Monday, April 06, 2015

Developers promise new Uptown tower project won’t cast a light on nearby neighbors

Fast-growing e-commerce firm expanding with major Dallas operation
Stitch Fix's COO Mike Smith knew about North Texas from his days of working with Wal-Mart's online sales division. (Stitch Fix)
Stitch Fix’s COO Mike Smith knew about North Texas from his days of working with Wal-Mart’s online sales division. (Stitch Fix)
A fast-growing e-commerce firm is setting up a major distribution center in North Texas and plans to hire 400 to 500 workers
San Francisco-based Stitch Fix will open its new Dallas fulfillment center in June at 1421 N. Cockrell Hill Road west of downtown.
The company’s new distribution center will support Stitch Fix’s expanding business in Texas and the southern region of the country.
“Stitch Fix has a strong presence in Texas and the decision to locate our third distribution center in Dallas was an easy one,” said Stitch Fix Chief Operating Officer Mike Smith. “We have always had many clients in Texas, so when we thought about where in the country we wanted to expand, it felt like a natural fit for our company and our culture.”
Stitch Fix – which recently opened an office in Austin – provides an online personal styling service for women and sells apparel by mail.
Founded in 2011, Stitch Fix has grown to more than 1,500 employees.
Smith, who was formerly a top office with Wal-Mart Store’s Internet sales division, was attracted to North Texas to support Stitch Fix’s growth.
“I have a lot of experience from my time at Walmart.com of working in the Metroplex,” he said. “I know from firsthand experience the what a great pool of operational talent is located in Dallas, and we were really looking for a space we could grow into as the company continues to scale.”
Stitch Fix is just the latest e-commerce firm to expand in North Texas.
Last year Chicago-based Trunk Club bought a building east of downtown Dallas in Deep Ellum to house workers for its nationwide men’s apparel sales operation.
The Stitch Fix industrial lease was negotiated by commercial real estate firm JLL’s Hugh Scott, Kurt Griffin and Nathan Orbin.

Developer retools plans for Turtle Creek condo tower

Great Gulf Homes’ Turtle Creek high-rise will now have 80 to 90 units. (Great Gulf)
Developers are redesigning a Turtle Creek condo tower, but the planned project will keep its modern look.
Canadian developer Great Gulf Homes has been working for several years on its planned residential high-rise at Turtle Creek Boulevard and Fairmount Street.
The 22-story building was originally planned to have about 60 condos.
But after talking with prospective buyers and rethinking its plans, Great Gulf has gone back to the drawing boards for its Ltd Edition No. 2505 project.
“They decided to redo the floorplans and have smaller units,” said Katye Sloan with Briggs-Freeman Sothebys International, who is the local marketing agent for the tower.
The smallest condos at the Turtle Creek tower will now be about 1,700 square feet. Before many of the units started around 3,000 square feet.
“It’s in response to some of the feedback we got giving presentations and the market research we did,” Sloan said.
Potential buyers from East and West Coast markets were accustomed to smaller units.
As a result of the changes, the building will now have around 80 or 90 condos and won’t start construction until next year.
“They are working with the architect to finalize the plans, then we will get the final pricing,” Sloan said. The condos will be in the $800 per square foot range, she said.
“They are not taking away the luxury of the building, but they are offering additional choices.”
The $225 million project designed by Hariri Pontarini Architects of Toronto has a curvaceous exterior of light gray masonry and glass.
Great Gulf has been working on plans for the project since 2008 when it bought the land.

