Friday, November 28, 2008

Cargo Container Firm Moves from Love Field to Dallas Logistics Hub

Developer Allen Group – which is building the 6,000-acre Dallas Logistics Hub in southern Dallas County – said Tuesday that it has signed a new deal with a cargo container firm.

Bridge Terminal Transport, a marine container hauler with locations across the U.S., will relocate its existing container yard from Love Field in Dallas to the project.

The new location is near Union Pacific Railway’s Dallas Intermodal Terminal in Interstate 45 in Hutchins.

“We are pleased to work with Bridge Terminal Transport to provide them with a perfect location for its Dallas container yard facility,” Daniel J. McAuliffe, president of The Allen Group’s Texas operations, said in a statement.

“This will be the first storage facility within the Dallas Logistics Hub that will allow accessible integration between the Dallas Intermodal Terminal and distribution customers in and around the logistics park.”

Allen Group said construction has begun on the facility which will open in February.

Bob Hagewood of Stream Realty Partners LP brokered the real estate transaction.

The Allen Group is based in San Diego and is developing about 8,000 acres in the U.S.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Developer aims to 'keep it authentic'

For a budding neighborhood in an old warehouse district on the northwestern edge of downtown Dallas, creating a sense of place is vital.

The Lower Oak Lawn development is centered at Oak Lawn Avenue and Hi Line Drive in the fast-changing Dallas Design District.

It will feature about 1,000 apartments, up to 10 restaurants, a boutique hotel, up to 400,000 square feet of office space, a park and an amphitheater. The first apartments will open early next year. Restaurants will debut by early 2010.

Developer Mike Ablon said the Dallas North Tollway's Oak Lawn interchange, which was expected to open late Thursday, will make it easier to reach the area. Street work and lush landscaping also will help attract people, he said.

Mr. Ablon's philosophy is to "Keep it authentic." He wants to maintain the artsy vibe by building around the existing design focus.

This is the latest transformation of the Design District, which has always had showrooms and antique shops. In the late '90s, the area housed dot-com startups. In the last few years, it's become an art hub with many galleries.

A major development draw is the district's proximity to the Trinity River, which is slated for a $2 billion transportation, flood control and recreational project. The Trinity Loft complex of 92 apartments on Dragon Street opened in June 2007. Dallas-based Harwood International plans to redevelop a business park on Oak Lawn into a residential and retail village.

PegasusAblon and its development partner Lionstone Group won't disclose their investment in Lower Oak Lawn. Dallas County records estimate the property's taxable value at $31.3 million.


The vision

Last year, Lionstone and PegasusAblon teamed up to buy 39 buildings on more than 30 acres wedged between Interstate 35E and the Trinity River. They also own more than 700,000 square feet of showroom space in the Design District, including the Dallas Design Center and the Decorative Center.

"We look for the interesting edges and districts that are emerging," said Lionstone partner Tom Bacon. "In Dallas, this was it."

Lower Oak Lawn is appealing because it's "sandwiched between two trends in American cities:" a resurgence of people wanting to live in an urban core and a revival of parks and other public space, he said.

The development won't have national restaurant chains or traditional retailers such as clothing stores. The developers want to keep a home-grown feel and think the location won't have enough people to support retail.

The plans to raze some older warehouses and redevelop others means that a handful of design companies must relocate within the district.

The Artemide Inc. decorative lighting company will move across the street in a couple of months after being in its Design District location for a decade. The new showroom will be larger, more stylish and closer to other contemporary showrooms, said area sales manager David Simcik.

He's optimistic, even though he said the developers have "flip-flopped" on their plans. "We're hoping that they'll follow through," Mr. Simcik said. "Bringing more residential and retail to this area will only help us. But I'm not sure why people will want to live in this area."


Living and playing

Mr. Ablon, who is armed with degrees in civil engineering and architecture, hopes to attract people who want to live in an artsy, urban area with easy access to transportation, trails and downtown. For marketing purposes, he shortened Lower Oak Lawn to LOL, which means "laughing out loud" in instant message slang, to appeal to a hip, younger crowd.

