Thursday, August 11, 2011

Elm Place, better than before?

So all of a sudden, this week it was announced that plans are underway to convert the jewel of a 60's building built by George Dahl, Elm Place, once the tallest building west of the Mississippi River, into a mixed-use urban tower.

I chose that picture because it illustrates two key things about this building.

First, Elm Place has a respect for the street. There is some set back, and you can definitely see how this would lead to the setbacks of later generations of towers. But, it is more like an extension of the sidewalk. I am not a big fan if I have the option of none, but this is at least done in a way that doesn't harm the urban environment.

The second is the garden deck at the top of the base before the building tapers off into the tower. It is a lovely way to add to the building's amenities. Not many have something like this (I can think of two) and I am glad to see it is coming back.

Now onto the proposal. The developer is from Turkey, the architect from Dallas (coincidentally they office right across the street). It calls for a mix of retail, office, residential and public space. Click for the proposal.

Here's a snapshot of the use by level.

Red is residential, orange is office, yellow is retail, the green at the top of the base will be a public space (or rather, open to the public) while the observation deck at the top will reopen to the public (great views here if you get a chance to look someday). Parking will remain underground.

But here's the best part. This may be the first redevelopment of a vacant building that will completely shutter the tunnel system underneath it. The Merc closed access, so it may count, but from what I can tell, this will be a total closure, and unlike the Merc, it is in the middle of the system. The map for Elm Place's tunnel can be seen here.

They add retail to a dock bay fronting the Akard Station, giving it a better frontage, both for the building and for transit users. Akard Station is the third busiest rail station in the DART system.

I count 484 residential units and several floors of office. This is exactly what I have been thinking should have happened to the building a long time ago. The base is too large to be broken down into residential units, but the tower is nice and slender. It is ideal for a mix of office and residential.

Overall I am really excited about this project. It is scheduled to begin renovation in October and be completed the first part of 2014. TIF funding has already been approved, so this looks as promising as things can be given the current development climate.

Remember, I said downtown would need another 28,000 units this decade to match the growth rate of the past one. Coupled with what is underway or about to be, this means downtown only needs another 27,000. That number is slowly falling.

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