe away the neighborhood's character or history hangs heavy on those who have invested either their money or their lives there.

"Essentially, it's the fear this will be 'The Villas of Deep Ellum' " said Sean Fitzgerald, vice president of the Deep Ellum Association.

Few attending Friday's meeting seemed aware that just hours earlier, news had broken that Dallas-based Beck Ventures had contracted to acquire as much as 10 acres of the area.

The company's plans are uncertain, but the land purchase has long been rumored in Deep Ellum, so few were surprised. Some, though, were concerned about what it bodes for the future.

"Our approach is to do everything we can to encourage redevelopment of the existing buildings," Mr. Fitzgerald said.

For now, there is little political will at City Hall to radically change Deep Ellum.

Mr. Leppert stressed Friday that it is key to keep the character of Deep Ellum intact. Failing to do so would diminish what makes it such an asset to the city, he said.

At the same time, "we've got to move forward," he said. "We've got to have progress."

Katherine Seale, director of Preservation Dallas, urged prospective developers to be mindful of Deep Ellum's history. But she also encouraged those who live and work there to embrace some change.

"We're here to discuss ideas that will lead to choices. We must make value choices."

By RUDOLPH BUSH / The Dallas Morning News

Friday, June 27, 2008

AT&T World Headquarters Moving to Downtown Dallas

AT&T Inc., the nation's largest telecommunications company, said Friday it is moving its corporate headquarters to Dallas from San Antonio for easier access to customers and operations around the world.

AT&T said the move would begin within weeks and is expected to be complete around the end of the year.

The move will put AT&T closer to many of its technology suppliers and help cement the Dallas area as a telecom hub. Nokia Corp., Nortel Networks Corp., Ericsson and others have major operations here.

Chairman and Chief Executive Randall Stephenson said San Antonio -- where AT&T has been based since moving from St. Louis in 1992 -- "is a great city with much to offer and it's been good for AT&T." But he suggested it's time to move.

"We're a growing global company with customers and operations around the world," Stephenson said in a statement. "Being headquartered in Dallas will benefit our long-term growth prospects and human resources needs, and our ability to operate more efficiently, better serve customers and expand the business in the future."

The Dallas area has two airports and is home to American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, providing a more extensive network of flights across the country and throughout the world than is available from San Antonio.

AT&T, with annual sales of $118.9 billion and about 300,000 employees, expects 700 of its nearly 6,000 San Antonio-based jobs to move to offices in downtown Dallas.

Dallas civic leaders were predictably giddy.

"This is more than just bragging rights," said Robert A. Chereck, chairman of the Greater Dallas Chamber and a Wells Fargo & Co. executive. "When you get a big corporation moving in, it means more jobs, and these are higher-paying jobs that help your tax base."

"This helps confirm our status as a global telecom hub," said Bill Sproull, president and CEO of the Metroplex Technology Business Council.

Sproull said AT&T must have been persuaded by the presence of so many other telecoms in the so-called Telecom Corridor just north of Dallas, which employs about 45,000 people.

"The clustering effect is a powerful force in any industry," he said. "It's why there's a Silicon Valley. It's why there's a Route 128 in Boston."

San Antonio officials took solace that the company plans to keep many jobs in their city, which has more charm and tourist attractions, like the River Walk and the Alamo, but less money than Dallas.

"They outgrew San Antonio," mused Nelson Wolff, the county judge, or top administrator, of Bexar County, where the city is located. "We celebrated when they first came here -- I was mayor. They were a small company, relatively speaking."

Wolff said local officials did their best to keep AT&T by increasing direct flights to San Antonio. He said he and Mayor Phil Hardberger met with Stephenson earlier this week and the CEO gave no indication he was planning to bolt.

"It hurts," Wolff said. "But we're going to be OK."

The company said it would keep its mobile phone headquarters in Atlanta, its business-services group and A&TT Labs in New Jersey, and its phone-directory operations in St. Louis.

AT&T was previously known as Southwestern Bell, one of the regional companies formed by the 1984 court-ordered breakup of the Bell monopoly. It served as a local phone company for a five-state region.

In the past two decades under former CEO Edward Whitacre, the company changed its name to SBC Communications and grew to a 22-state operator with long-distance, wireless and Internet service.

It bought other Baby Bells, including Pacific Bell in California, SNET in New England, and Ameritech in the Midwest. AT&T got into mobile-phone service by forming a joint venture with BellSouth, and later bought out its partner. First called Cingular Wireless and now AT&T Mobility, it's the largest U.S. wireless operator.

Whitacre's crowning achievement came in 2005 with the $16 billion purchase of AT&T Corp. SBC took over the iconic AT&T name.

AT&T's HQ Dallas Bound; More CRE Plans Pending


DALLAS-In the coming weeks, AT& T Inc. will start moving its headquarters team from San Antonio to Downtown Dallas. Word on the street for weeks is that another corporate fish was about to be hooked, but the brand name was a closely guarded secret.

In a press release, AT&T's management team says the move to a corporate-owned, one-million-sf office building at 208 S. Akard St. will be completed by year's end. An AT&T spokesman tells GlobeSt.com that the company's management team will continue "to evaluate our long-term real estate needs" once it sets down in the CBD building. He says floors are being finished out right now for the first wave of transfers. AT&T inherited the CBD real estate, assessed at $85.6 million, when it took over Southwestern Bell, which has owned the complex since January 1985.

The spokesman says the 700-employee headquarters team will shift cities, with the 5,300-employee telecom operations group staying in San Antonio. AT&T occupies several buildings in San Antonio, with its headquarters at 175 E. Houston St. in the CBD. AT&T opened doors in 1992 in San Antonio when it moved from St. Louis.

"We're a growing global company with customers and operations around the world," Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO, says in this afternoon's press release. "Being headquartered in Dallas will benefit our long-term growth prospects and human resources needs, and our ability to operate more efficiently, better serve customers and expand the business in the future."
The spokesman points to the 2005 merger as the impetus for the move. Ranked 10th on the Fortune 500 list, AT&T has 310,010 employees worldwide. "We made this a global company and that's why we're doing this," he says. Many of AT&T's key technology suppliers are on Dallas' employment roster: Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Huawei, Nokia, Nortel, RIM and Samsung.

"We are excited that AT&T has selected Dallas as the location of its corporate headquarters," Robert A. Chereck, chairman of the Greater Dallas Chamber and Dallas regional president of Wells Fargo, says in a press release. "This announcement illustrates, once again, our region's merits as a location for corporate America."

By Connie Gore

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Apollo buys Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre

New York-based Apollo Real Estate Advisors has purchased a high-profile North Dallas hotel.

On Wednesday, Apollo acquired the 482-room Hilton Dallas Lincoln Centre hotel at the Dallas North Tollway and LBJ Freeway. The hotel was purchased from Ashford Hospitality Trust Inc., according to real estate brokers familiar with the deal.

Built in the 1980s, the curved, silver-glass hotel is part of the four-building Lincoln Centre complex, which also includes office space.

Evan Stone and Romy Bhowanji of Jones Lang LaSalle worked on the sale.

Ashford acquired full ownership in the hotel last December in a deal with Hilton Hotels.

The firm has recently sold several of its hotels including properties in Montreal and the Washington, D.C. area.

In the Dallas area, Apollo is a partner in the Stoneleigh Hotel, which just under went a major renovation.

Apollo is one of the country’s largest opportunistic real estate investors with more than $5 billion in equity invested in projects.

By Steve Brown

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Adolphus Tower in downtown Dallas to be remodeled


The owners of a 54-year-old downtown Dallas office building have announced remodeling plans.

The Adolphus Tower at Main and Akard streets is connected to the historic Adolphus Hotel and is just across the street from downtown’s Pegasus Plaza.

The 27-story building is owned by a partnership that includes Vance Miller and Henry S. Miller Commercial.

Miller officials said Wednesday that they plan to upgrade the building with interior and outside improvements and a new marketing campaign.

Plans include a lobby makeover, new signage and upgrades on the exterior along Main.

Miller’s LaWayne Schrader will be heading up the makeover of the building.

“We are overall repositioning the building,” Ms. Schrader said. “We feel that it’s the right time to do this because the central business district is getting a lot of attention now.”

Adolphus Tower was built for $7.5 million in 1954 by Dallas developer Leo Corrigan, who also owned the hotel.

The building – designed by architect Wyatt C. Hedrick - originally had an aluminum and glass exterior which was replaced in the 1980s.


