Developers Preach Viewing Buildings As One Piece In A Mosaic
Human interaction is “the soul of the city, the juice of urbanism,” Hamilton Properties CEO Larry Hamilton passionately told the crowd at Bisnow’s Downtown Dallas event last week. That means developers can’t just think about their own buildings, but need to embrace the street and look at the space between buildings, how they interact with the street, and connectivity. His firm’s redevelopment of the Lorenzo Hotel will reposition the building from side-facing to opening on Akard Street with an indoor/outdoor space, including a “container village” with Kolache Corner, opening in January 2017. Hamilton Properties is working with the city to redo the street itself, with two buffered bike paths, 10-foot-wide pedestrian paths and a median with an iconic umbrella sculpture for whimsy.
Pictured is our redevelopment panel: Todd Interests CEO Shawn Todd; Larry; KFK Group CEO Elie Khoury; Matthews Southwest president Jack Matthews; NewcrestImage Management CEO Mehul Patel; and moderator Gensler principal Zach Edwards
Shawn (with the mic) says the landscape has changed dramatically since his firm acquired the old federal courthouse and post office in ’07. People were shocked when apartment rents there topped $2/SF when it opened in ’11, but he credits having the template of outstanding architecture. It's tough getting there, though—it’s difficult to get your arms around historic redevelopments and get everyone to buy in, and old buildings have intrinsic problems, he said. Now that there have been several great redevelopments in Dallas, it’s becoming easier. All those projects are weaving together into a Downtown whole that’s better than each part, he thinks.
Downtown Dallas was always left behind, says Mehul (pictured with WLS Lighting’s Dean Pritchard). Now residents and developers are coming in from outside of Dallas and seeing opportunities and ways to do things that locals don’t. He says the progress in Downtown is visible in real time, which is very exciting. But opportunities may be drying up; Mehul says every building Downtown is now taken—redeveloped or in the works. He’s working on two himself, converting buildings from the ‘50s and ‘60s into high-end hotels and residences.
There used to be too much office Downtown, says Elie. That created opportunities to redevelop into residential, retail and hotels. His firm was responsible for converting one-third of One Main Place into a Westin, and he says it wouldn’t have been possible without the existing building. It also needed historic tax credits—people think it’s cheaper to do a redevelopment because the structure’s in place, but it’s more expensive. KFK spent $200/SF doing the Westin. Mobility is a game-changer, Elie says. High-speed rail will be huge for Texas. He likens our relationship to transportation to our use of devices. We’re expanding the number of tools we carry, and similarly we want multiple options for connectivity—car, Uber, rail, flight, walking.
Jack agrees that mass transportation is one of the most important parts of the future of Downtown Dallas. Developers building new garages should design them in a way that they can be repurposed, he suggests. As new modes of transportation come (including driverless cars), we’ll find ourselves with empty parking Downtown. Jack (second from the left with Madison Title’s Joshua Quinn, Marvin Poer’s Justin Goertz and Kane Russell Coleman’s Sean Tate) likes to find a great old building and then decide what to do with it. At the old Dallas High School, he loves the feeling of history and people’s connection with it. Using TIFF and historic tax credits, his firm will open it up to Pearl Street, improve entrance/exit, and bring in retail to keep that people factor alive.