Three apartment complexes are under construction. Wood Partners is building two: 309 units on Inspiration Drive to open early next year and 214 units at Oak Lawn and Hi Line to open in late 2009 or early 2010. Trammell Crow Residential's 355-unit building at Oak Lawn and Hi Line will open later next year.

Todd McCulloch, a Wood director in Dallas, said people already are calling to ask when the apartments will be ready. Rent will range from $1.55 to $1.65 a square foot, or about $1,600 for 1,000 square feet.

The next phase of development calls for hotel, office, retail or apartment space. Despite the credit crunch, financing is available for urban infill projects, Mr. Ablon said.

Through May, workers will install parkway landscaping, lighting, trails, the amphitheater and gateway art – letters up to 8 feet tall that spell D-E-S-I-G-N at key corners such as I-35E and Oak Lawn and I-35E at Hi Line.

More than $5 million in public funds, including $4.4 million from a city tax increment financing district, is footing the bill for much of the infrastructure.

Plans also include a lighted walkway to nearby Victory Park. That path also would link the Katy Trail to the Trinity River via the planned Trinity Strand Trail at Lower Oak Lawn's northwestern border.

Construction of the 7.5-mile Trinity Strand Trail's first phase is scheduled to start in mid- to late 2009 and open by the end of 2010, said Mike Kutner, chairman of Friends of the Trinity Strand Trail.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Corporate Moves to Dallas/Ft. Worth as Economy Rebounds

A top local economist is telling commercial property execs to expect an increase in corporate transfers to North Texas as the U.S. economy recovers.

“Now is the time to be selling Texas,” Bernard Weinstein, director of the Center for Economic Development and Research at the University of North Texas, told members of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties at a Wednesday breakfast. “More and more companies are going to be looking for a Sunbelt location.

“This is where you want to be when the economy turns.”

That probably won’t happen until mid 2010 or later, according to Dr. Weinstein. And along the way, Texas will suffer some downsizing.

“Sure, job growth has slowed here,” he said. ‘We may even get into negative territory some months.

“Yes, we are going to see a slowdown here, but it’s not going to be blood running in the streets as in some areas.”

After more than 30 years in the area, Dr. Weinstein has seen his share of bull and bear economies. And North Texas has continued to add population and jobs.

“Texas always benefits from a national recession,” he said. “We get a lot of economic refugees with good skill sets.

“Even if they can’t get a job right away, the prospects are better here.”

Dr. Weinstein said his calendar has been more full with the recent financial market crash and worsening U.S. economy.

“I get a lot of requests to speak when the economy is bad,” he said. ‘When the economy is good, no one wants to hear me.”

DowntownDallas moves to Chase Tower

The economic development group DowntownDallas said Thursday that it's moving its offices early next year to the Chase Tower on Ross Avenue.

The relocation is part of a major expansion for the organization, which promotes the central business district.

DowntownDallas will occupy 9,200 square feet of the 46th floor of the skyscraper starting in January.

"This is a strategic location downtown," said DowntownDallas CEO John Crawford. The building's owner, Houston-based Hines, and leasing agent Stream Realty of Dallas "put together a deal we couldn't refuse." The organization, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, is now in the Adolphus Tower at 1412 Main St.

With the newest lease, Chase Tower is about 93 percent leased, said Stream Realty's Jon Altschuler.

"Getting the DowntownDallas headquarters is exciting for us because this is the kind of tenant that can drive more business for the building," Mr. Altschuler said.

Developer and investor Hines has owned the 55-story Chase Tower for about a year. The building, known for its distinctive opening in the top, is at Pearl and Ross, across the street from the Arts District.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Financing woes halt construction on Uptown condo tower


Developers of the partially built Heritage at the Stoneleigh Dallas condominium tower in Uptown are halting construction while they look for financing to complete the building.

In recent months, work crews have shifted their efforts from the tower to the adjoining parking garage and other facilities, which also serve the luxury hotel. During that time, developer Prescott Realty Group has been looking for financing to continue work on the tower. But a pending loan fell through.