By: Steve Brown

Houston investor buys Promenade shopping center in Richardson

A Houston investor has made its first North Texas shopping center buy.
A partnership set up by Hartman Management acquired the Promenade shopping center in Richardson.
The complex is located at the southeast corner of Arapaho and Coit roads and contains more than 176,000 square feet.
Hartman’s David Wheeler said the center – built in the 1970s – is more than 70 percent leased.
“We actually bought seven buildings – both retail and a little bit of professional office,” Mr. Wheeler said Wednesday. “We will probably do some level of upgrade on the center.
“We’re contemplating that right now.”
Hartman purchased the property from an insurance company subsidiary. The sale was negotiated by Colliers-International.
Terms of the purchase were not disclosed, but real estate brokers say that the deal was close to $15 million.
Hartman has been recently adding to its holdings in the Dallas area. In February, the investor purchased four office buildings from a Morgan Stanley partnership.
Hartman Management also owns the North Central Plaza I office tower on North Central Expressway and the Park Central I on LBJ Freeway.

By Steve Brown

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Deep Ellum may get back on track after DART stations open

On Malcolm X Boulevard north of Elm Street, residents are moving into more than 300 apartments in a rental housing and retail building.

The just-completed project, the Ambrose, sits next to a new light rail station and is the biggest investment in decades in Dallas' Deep Ellum district.

Just a few blocks away at Good-Latimer Expressway, vacant storefronts line Elm and decaying buildings neighbor another DART train station that opens in about 18 months.

The contrast of new development and empty buildings represents the difference between the future and past in Deep Ellum, real estate brokers and property owners say.

"I think the day the train rolls through will begin big changes for Deep Ellum," said Barry Annino, a longtime real estate broker in the area who's head of the Deep Ellum Foundation.

"Everything revolves around the train coming."

The pending start of DART rail service also could bring big profit for investors who own blocks and blocks of Deep Ellum. Four investment groups own more than 90 properties in Deep Ellum – including many of the largest.

The biggest owner, Westdale Asset Management, holds the deeds to more than 10 blocks in the district.

"I think Westdale will probably stay the course, but some of these investors will see this as an opportunity to make a move and sell," Mr. Annino said. "There are calls being by made by people interested in properties.

"It's the kind of fishing you do right before the fish start biting."

The entertainment and residential district east of downtown Dallas took off in the 1980s when old commercial buildings were converted to art galleries, loft apartments, restaurants and clubs.


Hip 'hood

By the 1990s, Deep Ellum was one of Dallas' hottest nightspots, with dance clubs and music venues.

But along with the throngs that were attracted to the clubs came a spike in street crime and violence. And the 2001 recession added to the district's woes.

Deep Ellum went into decline and has languished as Uptown and nearby downtown areas have taken off. Many longtime retailers and restaurants shut down.

Some owners in the area have used this downtime to acquire more real estate. Early this year, Westdale, a privately held Dallas-based real estate firm, bought three of Deep Ellum's biggest loft apartment buildings.

And other big investors in Deep Ellum, Don Blanton, Don Cass and Al Jernigan, have made additions to their holdings since 2001.

"I bought two buildings last year and another this year," said Mr. Blanton, who owns about 17 properties. "I've been working in Deep Ellum for 30 years, and the prospects are as bright now as ever.

"I think the resurgence is right around the corner."

While Mr. Blanton said he doesn't plan to do a large development in Deep Ellum, "I own a lot of property and would sell someone a tract to do it."

"There is an opportunity for developers."

Preservationists fret that Deep Ellum – which still has blocks of early 20th-century buildings – will be bulldozed to make way for new construction.

"Deep Ellum has a lot of historical stuff that people want to keep," said Mr. Cass, who began buying real estate in Deep Ellum in 1983. "Some of the old buildings will stay, and some will go."
Mr. Cass said the DART train service and Deep Ellum's location between the growing Baylor Medical Center and downtown ensure the area will redevelop. High gasoline prices are another incentive.

"If I was 30 years younger, I'd be pouring money into the place," he said. "But I just had my 71st birthday, and it's time for me to slow down.

"I've already sold a bunch of stuff to Westdale."

Westdale turned the historic Adam Hats building into loft apartments in 1996. The investment firm also owns the Continental Gin, Murray Lofts at 3401 Commerce and the Farm and Ranch Building and Futura Lofts building in Deep Ellum.

Recently, Westdale has attracted attention because of its ownership of the historic Knights of Pythias building on Elm. The vacant landmark and adjoining land are just a block from DART's Good-Latimer station.

While the property is considered one of the most attractive development sites in Deep Ellum, it has remained boarded up for years. City officials recently demanded access to the landmark from Westdale due to concerns that it was being allowed to deteriorate.
Westdale officials didn't return phone calls to discuss their plans for Deep Ellum after DART service begins.


What it needs

How quickly and to what degree Deep Ellum will benefit from DART's new rail line remains to be seen.

"DART isn't the golden key, but it certainly helps," said Mike Turner, whose firm J. Elmer Turner rents buildings in the area. "The DART line coming out from downtown will allow people on the north side to come to Deep Ellum easier."

But Mr. Turner said the area needs fewer owners or investors that can oversee a systematic redevelopment.

Broker Newt Walker agrees.

"Deep Ellum has the fabric with the location and the buildings but not the master planning," Mr. Walker said. "Someone has to assemble a big portion of it and come up with a solution for parking."

Deep Ellum has suffered at the hands of its large number of investors and landlords, Mr. Annino said.

"If there is a negative, it's that everyone down there couldn't get together to make things happen," he said. "They've invested in the buildings, but not the neighborhood."

By STEVE BROWN
The Dallas Morning News

More Uptown is coming up

There's no need for road signs to tell visitors they're in Dallas' Uptown district – just look for the construction cranes.

Almost a dozen high rises are going up in the neighborhood just north of downtown. That's a higher concentration of construction than anywhere else in North Texas.

Almost 2 million square feet of office space and more than 1,200 high-rise residential units are being built in the area between Turtle Creek and Woodall Rodgers Freeway.

Despite all the construction activity, tenants have spoken for more than half the space in the five office towers creating Uptown's new skyline.

"When we looked at whether we should go forward with our building, that was a big part of our analysis," said Greg Fuller, chief operating officer of Granite Properties.

Granite is breaking ground on a 361,000-square-foot, 19-story office tower at McKinney Avenue and Akard Street.

It's the only building under way in Uptown that isn't more than half leased. But if recent trends continue, that won't be the case for long.

"Right now, we are the only opportunity for a lead tenant along Woodall Rodgers that wants great signage," Mr. Fuller said. "The other buildings that are under construction already have lease prospects that will take them above 80 percent."

Later this month, the 19-story Rosewood Court office tower opens on Cedar Springs Road and is 70 percent leased. It's the largest office project to open in Uptown in a decade.

Like the rest of the new buildings in the area, office space at Rosewood Court is renting for more than $30 per square foot – more than a third higher than in nearby downtown.

"It's a good time to be an Uptown building owner," said Tim Terrell, executive vice president of Stream Realty Partners, which is leasing Rosewood Court. "Without a doubt, it's the tightest market in the city."

At the end of March, office vacancy in the combined Uptown and Turtle Creek markets was about 9 percent. That compares to about 20 percent areawide, according to statistics from Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc.

"There's a lot of momentum in that market," said Mike Wyatt, executive director with Cushman & Wakefield. "Law firms are a big driver of the Uptown market."

In April, downtown law firm Patton Boggs LLP said it would move its offices from the Trammell Crow Center tower on Ross Avenue to the Texas Capital Bank Building, under construction at 2000 McKinney Ave. The new building is 70 percent leased and opens in September.

And Haynes & Boone LLP will move its operations to the One Victory Park office building when it opens later this year at Lamar Street and Victory Avenue.

Real estate brokers say another big tenant, accounting firm Deloitte, is looking at potential locations in Uptown for a major office.

Victory is the odds-on favorite for that deal.

Several weeks ago, Victory developer Ross Perot Jr. said his Hillwood Development Co. is putting "a couple more office buildings on the fast track to keep up with these tenants."

But don't expect a flurry of more tower groundbreakings this year.

With the current credit crunch, developers are having a tough time lining up financing for new projects.

"I couldn't imagine anyone starting an office building unless they had a bird in the hand," Mr. Terrell said.

And a 24 percent drop in condo sales in North Texas through May has put the brakes on more high-rise development.

There are more than 360 luxury condos being built in Uptown towers. More than 200 of the units have yet to sell.

And 900 luxury rental apartments are going up in three more Uptown buildings. The first of these – 1900 McKinney Avenue – opens later this year.

