Village People
It was the place for swingin singles in the ’70s. And thanks to a multi-million-dollar facelift, the notorious Village apartments are cool again. Beautiful people are moving back. Let the party begin.

They say that a Dallas business owner got arrested for skinny-dipping in the pool. And that a certain blonde writer used to flip a coin to decide at which guy’s apartment she would be spending the night.

It’s almost certainly true that a balding media personality really shocked his friends by getting rid of his mattress-on-the-floor living-room seating arrangement, opting for a real sofa.

Occasionally, a place becomes so identified with a time that the two meld into lifestyle legend "New York’s Chelsea Hotel in the ’60s, for instance. It doesn’t happen very often in Dallas, but when you mention The Village apartments to Dallasites of a certain age, they get a gleam in their eye as they fondly remember a time they don’t dare talk about in front of the children.

"I remember The Village ran an ad in Playboy magazine of the back side of a girl wearing only jeans with patches of all the communities in The Village at that time Gate, Hill, Corners, Corners East, Glen, and Bluffs," says Sharkey Clark, who moved into The Village in 1972.

Carol Winfrey, who lived in The Village for 15 years during the 70s, remembers its lifestyle advantage, especially the nightly party scene at the Country Club, a small clubhouse located on the property surrounded by swimming pools that became a rocking central hub: "Living in The Village was great because I could walk or crawl home from the club after a night of winding down from a hard day’s work."

"Nothing at The Village was ever tame. Sometimes parties at the clubhouse were kicked off by a skydiver parachuting into the area. Sometimes they hit the target and sometimes not. I remember having to call the fire department to rescue one of them from a rooftop at The Hill."

The Village lost its coolness in the late ’80s, eclipsed by the loft lifestyle revolution. But occupancy rates remained high and its good location only improved - the neighboring M Streets are now thoroughly gentrified, Old Town is a stronger retail center, the rundown block of seedy clubs on Lovers Lane has been replaced by Central Market, NorthPark Center is expanding, and Mockingbird Station is bustling.

Inevitably, The Village is hip again. Savvy and surprisingly practical - young people, disenchanted with the small spaces, high rents, density, and an overall absence of mellowness they find downtown and Uptown, are being lured back to The Village green.

On the landlord’s side, Lincoln Properties is undertaking a massive, multimillion dollar redesign of The Village intended to make the community competitively cool.

Modern Maturity
Not long after it was built in 1969, The Village became the center of the swinging singles lifestyle in Dallas. Baby boomers were graduating from college, starting "real" jobs, and living for the first time unbound by school rules and parental strictures.

Before 9/11, before AIDS, before the economic bubble burst, before the Sunbelt lost its shine, before every indulgence came with a 12-step program, Village life was carefree, bouncing irrepressibly between the nine-hole golf course, a huge swimming pool, and a clubhouse that seemed to party nonstop. For those who deemed it necessary to venture out, it was usually to watering holes on upper Greenville Avenue.

These days, life at The Village is different. Although Village residents are older on average than they used to be - mostly between the ages of 26 and 35 - the majority of them are on the backside of the bell curve, a long way from middle age. Young people seem older than they used to. Much of the infamous country club is now given over to a huge fitness center where tenants attend a wine tasting or use the tanning booths. Life in The Village is much more about reducing stress and making friends than seeking thrills.

Young Villagers are looking for security and some serenity, which now seem more elusive than adventure. Eric Nadel drove a yellow Dodge Dart when he lived at The Village; today the parking lot is filled with hulking silver and black SUVs.

"The world’s more grim," says Scott Camp, who works in finance for GE and has lived in The Village since 2001. "It’s not like it was in the ’70s. You can get arrested now for doing very little. It’s a zero-tolerance world."

The Village is home to a second generation now, and they are creating their own memories. Jeff Luna remembers attending his father’s company picnic at The Village when he was a child. After college he moved into the complex himself. Meghan Richardson’s father lived in The Village before she was born, and then later, after they moved into a house, she remembers driving with her family to look at the Christmas lights that line The Village buildings and streets. It was no surprise that when Meghan got her first job, she also moved into The Village. "You feel like you’re not in the city. You feel safer here," she says.