"We are taking the crane down off the building this week," said Prescott chief executive Jud Pankey. "There's no need to spend the extra money right now for that."

Mr. Pankey said the builders will still search for financing to complete the project, but it could take until after the first of the year to arrange.

"We were really disappointed when the people we were working with on the financing couldn't make it to the closing table," he said. "But in this environment, it shouldn't be that much of a shock."

The global credit crunch and financial market meltdowns have made it almost impossible for developers to get funding to continue building. Many projects around the country have been delayed or canceled.

Prescott Realty and its partner Apollo Real Estate Advisors completed a major renovation of the 85-year-old Stoneleigh Hotel in the summer. The 118-unit condo tower was to have opened next year.

Mr. Pankey said the developers still plan to finish the building.

Jones Lang's new president of D-FW office is former Staubach officer

On the heels of its recent purchase of Staubach Co., Chicago-based commercial real estate service firm Jones Lang LaSalle said Thursday that Paul Whitman will become president of its Dallas-Fort Worth office.

Mr. Whitman was a top officer in Staubach's Dallas office.

He will oversee more than 500 people in Jones Lang LaSalle's D-FW operation and in Kansas City.

Jim Yoder, previously the top officer in Dallas, will become the company's investor services director and will head leasing, property management and investment sales in the Dallas market.

Mr. Whitman has been in the commercial real estate business for 38 years and was president of Southwest corporate services for Staubach.

Jones Lang LaSalle also announced more than a dozen promotions and job changes. The company has been working to combine its operation with Staubach since the merger was completed this summer.

The combined company is one of the largest commercial real estate operations in the country and in North Texas.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dallas-Fort Worth leads nation in apartment building


The Dallas-Fort Worth area now leads the country in apartment construction.

But building is likely to slow because of the crisis in debt and financial markets, apartment analysts meeting in Dallas said Wednesday.

More than 20,000 apartments are under development in the D-FW area, apartment consultant M/PF YieldStar said at its annual industry conference.

"The aggressive construction gives new meaning to the phrase 'It's bigger in Texas,' " said M/PF analyst Chandra Gajjar.

D-FW far outpaces second-place Houston, which has just over 16,000 rental units in the pipeline. Austin is third nationally, with 13,366.

Although North Texas has the strongest job growth in the country, apartment leasing has lagged this year.

"Demand for apartments in Dallas-Fort Worth is virtually flat – only 300 units [net leasing] through September," Ms. Gajjar said. "We have a strong economy that is providing ample support for housing demand. Where is it?"

Even with high building levels and weak demand so far in 2008, apartment occupancy rates will remain near current levels and rents here will rise through 2009, M/PF YieldStar predicts.

Overall, the apartment market in North Texas has less than a 7 percent vacancy rate.

Rents in the last year have inched up about 3 percent to a record $766 a month.

"Look for occupancies to come down just a tiny bit and rents to slow to a still decent 2 percent gain," Ms. Gajjar said.

"North Texas looks stable in the year ahead."

Of course, prices vary by district. Local rents are highest in the Uptown neighborhood, with an average of $1,325.

The Las Colinas area is second at $977.

Vacancy rates average less than 4 percent in East Plano, Allen, McKinney and North Dallas

Central Dallas, which has just seen a wave of building completions, has the highest vacancy rate at almost 12 percent.

"These are actually decade lows," Ms. Gajjar said.

Most development is taking place in Collin County, including West Plano, Allen and McKinney.

And while construction has fallen from recent highs, 2,239 units are still being built in central Dallas neighborhoods including Uptown and downtown.

To make way for construction, developers and investors have torn down almost 2,400 D-FW apartments this year, continuing a recent trend.

Developers are predicting a marked decline in apartment starts. Indeed, they're already seen a slowdown.

"We have four or five projects on the drawing board and one we might hope to start construction on in 2009, but we are not really optimistic," said Spencer Stuart Jr., senior managing director and Texas partner with Legacy Partners Residential Development.

Rick Perdue, director of acquisitions and development for builder Tonti Properties, said it's much more difficult to get an apartment project started today.