Atlanta developer Wood Partners plans to complete its 22-story Glass House apartment tower early next year near the Crescent.

C. Todd McCulloch, Wood Partners' Dallas development associate, said the number of high-rise rental units being built in Uptown "is still manageable."

"There is definitely a robust market for high-rise rentals right now," he said.

And Uptown developers are hoping demand increases.

"We didn't know that gasoline would be over $4 when we started our building," Mr. McCulloch said. "The energy concerns will continue to drive people back into these close-in employment centers."Two million square feet of office space and more than 1,200 high-rise residential units are being built in Uptown.

By STEVE BROWN
The Dallas Morning News

Net Office Leasing Down in DFW

Net office leasing in North Texas is down more than 50 percent from the same time last year, according to preliminary numbers from Cushman & Wakefield of Texas.
Expanding and relocating office tenants have rented about 311,000 sf of additional office space in the area, compared with more than 800,000 sf in the first six months of last year.
The biggest increases in office leasing have come in the Frisco–West Plano area and in downtown Dallas. Office occupancy in the central business district has risen almost 400,000 sf so far this year.
D-FW office vacancy rates were at an average of 19.6 percent for second quarter 2008, a percentage point lower than in mid-2007.
More than five million sf of office space is under construction in the Metroplex, and more than 67 percent of that is speculative.
Currently, average office rents are up more than 5 percent from June 2007. Dallas Morning News

Developer offers details on St. Regis hotel plan in Uptown

Landowners asking for a zoning change on a prime Uptown tract are showing details of what they plan to build on the Katy Trail site.

Foch Investments/Development The planned St. Regis hotel and condo tower would be 103 feel taller than current zoning allows.

Los Angeles-based Foch Investments/Development is seeking city approval to construct a hotel and condo tower at Cedar Springs Road and Carlisle Street that would be 103 feet taller than current zoning will allow.

In return for the taller building, the landowner says it will move the building farther away from the Katy Trail with a landscaped buffer.

The hotel would be operated by St. Regis Hotels.

Foch Investments' zoning request has drawn opposition from critics who want the real estate firm to be held to current zoning requirements.

The City Plan Commission turned down the height increase.

The Dallas City Council will consider the request next week.

The property owner has responded that lowering the height of the building to current standards will require that it take up more of the site and sit much closer to the Katy Trail.

The taller, 24-story building – designed by architects BOKA Powell LLC – would cost about $200 million and contain 150 hotel rooms plus 70 to 80 condos.

Foch Investments says it has operating agreements and financing in place for the project, which would open in late 2010 or early 2011.

"We will break ground at the end of the year or no later than first quarter of next year," Foch principal David Thurman said.

"Our deal is signed and confirmed with St. Regis with our existing zoning."



By STEVE BROWN
The Dallas Morning News

Work begins on Aloft hotel near Dallas Convention Center

While Dallas city officials tussle over plans to build a convention center hotel, two developers have quietly started work on one.

Ted and Larry Hamilton's Aloft hotel project on Young Street is just north of the Dallas Convention Center.

"We are the closest hotel to the front door," said Ted Hamilton, who plans to have the boutique hotel open in 16 months.

Last week, crews from Andres Construction began work to turn an 83-year-old building at 1033 Young St. into a luxury hotel.

The project will be Starwood Hotels & Resorts' first Aloft hotel in Dallas. Built as a warehouse for the Santa Fe Railway, the eight-story brick building has been vacant for more than a decade.

Hamilton Properties is converting the 160,000-square-foot structure into a 193-room hotel.
"Actually, the place has been a hotel before – the homeless were sleeping in the building," Mr. Hamilton said.

During a tour of the old warehouse last week, it was occupied only by layers of dust and crumbling building materials. Big metal windows in the brick and concrete building offer views of nearby City Hall and the convention center.

After the renovation, the ground floor will have a large bar and lobby gathering spaces.
A parking lot on the west side will be used to build a cylindrical entry court. On the back of the building, there will be a fitness center and a swimming pool.

Basement railroad tunnels will be turned into meeting space.

The developers are adding a ninth floor to the old warehouse and have purchased parking lots on the north side.

"The Starwood people are describing this as an Aloft on steroids," said Larry Hamilton. "It will cost $34 million."

Hamilton Properties has been planning the project since early 2007. The development was delayed because of problems in the credit market.

An agreement to finance the hotel with a Wall Street firm fell through.

"We got caught in the credit crunch," said Tim Jordan, senior managing director with Holliday Fenoglio Fowler LP, who arranged the financing. "We went back into the market, and Hillcrest Bank stepped up to do the deal."

The Kansas City, Kan., bank is joined in the deal with lenders in Texas and Kansas.

"The regional banks have stepped in to fill the void left by Wall Street firms and big banks who are out of the market," Mr. Jordan said.

Architect One Group Design LP planned the project, which is directly across the street from the Pioneer Plaza waterfall and cattle drive sculpture.

The Hamiltons are Dallas' most experienced downtown building renovators. Their redevelopment projects include the Davis Building, the DP&L buildings and the new Mosaic apartment project on Bryan Street.

Hamilton Properties' hotel project is less than two blocks down Young Street from where the city of Dallas is considering plans to build a convention hotel. That development would have at least 1,000 rooms and be connected to the convention center.


By STEVE BROWN
The Dallas Morning News

Sports, entertainment complex planned on Stemmons Freeway

A former industrial tract on Stemmons Freeway is being planned for a sprawling sports, entertainment and mixed-use complex aimed at North Texas' large Hispanic population.

LRS Real Estate has tied up more than 26 acres at Stemmons and Viceroy Drive, about six miles northwest of downtown Dallas, for a development called Foro Dallas.

Plans call for restaurants, retail and several hundred apartment units.

"Yes, we have a new development planned," said LRS president Robert Peinado Jr. "It's about building a town center for the Latino market.

"So far, we've been trying to keep it low key."

But word of the big project has been spreading in the Stemmons business corridor.

The Interstate 35E site was cleared recently.

"There was a 371,000-square-foot building that we took down to clear the site," said Dean Flowers, the real estate broker who's handling the land sale. "The land over there is worth more than the building was."

The property is owned by a trust and is valued for taxes at more than $5 million.

Mr. Flowers confirmed that LRS has the land under contract but has not closed on the deal yet.
"It's almost 27 acres – you can't find that much land anywhere in that area," he said.

LRS hired Dallas architect HKS to design the Foro complex, which will have 20 covered, multi-use courts for such sports as soccer, volleyball and tennis. Plans also call for a banquet hall and hospitality suites.

And about 250,000 square feet of total retail space is included.

Mr. Peinado said the first phase of the project will cost $50 million and should start by the fourth quarter. The first anchor tenant will be a 30,000-square-foot Famsa appliances and furniture store.

The developers hope to do similar Foro complexes in other markets.

They estimate that the Dallas project could attract more than 3 million visitors a year.
Mr. Peinado touts more than 25 years' experience in real estate in the U.S. and Mexico, including more than $30 million in investment and development in this country.

By STEVE BROWN

The Dallas Morning News

Teardown of historic Dallas building revives look into demolition process

Before the dust – or the controversy – settled Monday over a demolished Oak Lawn office building, the destruction of the midcentury structure has energized efforts to change Dallas' preservation policy.

The worksite was idle Monday. Final demolition of the former insurance building at 2505 Turtle Creek Blvd. was halted by building inspectors for the second time in two days.

City officials said the building's owners had begun tearing down the building before turning off the electricity and gas and had failed to protect a tree on the site.
The start of the teardown early Sunday had been temporarily halted by city officials, who said the demolition permit had not been posted.

At issue is a one-story 1959 building designed by Dallas architect Harwood K. Smith as the Dallas office of the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York. The Canada-based Great Gulf development company plans to use the site for a high-rise building that would house a hotel, condominium units and a restaurant.

The building's greatest legacy may be that it rekindled the city's efforts to protect historic buildings.

After the Old East Dallas YWCA was torn down last year, there was widespread discussion of enhancing a so-called red flag procedure designed to give preservationists time to save a historic structure. Although the exact mechanism has yet to be spelled out, the plan would be based on an already existing process in which a list of buildings considered for formal historic designation are sent to the building inspections office.

When a property owner applies for a demolition permit, city employees put a temporary hold on the application if the building is on that list.

Under the new procedure, the list would be expanded to include all properties deemed by the staff to have architectural merit. The list has been compiled (2505 Turtle Creek Blvd. was on it), but it had yet to be sent to the Landmark Commission for approval.

