Fate of DISD Headquarters – What could we do differently?

Dallas irrefutably has been transforming into one the world’s largest cities, and it continues to grow rapidly. The development dynamics surrounding Bryan Place is perhaps one the most tangible examples of that transformation, where higher density,
public transit, and economic opportunities have diversified the demographics. Unfortunately, if not carefully managed in a fast developing city, destruction of public amenities, vital green spaces, and historic sites can become an easy solution used by
apathetic developers in competing for scarcity of land and resources.

DISD HQ building beside being beautiful architecturally, is a prime landmark in the city. The DISD Board of Trustees has applied for a demolition permit from City Hall on behalf of the developer. This can ultimately result in the vanishing of this great structure and its histories forever. By no means do I disagree with gentrification of Ross avenue and rebuilding denser, newly improved communities within the region. However, a better, and broader approach needs to emerge in our zoning regulations.

A primary focus on how lawmakers, practitioners, and the public, together, rethink public amenities as valuable contributions to larger urban policy needs to be developed and integrated. The new objectives should focus on enriching public amenities and safeguarding socio-cultural heritage. Such an approach, in parallel to conventional economic policies, will intensify job opportunities, youth development, public health, and community growth, while sustaining historical sites and remarkable public structures.

Many great European cities, as well as the world’s famous tourist destinations, have made the list of “Must See Places” not because their policy makers tolerated demolishing of their history, architecture, public amenities and communal spaces. In fact it’s quite the opposite. The law makers as well as the public in those cities have habitually identified places of interest and invested not only in preserving them but also in cleverly repurposing such amenities. Yes, preservation is the key word we all understand and support to a degree, but preservation has not been fully embrace in American urban design. It is simply because ignoring preservation is easier, cheaper and faster; however this is only true in the short-term view!

Submitted by: Amir Safvat

Published on May 2, 2017

February 16th, Zoning Meeting at City Hall

The Zoning Ordinance Advisory Committee held a meeting on Thursday, February 16th and I was able to attend. There was some confusion on the purpose of the meeting, so I thought to share some details to provide better context and history of this case to everyone. Late in October 2015, the City Council Housing Committee was briefed on the issue of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). The Housing Committee directed the staff to conduct a meeting to gather input from Dallas residents on whether to allow accessory dwelling units and their potential impact on neighbors and neighborhoods.

The February 16th meeting purpose was to review considerations for amending the Dallas development code to create regulations to allow accessory dwelling units. Our district councilman Mr. Kingston was among participants and an advocate for this case. He and many lower Greenville and M-Street residents present at the meeting thought this was a great option to allow regulated affordable housing for low income individuals. This allows low-income residents to afford living within the popular inner city neighborhoods, where the cost of living and housing have been rapidly increasing.

There was no decision made, and the case is still in the review phase. I anticipate approval of this case, although it will not directly impact Bryan Place. It actually might be a good move for many Dallas homeowners who can benefit from additional income. More importantly, it will give the city the authority to regulate life safety, constructability, and code compliance of such units within our neighborhoods and adjacent areas. And it will ultimately make the practice of renting a garage apartment or mother-in-law suite safer due to such regulations.

In short, ADUs have always been somewhat permitted in Dallas zoning; however such living units have not been always regulated. I have submitted two case reports and a meeting agenda from this meeting for anyone who is interested to find out more details. These can be downloaded via our association web page.

Published on March 6, 2017

The Lakewood Theater is now an Official historic Landmark

Dallas City Council voted 15-0 Wednesday to designate the 78-year-old Lakewood Theater an official City of Dallas landmark. The process started in early 2016 without the owner’s consent. But, finally, it is done—and with the blessings of the Lakewood’s owners, Craig Kinney and Bill Willingham.

Preservationists and neighborhood residents first became concerned about the theater’s fate in November 2014. Preservationists feared that the Perry Nichols’ murals would be removed and didn’t trust that the tower would survive the intended makeover. If you want to read the entire article, see http://www.dallasnews.com/news/news/2016/09/14/lakewood-theater-soul-east-dallas-nowofficial-historic-landmark.