Sharp drop in D-FW home starts means less choice for buyers

North Texas home starts dropped by more than 20 percent in the first quarter from a year ago. (Steve Brown)
A sharp drop in first quarter housing starts has dimmed hopes of easing the Dallas-Fort Worth housing crunch.
Builders cut back in home starts by more than 20 percent in the first three months of 2015 – a period when residential firms usually ramp up construction to have inventory for the spring and summer market.
But the number of home starts fell from the same period last year, according to new data from Residential Strategies Inc.
Dallas-Fort Worth homebuilders started just 5,740 houses during the first three months of 2015. That’s down more than 22 percent from home starts in the first quarter of 2014.
And it was the lowest number of quarterly home starts in the area in more than a year.
“As we suspected, the very wet weather we experienced this Spring slowed our start rate,” said Residential Strategies principal Ted Wilson. “If the weather cooperates over the next three months, I think we will have a huge second quarter.”
Even so, it could be hard for builders to catch up with demand because of continued constraints on available building sites, construction laborers and long lead times necessary to start new residential communities.
“I’m surprised that the first quarter starts were down, for whatever reason,” said Dr. James Gaines, economist with the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University. “They will have a hard time catching up.
“You are going to have another year of very tight housing inventory in North Texas.”
Supplies of homes for sale in the D-FW area are at historic lows. There’s only about a 2-month supply of preowned houses listed for sale.
And the supply of finished new houses is even smaller – only 1.7 months, according to Residential Strategies.
With thousands of workers moving to North Texas to fill new jobs, there’s a scramble on for homes.
So far there’s no sign that homebuilders will be able to balance a market that’s been suffering from lack of supply since the end of the recession.
“The market is still out of balance,” Gaines said. “The demand is still far exceeding the supply.”
Builders sold 4,785 new D-FW homes in the first quarter– about 5 percent more than in the same period in 2014.
Sales would have been higher if there were new houses to sell. At the end of March, there were only about 3,100 completed new houses available in North Texas.
“Sales reports from the builders indicate that homebuying activity has been robust,” Wilson said. “In fact, the Spring market that typically kicks off after the Super Bowl, began earlier this year and has remained strong throughout the quarter.”
Prices of new homes have risen by 5 percent a year to a median of $284,585, according to Residential Strategies.
“The lack of existing home inventory means that the consumer has very few options today in the market place,” Wilson said. “With the strong influx of relocation buyers anticipated to appear in D-FW over the next two years, we expect this trend to continue.”

Florida investor adds to North Texas apartment holdings

Advenir plans to make more than $2 million in upgrades to the Frankford Springs apartments. (Advenir)
A Florida investor plans to spend more than $2 million on upgrades to a Far North Dallas apartment community the firm just purchased.
Advenir said Wednesday that is purchased the Frankford Springs apartments at 37001 Frankford Road.
The 332-rental community is the third recent acquisition by Advenir in North Texas.
Advenir plans to make improvements to the Frankford Road property’s exterior and tenant amenities.
“Our strategy is to add value by upgrading the property to attract a discerning customer base in this high demand northwest Dallas submarket.” Todd Linden, Chief Acquisition Officer of Advenir, said in a statement.
Founded in 1996, Advenir has 8,000 apartment units valued at more than $1 billion.
It’s holdings in the Dallas area include Advenir at Foxmoor, a 495-unit rental community located on North Central Expressway near Royal Lane, and the Sycamore Tree Apartments in Oak Lawn.

Developers promise new Uptown tower project won’t cast a light on nearby neighbors

Developers of the planned Park District project on Klyde Warren Park are going to great lengths to cut reflected light from the new buildings. (Trammell Crow)
With the catfight over Museum Tower and reflected light in the Arts District, developers and city planners are more cautious about nearby projects.
Developer Hall Financial changed the exterior of its new KPMG Plaza on Ross Avenue to make sure the office tower didn’t reflect poorly on its neighbors.
Now, the largest new development in the downtown/Uptown market is taking extraordinary steps to make sure it won’t cast an unwelcome light on surrounding properties.
The 2-tower Park District project planned by Trammell Crow Co. and Metropolitan Life Insurance will be built on the site of the Chase Bank drive through at Woodall Rodgers and Pearl Street.
The more than 900,000-square-foot development will include a 32-story residential tower and a 19-story office high-rise.
To get city planners to agree to an almost 30 percent increase in height for the project, the developers have worked to overcome any concerns that the glass exteriors on the towers will reflect light across the street on Klyde Warren Park and the Nasher Sculpture Center.
“Staff requested the study to ensure adjacent properties, as well as the heavily utilized Klyde Warren Park would not be impacted by the development,” according to the city plan commission zoning request for Park District. “The applicant’s vision for the proposed development is not anticipated to impact adjacent properties (lighting, noise, odor).
“Additionally, staff’s recommended reflectivity plan will ensure minimal reflectance from the proposed development onto adjacent properties.”
To make sure, the developers were required to place light receptors in the park, in the Nasher garden an on the roof of the Nasher building to measure how much light was reflected from sample glass building panels.
“The proposed development will generate reflectance not to exceed 27 percent,” the city plan commission filing says. “Additionally, low reflectivity glazing (11 percent) is anticipated on various sections of the development’s facades, and as such, staff is recommending adoption of the attached reflectivity plan.”
City plan commissioners will vote tomorrow to approve zoning changes for Park District.
The mixed-use development will include retail space fronting on the park and a landscaped plaza area. The two towers have been located at the back and to one side of the development site instead of fronting on Klyde Warren Park.
Architect HKS designed the project, which is scheduled to start construction this year.
Reflectivity studies by developers show the buildings won't shine on nearby properties. (Dallas City Plan Commission)
Reflectivity studies by developers show the buildings won’t shine on nearby properties. (Dallas City Plan Commission)

Steve Brown, The Dallas Morning News