Preservationists thought they had saved the 2505 Turtle Creek building this month after the City Plan Commission unanimously denied a Great Gulf request to permit alcohol to be served on the property. The owners filed for a demolition permit the next day.

Newt Walker, the Dallas real estate broker who found the Turtle Creek site for Great Gulf, said opposition to the project came from a small group of neighbors.

Mr. Walker said the plan had been enthusiastically embraced by neighborhood leaders when it was proposed and that the insurance building's architectural significance did not come up until the zoning hearing.

"My question is: Where were they six months ago?" he asked.

Mr. Walker said owners plan to work with the neighbors to come up with a compromise.
He dismissed suggestions that the Sunday demolition was triggered by a story that morning in The Dallas Morning News that singled out the structure as an outstanding example of midcentury architecture.

He said weekend demolitions are common, especially near the center of big cities.
"The idea that this was some midnight raid or was done out of vindictiveness is absolutely ridiculous," Mr. Walker said.

But preservationists were nonetheless shocked.

Katherine Seale, executive director of the private Preservation Dallas, said the fact that the plan commission's decision was unanimous made it extremely difficult to overturn.

"We know how things work at City Hall, and we felt pretty confident that the building would be saved," she said.

Earl Schander, one of the neighbors opposed to the new project, was not mollified by Monday's second stop order.

"Things have been topsy-turvy here, and now we've got a pile of glass and steel and brick that we're going to have to live with for a long time," he said

When preservationists first sought to save the building, considered a prime example of postwar style, its design was wrongly attributed to Howard Meyer, considered the city's finest midcentury architect.

The building's real designer, Mr. Smith, founded the giant architectural firm, HKS Inc., whose projects include American Airlines Center and the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, but his work is regarded as artistically inferior to Mr. Meyer's, according to Willis Winters, who has authored several books about Dallas architecture.

The building at 2505 Turtle Creek may have been an exception, he said.

"This is a beautiful, beautiful building," Mr. Willis said. "I think it was easily one of the best examples of his work."

Spurred by the latest news, the Landmark Commission may get the proposed list of historic buildings at its May meeting, said Kate Singleton, chief planner in the city's preservation office.

"We had always been saying that we wanted to get it to them in spring or early summer, and then this happened and we said, 'OK, that was the sign we needed to get it done,' " she said.

Final implementation will require approval by the City Plan Commission and the Dallas City Council, but Ms. Singleton said she believed officials were motivated.

"I think everybody feels it's better to do this sooner rather than later," she said.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008
By DAVID FLICK

1407 Main, all-new residential tower in downtown Dallas, to open soon

Tenants will soon be moving into 1407 Main – the first all-new residential tower in downtown Dallas in more than four decades.

The 17-story building, which includes ground-floor retail and a parking garage, has more than 80 luxury apartments.

"The building is almost 100 percent complete," said Ray Finfer with developer Spectrum Properties Ltd. "We have some names on a waiting list that we are contacting now."
A grand opening will be held April 21, but residents can move in before then, he said.

The developers – who've already leased 80 units in two adjoining historic buildings – anticipate a good response.

"Nobody's done anything like this in downtown in a long time," Mr. Finfer said.
The last new residential high-rise to open its doors in the central business district was the 24-story Manor House in 1966. That building contains about 250 units and was recently remodeled.
The 1407 Main tower hopes to lure renters with features including a ninth-floor pool deck that overlooks Main and Elm streets, a fitness center and a basement bowling alley.
There's also a 25-seat theater, a wine tasting room and a private suite that can be rented for family and friends.

Rents begin at about $1,495 for a 751-square-foot starter unit and top out at more than $4,000 for one of the 1,700-square-foot penthouses.

"Inside, the units have a lot of the same flavor as the remodeled buildings downtown," Mr. Finfer said. "But they also have some amenities we haven't had before."

The building, which was designed by Dallas' Good, Fulton & Farrell Architects, boasts super-efficient systems and an insulated exterior designed to save money on utility bills.
The 1407 Main building was constructed on the site of the historic Metropolitan Savings Building. The 1920s tower and the landmark Kress Building behind it were knocked down in 1981 to make way for new construction.

But that project never got off the ground, and the site sat vacant for more than two decades.
While 1407 Main is the first new apartment tower downtown has seen in ages, it won't be the last.

About three blocks away, Forest City Enterprises is building its 15-story Element apartment tower, which is set to open later this year.

That new building – adjacent to the historic Mercantile National Bank tower – will contain 156 units.

The new units are in addition to more than 2,000 apartments in remodeled office buildings that have been added to the downtown market in recent years.


11:44 PM CDT on Monday, April 7, 2008
By STEVE BROWN

MHBT Expanding Along N. Central


A high-profile Central Expressway office tower will get a new insurance company as lead tenant, plugging a big hole being created by the partial exit of another insurer.

Fast-growing insurance and risk management firm McQueary Henry Bowles Troy LLP will take at least 65,000 square feet in Walnut Glen Tower, better known as the AIG building, after American International Group moves the bulk of its operations to Plaza of the Americas in downtown Dallas.

McQueary Henry Bowles Troy will take occupancy in June 2009, and the MHBT letters will replace fellow insurer AIG's atop the triangle-shaped building at 8144 Walnut Lane. The company will take all of the 16th, 17th and 18th floors and part of the 15th in the 18-story building.

The rapid growth of MHBT, the opportunity for signage and the building's Dallas Area Rapid Transit access is prompting MHBT's move from 55,000 square feet at 12700 Park Central Drive

Monday, June 23, 2008

103,500-SF Plaza del Oro Ready to Break Ground


COCKRELL HILL, TX-After a 2.5-year wait, Margaux Development Co. is poised to break ground on the 103,500-sf Plaza del Oro in South Dallas. The $12-million project, already 60% preleased, is the first shopping center in 60 years in a close-in city that's most often regarded as part of Dallas proper.
Penciled for a July 1 construction start, the three-building Plaza del Oro will sit on 10 acres in the 4400 block of Jefferson Boulevard, about three miles south of Interstate 30. Don Silverman, president of Dallas-based Margaux Development, has secured Dallas-based Centennial Fine Wine & Spirits as an anchor, a deal requiring a voters' blessing to allow alcohol sales inside the city line and one that didn't come until last year. Initially, the referendum was penciled for May 2006.

The entire project will come out of the ground simultaneously. Silverman says Centennial's footprint will be a 12,000-sf Big Daddy's store. The 91,500 sf of shop space will hold a 35,000-sf El Rancho Marketplace, a cell phone company, dental clinic, pizza shop and auto parts supplier, with more on the way.

"Once the walls start going up, we're pretty convinced we'll have it pretty full," Silverman tells GlobeSt.com. He says the leasing team from Fronteras Realty in Dallas has several more deals in the pipeline for the predominately Hispanic neighborhood, with the opening quote at $19 per sf, triple net. "Basically, it's a horribly under-retailed market," the developer says, "part of it is because it's been a transitional neighborhood."

Silverman says site prepping has begun. To make way for Plaza del Oro, some single-family houses have to be scraped and seven acres of raw land readied for the project, he explains.

By Connie Gore

Creation Architecture of Dallas designed Plaza del Oro. Silverman says he's in the process of picking the general contractor.

Silverman is partnering with some long-time business associates in Casas Modernas, a single-family homebuilder that caters to Hispanic markets. A separate partnership has been set up for the Big Daddy's. But, all components of Plaza del Oro are intended to be long-term holds, he confides.

Downtown's charm lies in its urban heart

Recently we've been hearing from suburban folks who've gotten rattled while visiting downtown Dallas.

They are frightened of homeless people, confused by one-way streets and put off by vacant buildings. One writer to the paper said he feared for his life walking in the West End.

What's up with this?

Sure, downtown Dallas doesn't look much like the blocks of strip malls and office campuses that line the streets up in Frisco and Allen. That's a good thing.

Urban districts aren't supposed to be theme parks. And if you want a secure, luxury entertainment environment, may I suggest a country club? Don't look for that in most central business districts.

If you think downtown Dallas looks scruffy now, remember how things were in the mid-1990s.

Rows of empty office towers lined Main Street, where most of the retail choices ranged from bail bondsmen to take-out food.

Thousands of full-time residents now live in converted downtown office buildings.

And downtown's shopping options are growing – albeit slower than city boosters would like.

Yes, there are panhandlers. But I see them on street corners in North Dallas, too. I've had beggars follow me to the car on Greenville Avenue asking for a handout.

And if you believe that downtown Dallas' homeless people are "aggressive," then come with me to Seattle or San Francisco, where I have seen bums actually chase tourists down the street screaming for a handout.