Published on January 7, 2017

A Glance Back at 2016

We have lived within few miles from the heart of Dallas since moving to Bryan Place late October 2014. Remarkably, North Texas’ home market ran up the score last October, with big gains in prices and sales. Median home sales prices last month were 12 percent higher compare to sales in October 2015. Many people have been relocating to Texas to fill the new jobs and continue to strengthen housing demand in the area to new levels and keeping property inventories low. It is not a surprise why we notice many vehicles with the out-of-state plates on the roads when driving to work or during daily commutes around town.

Bryan Place, and in general East Dallas, has gained notable character and ambiance and has evolved into a transitional, established, upscale and yet an affordable in-town neighborhood of diverse demographic and unique urban fabric. Henderson Avenue has competed with Lower Greenville and Deep Ellum over restaurants, shops and entertainment. Ross Avenue, Live Oak Street, and Gaston Avenue have become single family housing arteries, connecting many older neighborhoods to the heart of downtown throughout 2016 and yet constructions are still up and cranes are running around the clock.

I envision East Dallas to continue developing as a dense, mixed inner-city where quality of life, public amenities, green spaces, and cultural institutions act together as an immense magnet to attract new residences and businesses. A whole new demographic is discovering East Dallas and downtown. I suspect and hope this dynamic will only intensify in 2017 and the years to come, despite parking issues of a concern, I see this as a positive growth for Bryan Place and Dallas.

Published on January 7, 2017

Statler Hilton Hotel – Preserved

With nearly less than a year before the scheduled reopening, downtown Dallas’ landmark Statler Hotel is the largest redevelopment project in town, and will likely promote further development near our neighborhood. Built at a cost of $15 million, the Statler was finished just after the Hilton and Statler hotel companies merged. The $111 million purchase of the Statler chain by Conrad Hilton was the largest real estate deal on record at the time.

The $175 million makeover of the almost 60-year-old Commerce Street hotel is about 25 percent completed. The city of Dallas is providing $46.5 million in financing incentives to redevelop the historic property, as the Statler was one of the last large vacant buildings downtown to be redone. The 3 rd through 8 th floors are being rebuilt as 161 hotel rooms that will be operated under the Hilton flag. The upper 10 floors of the 19-story building will be comprised of 220 apartments.

There will also be a 12,000-square-foot restaurant on the ground floor, along with retail space, a coffee shop and a diner facing Commerce Street. At the back of the second floor, the grand ballroom, more than 14,000 square feet, is being revamped as a grand entertainment hall. It still has the original stage where Sinatra and Elvis performed. In 1956 when that room opened, it was the largest hotel ballroom in the world without columns.

There will be 250 resident parking spaces in the basement. And just a block away on Harwood Street, Centurion American plans to build a 7- story parking garage with retail on the ground floor and apartments on top.

When the Statler reopens in 2016, Hilton will market the hotel portion of the project as one of its Curio hotels, a new chain of historic and luxury hotels.


Published on February 7, 2016

Not-So-Happy Shapes… Yet!

When residents renewed their requests in 2010 for improved lighting under the gateway between East Dallas and the Arts District, the city held an open call for artists with the goal of making the underpass friendlier and brighter for pedestrians and cyclists. In 2011 the cities public art selection committee chose the colorful, minion-esque, “Happy Shapes,” which are planned to be made of high-density polyethylene with LED lights that change color on touch.

Fast forward to July of 2015 and there is still no movement on the project. According to Kay Kallos, public art program manager of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the holdup occurred because, while TxDOT has jurisdiction over the land, the electrical infrastructure must connect to the city utilities through the Street Department’s jurisdiction. Both groups must agree on the location and electrical access (including who will shoulder the cost of electricity) before the arts project can proceed. To complicate matters, as of July of this year, TxDOT was still claiming that they hadn’t received a completed application packet from the city’s Cultural Affairs Office, although the city reports that they have been “in constant contact with TxDOT through the entire process.”

BPNA President Collins recently had a conference call with David Allen and the Arts Manager with the City of Dallas, and they had little to add except to say that TxDot is now working on the bridge above the underpass and therefore it is unlikely that they will allow the project to move forward until the stabilization of the bridge is complete.

