Most promisingly, for-sale units are entering the mix, which indicates that the market is maturing. "We think that downtown is ready for more home buyers," Westmount Realty president Cliff Booth told The Dallas Morning News in late 2005, when downtown’s largest loft apartment building was converted into condominiums. And he was right on track: Today, 80% of those 205 units – which range in price from $95,000 to more than $300,000 - have been sold.
DART Rail has also sparked new construction downtown, with more than 200 units plus retail going up adjacent to DART’s West End Station. A second phase, with another 150 units and additional retail, is under construction.
Street life is beginning to return to downtown Dallas, too, with restaurants, clubs and theaters clustering mostly within a few blocks of the downtown “transit mall.”
And south of downtown Dallas, the area around Cedars Station was long-neglected but is now filling up with artists, young professionals and other urban pioneers. DART breathed life into this area, starting when investors spent more than $200 million to convert an historic warehouse complex into 455 loft apartments, entertainment facilities, office and retail space and a hotel.
The converted loft complex helped turn the Cedars into an emerging hotspot with clubs, restaurants and coffehouses. Additionally, a developer is building new townhomes in the area.
Mixed-use projects are critical
Mockingbird Station, which takes its name from the adjacent DART rail station, was Dallas' first true transit village. Opened in 2001, the complex is anchored by a renovated former Southwestern Bell telephone warehouse, which was converted to retail and 211 loft apartments. Additional mixed-use development includes a movie theater, restaurants, and office space. The final phase, which will include 23,000 square feet of retail, is under way. "The proximity of the DART station and growing ridership made the Mockingbird Station project attractive and doable," said Dallas developer, and project founder, Ken Hughes.
Right across the street from Mockingbird Station, developers spent $90 million to turn a derelict hotel property into the four-star Hotel Palomar, plus an upmarket shopping and condo complex.
And DART's Victory Station at the American Airlines Center – home of the Stars and the Mavericks – is a hotbed of mixed-use development. The 32-story W Dallas Victory Hotel and Residences, which includes retail, opened in July 2006, and a second, 15-story condominium tower was added to the south side of the building to accommodate brisk pre-sales. Victory Plaza, billed as “Dallas’ Times Square,” is complete, as are two mid-rise residences with street-level retail. Also in the works are the luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel and condominiums, and the Philippe Starck-designed House condo tower.
New Rail Lines, New Opportunities
In August, following the awarding of a $700 million Full Funding Grant Agreement, DART began work on one of North America’s most aggressive rail expansion projects, which will extend from Southeast to Northwest Dallas into the cities of Farmers Branch and Carrollton and extend west to the city of Irving and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. And new projects totaling north of $3.5 billion are in the works along DART’s expansion corridors.
Carrollton city planners envision revitalizing Old Downtown at the site of a proposed DART Rail station with a mix of high-density business and residential development. The city expanded its “transit impact zone” from 100 to 300 acres and implemented a new tax increment financing district to attract residential, retail and commercial projects.
And Irving plans to integrate DART Rail into a transit mall extending from the area near Texas Stadium north through the Las Colinas Urban Center. The vast project will span a state highway with a signature "sky-park." The stadium area – which will become vacant when the Dallas Cowboys relocate in 2009 – will be become a mixed-use transit district.
The $400 million Water Street development will be on 13 acres with 780 apartments, condominiums and a hotel, plus office and retail space. "DART is a big amenity for developments," Doug Chesnut, Gables' senior vice president, told The Dallas Morning News. He added, "We are counting on the DART line for access to our site."