This is a nationwide problem, and the situation in Dallas isn't out of line with other major cities. It's just part of the urban experience.

Yes, that's a problem for some suburban visitors.

They may be used to manufactured downtowns like the Southlake Town Square or Plano's Legacy park. In those "urban-style" centers, the flowerpots are always full of blooms, the gutters are swept clean, and security guards ride about in brightly colored golf carts. Music plays from hidden speakers, and misters cool the air on hot days.

It's all great, but that's not a central business district.

Downtown Dallas is the real thing – warts and all.


Site gets attention

A Turtle Creek-area building site has attracted the attention of a luxury housing developer.

Real estate brokers say Drexel Development is shopping a vacant tract north of the Mansion of Turtle Creek. The property was previously earmarked for the Cresta Bella high-rise condo, but that deal didn't go forward.

Drexel has built high-density residential projects in Uptown, Oak Lawn and North Dallas.

And Drexel partner Robert Edelman was one of the original developers of the Plaza at Turtle Creek I residential towers near the Mansion.

Colliers International has been marketing the property. Newt Walker Co. represents Drexel.


Tower-top space

Office tenants who want a bird's-eye view of the West Village and downtown might consider 15 vacant floors on top of the Tower at Cityplace.

Stream Realty Partners is hunting tenants for the space, which previously housed the headquarters of 7-Eleven.

The 420,000-square-foot block of office space is one of the largest in Dallas.

A Florida-based investor who paid more than $125 million for the 42-story tower last year had planned to convert the empty offices into luxury housing. But with the home market on the fritz, the developer thought better of that plan.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Allure of Dallas Condos


Take a look at the gorgeous condos available in the greater Dallas area. You’ll find everything from studios to condos suited for a family. All it takes is a good real estate agent to steer you on your way. One of the best things about condos in Dallas is that they offer location, location, location – but they also offer great value for your housing dollar. One of the biggest draws to having a condo is that you don’t have to mow a lawn or do yard work, but you can grow flowers on your patio!

From the Old………

One of the most appealing things about condos in Dallas is that you can find a loft that links the “old Dallas” to the new. Imagine exploring history with your children in your very own piece of the past! Canton Lofts offer the perspective of an older, quieter, place in time combined with a modern exercise facility and an incredible swimming pool, hot tub, and spa.

To the New……..

The Museum Towers offers incredible high rise living, all the amenities, and spectacular views you can only find in a 42 story building! This new complex offers a glass tower, and ground-level swimming pool and public gardens. Near the Sculpture Center and the Opera, you can’t ask for anything more than this style, style, style!

What are you Waiting For?

Leave yard work to the maintenance crew while you enjoy the view, the galleries and museums, and the close proximity to all the amenities you can desire. With a limited commute, you’ll find you have time to visit some of Dallas’s attractions, like the Arboretum. Enjoy the spectacular display of blooms while you contemplate the beauty of nature. Enjoy the best that Dallas has to offer in a wide variety of Dallas Condo homes. Find yourself a good real estate agent, and start making plans to enjoy the view, the pool, and your new life! Whether you get your exercise in a gorgeous, modern gym or by swimming laps in one of the nicest pools around, you’ll find yourself relaxing in your new home, sooner than you think.

VIP REALTY
By: Grace

Roger Staubach Company Bought For Value, Not Just Name


I consider Roger Staubach to be the most successful athlete-businessman of all-time. Why? Because he built a huge business in an area outside of the traditional sports-related businesses.

Earlier this week, the man who has all the credentials--Heisman Trophy winner, Dallas Cowboys quarterback, Hall of Famer, Super Bowl MVP--sold his commercial real estate firm, The Staubach Company, to Jones Lang Lasalle for $613 million. I sat down with Staubach and Jones Lang Lasalle [JLL 62.42 -1.59 (-2.48%) ] CEO Colin Dyer.

Darren: When did it become less about your name and more about your business savvy and properties?

Staubach: I really feel that you know maybe 5 to 10 years in, when they saw the hard work the effort the commitment, when they really saw stability that I was committed to real estate. It's now been 37 years.

Darren: How much has your name helped you?

Staubach: I think the name, based on my college and professional career, helped us get in the door and you still have to get in the door to get your message out there, but I think it still takes time to know once you’re hired to do real estate it’s a significant responsibility. So they want to make sure that this is not just a marketing call and its one where you can deliver the services. I didn’t really want my name on the company when we first started. I figured we were going to be a Dallas real estate firm -- a small firm, like the firm I was with and so they talked me into the brand. Even today, running into younger people that don’t remember the old days, they say, “Oh yeah, you’re the real estate guy” so I really like to hear that and so the Staubach name has become a brand in this industry.

Darren: The real estate market is down. Why do this deal right now?

Colin Dyer: For us, it's about building our business for the medium term and indeed if you think about the short-term issues and the current market that we’re in, the most significant impact in real estate has been the impact of the lack of availability of credit in the markets. That’s affected the investment sales part of the international real estate services. The piece that is tenant representation and, the opposite of that, leasing has been so far comparatively unscathed by the market developments and we expect that in particular tenant representation, which is the strength of the Staubach organization, will be relatively immune from short-term market conditions. So for us it s a good short-term hedge, it’s a great long-term addition to our business and complementary to our existing global platform.

Darren: Are you going to keep the Staubach name on anything?

Dyer: The Staubach name will disappear from the organization. Why would we do that? Well, part of the motivation for Roger and his team to join us was to be able to give his clients seamless services in the U.S. and seamless services globally. It's very odd to be doing that with two different cards, two different calling cards and so we agreed from the start was that the appropriate thing to do was to have everyone use the Jones Lang Lasalle name.

CNBC
By:Darren Rovell

Big Leaguers eye Dallas



Convention center hotel plans boost interest in city as site for meetings

As the City of Dallas forges ahead with plans for a publicly owned convention center hotel, many city officials are already anticipating more conventioneers in downtown Dallas.

Not long ago, the city's emphasis was on attracting midsized or small groups of 2,000 to 5,000 people. But Phillip Jones, president and CEO of the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Dallas is already piquing the interest of big-time conventions now that the city is putting its money where its mouth is.

Currently, Dallas attracts about 16 citywide conventions per year totaling 250,000 visitors, making it the seventh-largest city for convention business, Jones said. If plans for the new hotel go forward, that number could jump to 25 citywide conventions and about 450,000 attendees, according to Jones. Jones said the city also books another 600,000 room nights that range in size from fewer than 100 room nights up to 2,000 room nights. A room night is one hotel room occupied for one night occupancy.

Representatives from two prospective conventions have recently visited; one would bring 7,000 people, the other 20,000. Jones declined to identify the groups, but described them as a major technology group and a major trade association.

Dallas Business Journal
by Lauren D'Avolio Staff writer

Deep Ellum may get back on track after DART stations open

On Malcolm X Boulevard north of Elm Street, residents are moving into more than 300 apartments in a rental housing and retail building.

The just-completed project, the Ambrose, sits next to a new light rail station and is the biggest investment in decades in Dallas' Deep Ellum district.

Just a few blocks away at Good-Latimer Expressway, vacant storefronts line Elm and decaying buildings neighbor another DART train station that opens in about 18 months.

The contrast of new development and empty buildings represents the difference between the future and past in Deep Ellum, real estate brokers and property owners say.

"I think the day the train rolls through will begin big changes for Deep Ellum," said Barry Annino, a longtime real estate broker in the area who's head of the Deep Ellum Foundation. "Everything revolves around the train coming."

The pending start of DART rail service also could bring big profit for investors who own blocks and blocks of Deep Ellum. Four investment groups own more than 90 properties in Deep Ellum – including many of the largest.

The biggest owner, Westdale Asset Management, holds the deeds to more than 10 blocks in the district.

"I think Westdale will probably stay the course, but some of these investors will see this as an opportunity to make a move and sell," Mr. Annino said. "There are calls being by made by people interested in properties.

"It's the kind of fishing you do right before the fish start biting."

The entertainment and residential district east of downtown Dallas took off in the 1980s when old commercial buildings were converted to art galleries, loft apartments, restaurants and clubs.

Hip 'hood
By the 1990s, Deep Ellum was one of Dallas' hottest nightspots, with dance clubs and music venues.

But along with the throngs that were attracted to the clubs came a spike in street crime and violence. And the 2001 recession added to the district's woes.

Deep Ellum went into decline and has languished as Uptown and nearby downtown areas have taken off. Many longtime retailers and restaurants shut down.

