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Cultivating a Transit LifestyleNew development emerges near stations
A new lifestyle is afoot literally throughout the DART Service Area. Where DART has gone, vibrant pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use neighborhoods have followed.
While the struggling economy has stalled most sectors of the real estate market, those projects planned near transit such as the massive live-work-play complexes to be built adjacent to the Bush Turnpike Station provide a glimpse of the watershed of new development to come.
Getting off the Ground
The first major TOD project being undertaken in Downtown Carrollton by Trammell Crow Company's High Street Residential is currently under way. The first phase of the ambitious mixed-use development broke ground last August.
"We expect this project to be the spark that ignites a period of growth in our downtown area," says Carrollton Mayor Matthew Marchant.
Around all three DART Rail stations, the city has made roadway improvements, installed crosswalks and enhanced street lighting to prime the adjacent land for future growth.
"Downtown Carrollton is only the beginning," says Peter Braster, the city's transit-oriented development manager. "Although capital is tight these days, all three Carrollton stations have garnered plenty of interest from the business community."
Tilling the Soil
Elsewhere along the DART lines, developers aren't just waiting for the economy to thaw they're actively preparing for what promises to be a second blooming of TOD.
Neil Sleeper, president of Cityplace Co., has driven a complete reimagining of the area near the west portal to Cityplace Station gateway to the fashionable West Village to prime the area for the next wave of mixed-used development. Crews have extended roadways, refurbished the portal itself and constructed a new trolley turntable with dramatic architectural elements.
"The 'cool factor' of having transit in the middle of a development is hard to deny," says Sleeper. "It just creates a great centerpiece and a vibrant, urban feel."
Paving the Way
Ten years ago, Jack Matthews, developer of the game-changing South Side on Lamar and The Beat condos, almost single-handedly transformed the innercity neighborhood of The Cedars into a hip and safe destination.
"Access to DART Rail is a big part of the neighborhood's value proposition," says Matthews.
Today, Matthews Southwest is moving ahead with a five-story, 76-room hotel one block from Cedars Station which provides next-stop access to the Dallas Convention Center. The hotel will be operated by NYLO Hotels and is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2012.
To pave the way for further investment, Matthews spearheaded a successful campaign to dedicate $5.5 million in a combination of NCTCOG Sustainable Development Grant funds, matching City funds, and a private match from his own company toward a comprehensive streetscape-improvement initiative stretching from Cedars Station to the Dallas Convention Center. The project will convert pockets of neglect into pocket parks as well as introduce pedestrian-friendly lighting, better sidewalks, buried utility lines and crosswalks for added safety.
Meanwhile, there's plenty of real estate activity under way in downtown Dallas. While DART is only one factor in the renaissance of the city core, many developers are using it as a springboard. Ken Hughes the developer behind Mockingbird Station, the Quadrangle and Highland Park Village along with partner real estate development firm Wynne/Jackson, has purchased a high-profile site: the boarded-up Dallas High School/Crozier Tech building. The 1908 property sits on a prime piece of land directly adjacent to Pearl Station.
"The access to DART is a huge plus with this property, and I see its uniqueness as an asset," says Hughes. "TOD is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and Crozier Tech is one of the best addresses in town."
Hughes and his partners are still developing plans, but the adaptive-reuse project will include retail and housing and incorporate neighboring parcels of land that are currently surface-level parking.
Elsewhere, the magnificent circa-1930 U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, a historic preservation and adaptive reuse project at 400 North Ervay Street, just a block from St. Paul Station, has been dramatically converted into a mixed-use project that includes 78 residences for lease, with a rooftop terrace and a downstairs marketplace in the works.
"The proximity of the rail station is one of the main reasons we did this project," says investor and developer Shawn Todd. "Already we have several residents that chose to live here specifically because of transit access."
As these and other emerging projects continue to come to fruition, DART will, as always, play a vital role in advising cities and developers.
"Development opportunities are one of the biggest benefits of being a part of the service area," says Jack Wierzenski, DART's director of economic development. "Conversely, cities and developers really enhance the value of light rail when they position transit access as a focal point and a key lifestyle element."
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