Other locations in our neighborhood may be considered for the Happy Shapes installation if the underpass is no longer a possibility. In that event, a scouting meeting would take place to identify the best option in the neighborhood. We will keep you all posted on any new developments!

Published on January 8, 2016

Epic Office / Hotel Complex Planned

There is a huge new development planned on the large area of empty land on Elm Street and Good‐Latimer Expressway, next to what used to be the Knights of Pythias Temple (which is now called the Union Bankers building). The new development, aptly called “The Epic”, will include 250,000 square feet (15 stories) of office and retail space next door to a restaurant and lounge in the Deep Ellum landmark. A boutique hotel is also being planned behind the Union Bankers building as part of the project. There have been many plans for the Knights of Pythias area in the past. When none of their prior plans materialized, Westdale left the lots and existing buildings vacant until preservationists and city officials intervened in 2006.

The Epic project is just part of Westdale’s renewed interest in developing their Deep Ellum properties. In February Westdale announced plans to make‐over the 90% vacant block encircled by Elm, Crowdus, Main Street and Malcolm X Boulevard. And 6 months later, they unveiled their joint venture with StreetLights Residential to build a 17‐story apartment tower just south of Baylor Medical Center at Main and Hall.

Westdale Asset Management Vice President Chuck Hixson is set to formally announce the Epic project at the monthly First Sunday at Sons meeting at the Sons of Hermann Hall on November 1st . This is certainly an exciting time to live in Bryan Place!

Published on November 1, 2015

New Skyscraper for the Arts District

Plans are in place for a 39‐story residential tower on one of the last vacant sites in the Arts District. The project will be at Flora and Olive and is right next door to the Museum Tower and a block south of Klyde Warren Park.

The one‐acre development between the Nasher Sculpture Center and the Meyerson will include 370 luxury apartments and 39 artists lofts, which will add a population of 400 to 500 residents to the area.

There will also be 12,000 square feet of ground‐floor retail space along Flora St.

Designed by Boston‐based architect Add Inc., a thin tower will sit on top of the six‐story loft and retail building. The design is classic modern and the hope is that it will fit well with the contemporary architecture the Arts District. Unlike Museum Tower, the Atelier/Flora Lofts building will have a masonry exterior with inset balconies so that much of the glass is recessed into the face of the building. It will also be 100 feet shorter than Museum Tower and all efforts have been taken to minimize the impact on neighbors from sun glare and shadow.

The project is anticipated to begin in the fourth quarter of this year and will take 24‐ to 28‐months to complete.

Published on October 2, 2015

Business is Booming in Deep Ellum

The story of Deep Ellum is one of ups and downs, however the nearby neighborhood is now witnessing one of the biggest upswings in its history. In the next year, Deep Ellum will have opened more than 20 restaurants and bars, drawing ever‐growing crowds to the area.

Restaurateurs with proven concepts from fine dining to food trucks are trying their hand this historic locale, and as the area is revitalized, Bryan Place finds itself near the center of it all. For more information on the many new establishments set to open in Deep Ellum in the coming months, visit GuideLive.com.


Published on September 1, 2015

Streets and Traffic Update

We finally heard back from Kerry Elder from the Streets Department, and we now have confirmation of some exciting new developments happening as a result of our General Meeting. Traffic counts have already been completed on Skiles, Pavillion and at the intersection of Bryan and Skiles. We should have the results of those studies in the coming weeks.

At the time of publication, there should already be three new stop signs at Bryan Street and McCoy, as well as additional “No Outlet” signs at San Jacinto and Pavilion, and at Liberty Street and Adolph.

You’ll also notice new paint around some of the brick‐paver crosswalks by the park. There will also be new crosswalks installed at Bryan and McCoy, and Bryan and Pavilion by August 28th.

We are hopeful that these changes will help to improve the safety of our neighborhood. If there are additional concerns or requests, please contact Zoning Chairperson Jarrett Reed or call 311.

Photo Jul 27, 1 32 04 PM

Published on August 2, 2015