Some owners in the area have used this downtime to acquire more real estate. Early this year, Westdale, a privately held Dallas-based real estate firm, bought three of Deep Ellum's biggest loft apartment buildings.

And other big investors in Deep Ellum, Don Blanton, Don Cass and Al Jernigan, have made additions to their holdings since 2001.

"I bought two buildings last year and another this year," said Mr. Blanton, who owns about 17 properties. "I've been working in Deep Ellum for 30 years, and the prospects are as bright now as ever.

"I think the resurgence is right around the corner."

While Mr. Blanton said he doesn't plan to do a large development in Deep Ellum, "I own a lot of property and would sell someone a tract to do it."

"There is an opportunity for developers."

Preservationists fret that Deep Ellum – which still has blocks of early 20th-century buildings – will be bulldozed to make way for new construction.

"Deep Ellum has a lot of historical stuff that people want to keep," said Mr. Cass, who began buying real estate in Deep Ellum in 1983. "Some of the old buildings will stay, and some will go."

Mr. Cass said the DART train service and Deep Ellum's location between the growing Baylor Medical Center and downtown ensure the area will redevelop. High gasoline prices are another incentive.

"If I was 30 years younger, I'd be pouring money into the place," he said. "But I just had my 71st birthday, and it's time for me to slow down.

"I've already sold a bunch of stuff to Westdale."

Westdale turned the historic Adam Hats building into loft apartments in 1996. The investment firm also owns the Continental Gin, Murray Lofts at 3401 Commerce and the Farm and Ranch Building and Futura Lofts building in Deep Ellum.

Recently, Westdale has attracted attention because of its ownership of the historic Knights of Pythias building on Elm. The vacant landmark and adjoining land are just a block from DART's Good-Latimer station.

While the property is considered one of the most attractive development sites in Deep Ellum, it has remained boarded up for years. City officials recently demanded access to the landmark from Westdale due to concerns that it was being allowed to deteriorate.

Westdale officials didn't return phone calls to discuss their plans for Deep Ellum after DART service begins.

What it needs
How quickly and to what degree Deep Ellum will benefit from DART's new rail line remains to be seen.

"DART isn't the golden key, but it certainly helps," said Mike Turner, whose firm J. Elmer Turner rents buildings in the area. "The DART line coming out from downtown will allow people on the north side to come to Deep Ellum easier."

But Mr. Turner said the area needs fewer owners or investors that can oversee a systematic redevelopment.

Broker Newt Walker agrees.

"Deep Ellum has the fabric with the location and the buildings but not the master planning," Mr. Walker said. "Someone has to assemble a big portion of it and come up with a solution for parking."

Deep Ellum has suffered at the hands of its large number of investors and landlords, Mr. Annino said.

"If there is a negative, it's that everyone down there couldn't get together to make things happen," he said. "They've invested in the buildings, but not the neighborhood."

By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Developer buys corner at Travis and Knox


A developer has bought a key Dallas corner at Travis and Knox streets with plans to build an office and retail building.

The property is occupied by a convenience store and flower shop. It's just steps away from the popular Katy Trail and across the street from the Highland Park Pharmacy.

The 7-Eleven store at Travis and Knox was one of the chain's earliest.
View larger More photos Photo store Shopping center builder Steve Shafer could put as many as nine stories on the 20,000-square-foot site, which was purchased from 7-Eleven.

"It's such a great property – something that comes along only once in a lifetime," Mr. Shafer said Tuesday. "I was amazed it was available."

7-Eleven has occupied the property for decades. Parts of the old buildings date to 1950, according to tax records.

The store was one of the chain’s earliest, according to real estate broker King Laughlin who handled the sale.

"We just completed the purchase Friday, and they have already closed the store," Mr. Shafer said. "I have laid out a new project with 60,000 square feet of office and retail."

A bank could wind up renting the ground floor of the building. But Mr. Shafer said he's in no hurry to finalize a deal for the new building.

"It will be six months before I do anything at all," he said.

Shafer Property Co. developed the Knox Park Village retail and office building at Knox and North Central Expressway. The company also has projects in Uptown and Richardson.


By STEVE BROWN
The Dallas Morning News

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Cypress Equities & Staubach Retail Remain Autonomous

DALLAS-With an agreement in hand through 2019, Staubach Retail and Cypress Equities are holding fast to the Staubach name and their founder as their signature branding passes to Jones Lang LaSalle for $613 million. Roger Staubach remains rooted as consultant and a member of the board of directors of the retail and development shops.
Clay Smith, president of the 22-year-old Staubach Retail, tells GlobeSt.com that there were preliminary discussions for the pair of independent companies to sell with the Staubach Co. "But, we early on determined the timing wasn't right for either one of us. We're really a growth company," he says. "The best course of action for our company was to be independent so we could be flexible and responsive to the retail market." And, he confirms, there is no agreement in place for a roll in the future to JLL.

Smith says the transition will take 60 to 90 days to complete so the companies can go their separate ways, divvying the team and the operations. Staubach Retail, now 310 of the 1,500-employee corporate hierarchy, will double in size within three years, he says, adding the upcoming transition will determine the exact head count for the near term. Cypress Equities, a national mixed-use developer, has 135 employees.

None of the C-suite is expected to change in the aftermath of the Staubach Co. pass to JLL. "It wilurnpike Buildings Rally...
Phoenix– QuietFlex Moves, Expands With...
Houston– McShane-Led JV Options Site for...
Other– Menutis, Partners Plan Office...
Dallas/Fort Worth– KanAm Grabs Denbury Twin...
INDUSTRY QUICK LINKSGet Listed l be business as usual," Chris Maguire, CEO of Staubach Retail and Cypress Equities, says in a press release.
As the divorce moves toward completion, the corporate chiefs of Staubach Retail and Cypress Equities will be working on a plan to offer shares to employees. Last year, Staubach Retail generated $80 million in commission revenue.

Despite Staubach Co.'s sale, Smith points out that Roger Staubach has and always will be "committed" to retail. "He has assured us on numerous occasions that he is always going to be involved in our business," Smith stresses.

A Staubach Retail spokeswoman says the retail and development companies also are keeping a plan intact to move their headquarters operations in May 2009 to 8343 Douglas Ave., a 141,000-sf class A office building that's under construction in Preston Center. Whether the just-sold group sets up shop in the building has yet to be determined. The Staubach companies now office in Addison Circle.

Source: Globestreet

Staubach Sells To Jones Lang LaSalle!

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach has sold his commercial real estate brokerage to Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. for $613 million, plus $114 million in potential performance bonuses.

Dallas-based Staubach is one of the nation's largest independent real estate brokerage firms, helping clients find office, industrial, and retail space. The company has more than 70 offices in North America and about 1,600 employees. The company will now operate under the Jones Lang LaSalle brand — except for Staubach Retail Services or Cypress and Staubach's investment development business, which were not part of the transaction.

Chicago-based Jones Lang has annual revenue of $2.65 billion and more than 170 offices worldwide.

The 66-year-old Staubach stepped down last year as CEO but remained chairman of the company he founded in 1977 as part of a larger management reorganization and recapitalization. He will join the Jones Lang board as executive chairman, Americas.

Source: The Associated Press

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

More offices, residences going up in Uptown

There's no need for road signs to tell visitors they're in Dallas' Uptown district – just look for the construction cranes.

Almost a dozen high rises are going up in the neighborhood just north of downtown. That's a higher concentration of construction than anywhere else in North Texas.

Almost 2 million square feet of office space and more than 1,200 high-rise residential units are being built in the area between Turtle Creek and Woodall Rodgers Freeway.

Despite all the construction activity, tenants have spoken for more than half the space in the five office towers creating Uptown's new skyline.

"When we looked at whether we should go forward with our building, that was a big part of our analysis," said Greg Fuller, chief operating officer of Granite Properties.

Granite is breaking ground on a 361,000-square-foot, 19-story office tower at McKinney Avenue and Akard Street.

It's the only building under way in Uptown that isn't more than half leased. But if recent trends continue, that won't be the case for long.

"Right now, we are the only opportunity for a lead tenant along Woodall Rodgers that wants great signage," Mr. Fuller said. "The other buildings that are under construction already have lease prospects that will take them above 80 percent."

Later this month, the 19-story Rosewood Court office tower opens on Cedar Springs Road and is 70 percent leased. It's the largest office project to open in Uptown in a decade.

Like the rest of the new buildings in the area, office space at Rosewood Court is renting for more than $30 per square foot – more than a third higher than in nearby downtown.