"There is a lack of financing and equity," Mr. Perdue said.

"It's not entirely a bad thing.

"A lot of times the lenders keep us from doing things we shouldn't do on the development side."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

DEALEY PLAZA RESTORATION BEGINS


On October 30th, Mayor Tom Leppert, John Crawford, President and CEO of DOWNTOWNDALLAS and members of the City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department poured the first concrete to begin major renovation projects at Dealey Plaza that is expected to be complete in Decemeber.

MAIN STREET GARDEN BREAKS GROUND


Construction has begun on the highly anticipated Main Street Garden park. The 1.75 acre, $17.4 million park is slated to open in the fall of 2009. The park is primarily funded through the City of Dallas’ 2003 and 2006 bond programs. Planned amenities include a cafĂ©, fountain, playground, dog run, benches, chairs and tables. Main Street Garden will replace Pegasus Plaza as the site for DOWNTOWNDALLAS’ yearly events such as City Lights and Main Street Live.

T. BOONE PICKENS DONATES $5M TO DOWNTOWN YMCA


T. Boone Pickens gave $5M to the Downtown YMCA to be used to fund a complete renovation to the facade of the building as well as improvements to the fitness programs at the YMCA. The gift was commemorated with the unveiling of the new building and the new name: the T. Boone Pickens YMCA. The donation by the T. Boone Pickens Foundation comes from funds that Boone Pickens personally donated to his Foundation in 2007. This donation reflects Pickens' dedication to corporate fitness.

DISNEY CELEBRATES DOWNTOWNDALLAS 50TH BIRTHDAY


Disney and its cast of characters celebrated DOWNTOWNDALLAS’ 50th birthday at Pegasus Plaza on October 14th as part of the launch of Disney’s “What Will You Celebrate?” campaign. The campaign is designed to help families enjoy special milestones in their lives from birthdays and anniversaries to graduations and reunions. Bright red Mickey Mouse-shaped balloons covered the plaza, and invitations to win a ‘celebrate vacation’ to a Disney park or a special birthday celebration surprise were handed out to passers-by.

Council member Pauline Medrano proclaimed the day to be “Disney Parks ‘What Will You Celebrate?’ Tour Day” and a representative from Disney presented John Crawford, President and CEO of DOWNTOWNDALLAS, with a cake celebrating their 50th anniversary.

DOWNTOWN DALLAS AND CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES BREAK WORLD RECORD


Carnival Cruise Lines bounced into the Guinness Book of World Records Sunday, October 26th, when 3 giant, inflated beach balls wandered down Elm Street atop the hands of nearly 1,000 residents, curious bystanders and hired extras. The balls were 35 feet around and 3 stories tall. The commercial will be part of a marketing campaign that will launch in 2009.

CELEBRATING 50 YEARS DOWNTOWN: 1958-1968


DOWNTOWNDALLAS is celebrating 50 years of making Downtown a vibrant and safe place to live, work and play. As part of the 50th anniversary celebration, an article documenting a decade by decade account of the rich history of Downtown will be included in each newsletter until the Annual Meeting. Join the celebration as we look back on 50 incredible years and forward to the excitement of the next 50!

By 1958, the foundation for a thriving Downtown had been laid. Landmark buildings like the Old Red Courthouse, Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Adolphus Hotel, and Municipal Building already graced Downtown’s busy streets. Financial and administrative offices had begun moving to Downtown, increasing its foothold as the business center of the city. The arts began to cultivate in the city center through the opening of the Dallas Civic Opera which made worldwide news when its opening performance featured the acclaimed singer Maria Callas.

It was at this time that the Central Dallas Association formed to promote the interests of Downtown through fostering public-private partnerships, acting as a liaison between businesses and the City of Dallas, promoting planning efforts and advancing incentive programs. Today, under the DOWNTOWNDALLAS banner, we continue to advance these priorities to ensure Downtown's position as an international destination to live, work, play and invest.

If you have any anecdotes and special experiences from the past 50 years Downtown, please share it with us by emailing ashford@downtowndallas.org. These stories will be used throughout the anniversary celebration.