Monday, October 20, 2014

Development deal could save downtown landmark and bring apartments to Deep Ellum

The vacant Knights of Pythias building was opened in 1915 on Elm Street. (DMN files)
A development deal in the works could save a languishing downtown landmark while adding hundreds of high-end apartments on the edge of downtown.
Real estate brokers say that the owners of the century-old Knights of Pythias building in Deep Ellum (more recently known as the Union Bankers building) are working with developer StreetLights Residential on a mixed-use project for the property at Elm Street and Good-Latimer Expressway.
The former fraternal organization temple has been vacant for almost two decades and is prized by preservationists. The 5-story brick building was designed by noted African American architect William Sydney Pittman.
Since 1998 the building and surrounding land has been owned by Dallas-based investor Westdale Properties.
Previous owners and potential buyers studied plans to restore the Knights of Pythias building as part of a mixed-use development.
Now Westdale is working with StreetLights on a project to build apartments on the empty properties and convert the historic building to a boutique hotel, sources familiar with the deal said.
StreetLights is a successful developer of Uptown high-rise apartments with other projects underway in West Dallas and Frisco.
An officer with the company this week said the firm has a new Deep Ellum project, but he didn’t go into details about the Knights of Pythias property.
StreetLights officials on Thursday declined to talk about the proposed development. And officials with Westdale could not be reached for comment.
The Elm Street tract at the eastern gateway to downtown has long been considered a prime location for new housing and commercial space.
Any project that would restore the threatened Knights of Pythias temple would also be welcomed by city officials and preservationists who are speaking out about the recent surge in demolitions of Dallas historic buildings.
The development would also come at a time when new projects are planned to pump millions of dollars in new investment into Deep Ellum.
Vacant land surrounding the Knights of Pythias building on Good-Latimer extends along Elm Street and Gaston Avenue to the north. (Google maps)
By Steve Brown stevebrown@dallasnews.com