"It's a good time to be an Uptown building owner," said Tim Terrell, executive vice president of Stream Realty Partners, which is leasing Rosewood Court. "Without a doubt, it's the tightest market in the city."

At the end of March, office vacancy in the combined Uptown and Turtle Creek markets was about 9 percent. That compares to about 20 percent areawide, according to statistics from Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc.

"There's a lot of momentum in that market," said Mike Wyatt, executive director with Cushman & Wakefield. "Law firms are a big driver of the Uptown market."

In April, downtown law firm Patton Boggs LLP said it would move its offices from the Trammell Crow Center tower on Ross Avenue to the Texas Capital Bank Building, under construction at 2000 McKinney Ave. The new building is 70 percent leased and opens in September.

And Haynes & Boone LLP will move its operations to the One Victory Park office building when it opens later this year at Lamar Street and Victory Avenue.

Real estate brokers say another big tenant, accounting firm Deloitte, is looking at potential locations in Uptown for a major office.

Victory is the odds-on favorite for that deal.

Several weeks ago, Victory developer Ross Perot Jr. said his Hillwood Development Co. is putting "a couple more office buildings on the fast track to keep up with these tenants."

But don't expect a flurry of more tower groundbreakings this year.

With the current credit crunch, developers are having a tough time lining up financing for new projects.

"I couldn't imagine anyone starting an office building unless they had a bird in the hand," Mr. Terrell said.

And a 24 percent drop in condo sales in North Texas through May has put the brakes on more high-rise development.

There are more than 360 luxury condos being built in Uptown towers. More than 200 of the units have yet to sell.

And 900 luxury rental apartments are going up in three more Uptown buildings. The first of these – 1900 McKinney Avenue – opens later this year.

Atlanta developer Wood Partners plans to complete its 22-story Glass House apartment tower early next year near the Crescent.

C. Todd McCulloch, Wood Partners' Dallas development associate, said the number of high-rise rental units being built in Uptown "is still manageable."

"There is definitely a robust market for high-rise rentals right now," he said.

And Uptown developers are hoping demand increases.

"We didn't know that gasoline would be over $4 when we started our building," Mr. McCulloch said. "The energy concerns will continue to drive people back into these close-in employment centers."


Friday, June 13, 2008
By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News
SOURCE: Dallas Morning News research

Katy Railroad Building Hits Sales Block


A Las Vegas-based partnership, readying the stage for a market exit, is putting the CBD's historic Katy Railroad Building up for sale in a three-property portfolio. Tagged at $15 million, the value-add package includes Park Plaza and Colony Park shopping center.

The 57,500-sf Katy Building at 701 Commerce St. was built in 1914 on a 7,500-sf tract, making it one of the oldest office buildings still standing in the Downtown. The preference is a take all or none scenario although severing the retail from the two office buildings remains an option, says Sary Benzvi, owner of Select Real Estate Group in Dallas.

Benzvi tells GlobeSt.com that the sales pitch will begin in two weeks, with the call for offers in 60 days. His says his plan is to target predominately local private investors who are familiar with the locations and value-add prospects for the separate submarkets. The 120,000-sf Park Plaza sits at 13111 N. Central Expressway on a 1.6-acre corner at a freeway ramp and kitty-corner from a proposed medical office complex. The 54,000-sf shopping center is situated on 0.8 acres at 5000 Main St. in the Colony, north of Dallas.

The trio has been paced through $3 million of renovations since Katy Building LP bought them in the past four years. "They felt their investment has matured and they want to liquidate the Dallas holdings," Benzvi explains.

As the assets' leasing and management point man, Benzvi points out the properties' dynamics vary, but the value-add shares a common thread--filling the open space. The Katy Building is 63% leased; Park Plaza, 43%; and Colony Park, 90%.

Benzvi admits the Katy Building is up against stiff leasing competition, sitting at the gateway to the historic West End shops and restaurants, where foot traffic has declined as nearby Victory continues to corner its market share. But, he points out the asset also is close to the city's convention center hotel site and courthouse, both of which hold added promise for the eight-story building.

"The market is not easy, but transactions are going through," Benzvi says, "and business is going on. This is an opportunity."

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dallas City Council Approves Parking Meter Ordinance

Dallas City Council reviewed and passed an ordinance* which, among other things, makes it an offense to park beyond the posted maximum time limit at parking meters regardless of whether money is actually deposited in the meter.


There has been a problem with cars, especially those with disabled placards, parking at meters all day, which in turn, interferes with retail customers to the detriment of the businesses. DOWNTOWNDALLAS was successful working with the city staff to get the meters on Lane Street (between the DalPark Garage and the DPL Building) to not allow parking before 9:00 am, preventing office workers from taking up the parking spaces intended for retail customers. Further, the city now is implementing a pilot project to limit parking at all meters in retail areas to two hours. We expect time limits eventually to be placed on all meters in the Central Business District (CBD) and other retail areas.


“In retail areas it is important to have constant turnover at parking meters for the convenience of retail customers, and the success of the retail businesses Downtown,” said John F. Crawford, DOWNTOWNDALLAS President & CEO.
The ordinance also allows the City to replace the current single space parking meters with electronic multi-space meter stations which ultimately could allow the general public with more options to pay while they park, such as payment with credit cards, pay-by-phone, and payment with bills as well as with coins. The easier it is to park at a meter, the better the experience Downtown.


DOWNTOWNDALLAS is grateful to the staff in the Department of Public Works and Transportation for their leadership on this issue. We applaud the efforts of the members of the Transportation and Environment Committee in thoroughly deliberating these changes.

The City Council approved all of these changes on June 11, 2008.

Developer Hopkins Commercial levels site - at a cost of $1 million

Developer Mike Hopkins moved mountains to do his latest real estate deal.
OK, OK – it was just a hillside.

But he still had to haul off 4,000 truckloads of rock and dirt to clear the building site on Skillman Street near Northwest Highway.

"It is probably the most challenging development site I have ever dealt with – it was 25 feet up in the air," said Mr. Hopkins, who's been doing Dallas-area retail projects since the 1980s.

The 2-acre tract facing busy Skillman at Eastridge Drive is in front of a Home Depot store. But to get there, you had to climb the driveway to the home improvement center.

That's why no one had developed the tract – which previously was the site of an apartment complex.

"A lot of people had looked at the property over the years but couldn't do anything with it," including Mr. Hopkins, who had previously had the land under contract.

Finally his Hopkins Commercial Real Estate Inc. made a deal to buy the property from Home Depot.
That's when the real work began.

First the dirt and stone had to be excavated on the small tract.

"At times, all the equipment working on that site was bumping into each other," Mr. Hopkins said.

Then the developer had to construct a towering concrete retaining wall to hold back the rest of the hillside. "There's a 30-foot waterfall behind that wall," said Hopkins president Steve Gregory. "The entire storm water draining for that Home Depot property is behind that wall."

So how much did all that cost? Roughly a million bucks, said Mr. Hopkins. But the expense was worth it.

Hopkins Commercial has already leased half of the property to Washington Mutual for – you guessed it – another branch bank.
And the prospects for the rest of the property are looking up since Trammell Crow Co. has begun demolition across the street to make way for a 44-acre, 450,000-square-foot shopping center.

"We didn't know about that when we bought our site," Mr. Hopkins said.

The independent development company is busy with other deals, including a 50-acre shopping center at Josey Lane and State Highway 121 in Denton County, and one in Houston.

Hopkins Commercial just completed a strip shopping center redo at the northwest corner of the Dallas North Tollway and Wycliff Avenue.

"People have finally recognized that the west side of the tollway [in Oak Lawn] is not a bad place to be," Mr. Gregory said.

By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Downtown Uptown News

If you think something's missing at the Victory Park development, you're right.
Two big construction cranes that have been across the street from American Airlines Center for months were recently taken down.

The cranes were for the construction of the parking garage to accompany the planned Victory Tower -- a 43-story skyscraper that's to include a Mandarin Oriental Hotel, luxury condominiums, office space and retail.

Victory developer Hillwood announced plans for the project back in 2006, with an opening date of 2009.

When work began last year on the parking garage, a lot of folks considered the tower to be under way. But it wasn't.

And now construction is winding down on the garage -- which has turned out to be a bit smaller than in the original artist's concept.

Hillwood officials aren't saying when or if they will build Victory Tower.

"At this time, we have no announcements," Victory Park's chief marketing officer, Andrew Gallina, said in an e-mail.

But actions speak louder than words. Workmen painted over colorful advertisements for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, which were on the fence at Olive Street and Victory Avenue.

The Victory Park Internet site says that the project will open in 2010. And a spokeswoman in Mandarin Oriental's New York office said the same thing. But she acknowledged that the opening date of the hotel is up to the developers and "subject to change."

Construction experts say that given the size and complexity of the building, a 2010 opening is unlikely unless work begins almost immediately.

Several other Dallas high-rises with condominiums included have been postponed or canceled outright because of softness in the housing market.

Oak Lawn project

A high-profile Oak Lawn block is under construction for a new mixed-use project.

Developer Crosland Group recently began work on the former site of a Tom Thumb supermarket at Cedar Springs Road and Douglas Avenue.

Crosland officials would not respond to requests for information about the project. But the company's Internet site says the development will include "up to 375 luxury apartment homes and 25,000 square feet of supporting retail/restaurant space."

BGO Architects designed the development.

Plans change

And a Turtle Creek neighborhood site that was planned for a luxury high-rise is on the block.

The 2-plus-acre vacant tract on Hood Street was to be the location of the 22-story Cresta Bella condominium tower. But the high-rise project was canceled, and now the dirt's up for grabs.

Colliers International is seeking a buyer for the property, which is behind the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek hotel.

New job

Former Victory Park head honcho Jonas Woods has a new job.

Mr. Woods has teamed up with the top exec at Dallas' Hayman Capital Partners to create a new real estate investment management company.

Mr. Woods will be CEO of Hayman Woods LLC, which he founded with Kyle Bass, founder and managing partner of Hayman Capital, a global hedge fund management company.

It's been almost a year since Mr. Wood's sudden departure as president of Hillwood Capital, which oversaw development of the Victory project.


Mar 14, 2008 - The Dallas Morning News

Dallas' Design District to gain apartments, shops

Until a few months ago, Michael Ablon's Oak Lawn Avenue property marketing center was a decorative tile showroom.

By next year – if things go as planned – the building will house a restaurant.

Things are happening fast in Dallas' design district.

The quasi-industrial area northwest of downtown is being redeveloped into the city's newest apartment and retail district.

"We'll have almost 1,000 apartment units ready to be occupied by next year," said Mr. Ablon, who's marketing the area for a Houston investor that's bought up much of the neighborhood. "We've been working very hard to move development of the area forward."

Last year, Houston-based Lionstone Group purchased more than 30 acres of land and buildings in the area around Oak Lawn and Hi Line Drive. The purchase includes more than 700,000 square feet of buildings – most of them leased to design firms – plus several tracts of land.

Mr. Ablon's firm, Pegasus Ablon Properties, has teamed up with Lionstone to develop and market the properties.

Construction has begun on two urban-style apartment projects. And another apartment development is about to break ground.

"This time next year, that area will look completely different than it does today," said C. Todd McCulloch, Dallas development associate with Wood Partners, which has one apartment complex under construction in the design district and is about to start another.

Wood Partners is building a 390-unit, four-story apartment complex on Inspiration Drive across Stemmons Freeway from Victory Park. That project is set to open in early 2009.

And at Oak Lawn and Hi Line overlooking Turtle Creek, Wood Partners is about to break ground for another 214 rental units.

"You should start seeing signs of progress there in the next 30 days," Mr. McCulloch said. "We should have units ready in the early summer of 2009."

In the next block from Wood Partners' site on Oak Lawn, Trammell Crow Residential has broken ground on a 355-unit apartment complex.

The four-story modern-style buildings are on the site of an old commercial building that was torn down.

"We plan to open in March of 2009," said Darren Schackman, Crow Residential's senior managing director. "We think the design district is the next close-in location that's going to kick off.

"The projects going in down there will revitalize the area."

Planned street improvements and construction of a new interchange at the Dallas North Tollway and Oak Lawn Avenue will also help the neighborhood connect better with nearby employment centers, he said.

"From there, you are five minutes from Victory and downtown," Mr. Schackman said. "And you are close to the medical center."

Tax increment finance district funding will be used to improve Oak Lawn and Hi Line, which connects to Victory Avenue, Mr. Ablon said.

"With the TIF money, we can start work on the intersections and streetscape," he said.

Those plans include construction of a decorative gateway at Oak Lawn and Stemmons.

Mr. Ablon is marketing the neighborhood as the new "Lower Oak Lawn," with hopes of identifying the area with the nearby neighborhood with apartments and shops that's already caught on.

After the apartments are open, Mr. Ablon plans to convert the project marketing center at Hi Line and Oak Lawn into a high-profile restaurant.

And other retailers are looking at vacant buildings.

But that doesn't mean the design and creative firms will be pulling out.

"The design firms and showrooms we want to keep here," Mr. Ablon said. "Part of what makes this area special and fun is you have these older showrooms and warehouses that have been gentrified. You don't want to lose that."

Lionstone also owns the two largest design firm complexes in the area – the Decorative Center on Oak Lawn and the Dallas Design Center on Stemmons.

"I advised them to work with some of the land, but the good buildings with good tenants and income you are not going to want to scrape," said broker Newt Walker, who has been representing Lionstone in its transactions.

"What's missing down there at this point is restaurants," Mr. Walker said. "And the retail and restaurants will follow the rooftops.

"There are already over 350 shops and vendors down there, but they have all been going home at 5 o'clock," he said. "This will give the area 24-hour activity."

Ablon Pegasus is also negotiating with buyers for several building sites along Stemmons Freeway.

"We've taken a run at an office building deal," Mr. Ablon said. "And we are talking to a high-rise residential developer and looking at a boutique hotel project."

CB Richard Ellis as been hired to manage and lease the existing buildings.

"This area will transform from an industrial district into a residential neighborhood," Mr. Walker said. "It's happening as we speak."

By STEVE BROWN / The Dallas Morning News

Sunday, June 08, 2008

El Fenix restaurant chain sold to real estate developer

Nearly 90 years of family ownership of the El Fenix restaurant chain has come to an end, the family said Thursday in announcing a sale to a Dallas-based real estate developer.

Privately held El Fenix, founded in 1918 on land now part of Woodall Rodgers Freeway, has been sold to Firebird Restaurant Group LLC.

Mike Karns, president of Dallas' Karns Commercial Real Estate, said he formed Firebird to acquire the 15-unit Mexican restaurant chain. He declined to disclose terms of the purchase, but he said there are no plans to close restaurants.

The deal culminates a search that began about a year ago, when descendants of founder Miguel "Mike" Martinez – including a fifth generation of El Fenix workers – had to make a choice about the future of the iconic brand.

"Some of the people in the family had a desire to grow [the chain]," said John McBride Jr., 48, a great-grandson of Mike Martinez, "and some of the older family members, who felt they had done their time," were not as interested in expansion.

"So we were at a crossroads, and we felt this was the best time to put it in the hands of people that could grow it," he said.

The company hired Dallas-based Southwest Securities to find suitors, eventually settling on Firebird.

Mr. Karns, chairman and chief executive of Firebird, said he hopes to open a new El Fenix in the Dallas-Fort Worth area within 12 months. "We see this as a growth opportunity to expand the El Fenix brand throughout the metroplex and Texas," he said.

The Martinez family owned eight of the 15 El Fenix restaurant properties, including the popular location on McKinney Avenue near Victory Park. The other seven were leased.

The change in ownership surprised at least one diner. John Dorey, a Fort Worth retiree, said, "I thought it would be in the family forever."

At the El Fenix on McKinney Avenue, where he was eating his standard meal of bean and cheese nachos, Mr. Dorey said he plans to keep coming "as long as the food remains the same."

Consistency is the plan, Mr. Karns said. He said El Fenix will be run by Martinez family members along with new executives.

John Michael McBride Sr., a 65-year-old grandson of the founder, will stay on as a board adviser. His son, John McBride Jr., will be chief operating officer. Robert Martinez, 51, another grandson, will be vice president of finance.

And Alfred Martinez, a son of the founder who turned 84 this week will continue in his role as "ambassador," chatting with diners and troubleshooting at the McKinney Avenue restaurant.

By KAREN ROBINSON-JACOBS / The Dallas Morning News

Friday, June 06, 2008

Harwood plans $300M project


Harwood International is planning a $300 million apartment-

retail development on a 10-acre site in the Dallas Design District.

When fully developed, Harwood plans 950 apartment units totaling about 1.2 million square feet, 100,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and showroom space, and an undetermined amount of office space, all built around a pocket park.

The site of the as-yet-unnamed project is south of Oak Lawn Avenue between Dragon and Slocum streets, on land Harwood has assembled during the past 20 years. It will include low-, mid- and highrise buildings and will be built in three phases, said Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, Harwood International CEO.