 
Nine-year resident Sam McKinzie says, "It’s a small town in the middle of the big city."

Old aerial photos of The Village show clusters of buildings interspersed with swimming pools. Tiny green spots indicate baby trees. Thirty years later, the green dots have grown into lush greenery. And The Village has grown up, too.
          
The Village is made up of around 7,144 apartments in 14 different complexes in an area bounded by Northwest Highway, Lovers Lane, Greenville Avenue, and Skillman. Its sheer size can be a problem for visitors: "Just finding her apartment was always a challenge," says restaurant owner Shannon Wynne, whose ex-wife lived in The Village when they were dating. But The Village location is a developer’s dream and a tenant’s delight.

Jeff Luna points out, succinctly, "It’s close to the bars."

"I didn’t move here for the beautiful girls,"Sam McKinzie. "I needed DART light rail to go downtown to work."

McKinzie is legally blind and The Village’s incomparable location makes his life easier. "There are lots of places I can walk to and not have to worry about bad sidewalks. It’s unusual in Dallas to find a place designed for pedestrians, but I know every inch of it in every direction. I can walk to Central Market and Tom Thumb. I can walk up to Greenville Avenue."

Eva Parks, an NBC news bureau coordinator, is 26 years old and has lived in The Village since 2002. She tried life in New York for a month. "I lived in a place the size of my living room. It would have cost me $1,800 a month. And it smelled."

"Every time my lease comes up, I go looking for another place," she says. "Then I come back to The Village and say, ’I love where I live.’ I have 800 square feet and two balconies for $785 a month. Here, I live five minutes from everything."

 

VILLAGE STATS

The Village Apartments Are Run Like A Small City

Includes three voting precincts

Made up of approx. 7,144 apartments

Includes 14 different complexes

Has a population of 10,000

Employs 200 people

Has its own landscape company

32 swimming pools

Apartment locator service on premises

Private maintenance service on premises

Private patrol company on premises

Party City 
In its ’70s heyday, The Village was party city as middle-class twentysomethings celebrated their first financial independence with a bang. And, often, a bong.

"I moved into The Village on July 4, 1976," recalls Eric Nadel. At the time, Nadel had just taken a job with the Dallas Black Hawks; this year, he celebrated his 27th year as the voice of the Texas Rangers. He lived in the Bluffs at The Village for three years.

"I was single and it didn’t seem to make any sense to live anywhere else," says Nadel now, who gets a little wistful remembering his second-story, one-bedroom apartment overlooking Don Carter’s All-Star Lanes. "I still gaze at it when I drive by on Northwest Highway and remember all the great times back in the life of no responsibility."

"Parts of The Village party on," says Parks. "They are just like open houses - people you don’t know wave you in and offer you a drink."

In the ’70s, flight attendants were still stewardesses and promiscuity was known as free love. Zero tolerance was not a concept, and responsibility was something that happened in the future. Commitment was not yet the ultimate relationship virtue if you were young, and Tom Thumb at Old Town was known as the meet market. John Hall remembers the first time he went there, thinking he was just going to pick up a quart of milk.

"I had on my flip-flops. Everyone else was dressed to kill," he says, still sounding surprised. "Full makeup, the works. It’s the only time I’ve ever felt underdressed at a grocery store." Hall got his milk, but that’s all.

But the center of life in The Village was - and still is - the pool.

"What I remember most is the pool. Everyone was young and single and having fun," recalls Nadel. "There were times that I met someone new at the pool on a Saturday and then took her to the Rangers game that night."

"Definitely, the best part is the pool situation," says Parks.

There are 32 swimming pools in The Village, at least one in every community, plus the giant, fountain-spewing pool at the country club. These backyard pools are the social centers of The Village world.

"Everyone brings coolers and just hangs out," says Parks. She lives in Northbridge, which some say has the best pool in Dallas - three cascading tiers, in-pool seating, and an ambiance for every mood. "There’s a wild and crazy pool where the keg parties are and there’s a pool that’s sort of laid-back and quieter. But every time I go to the pool, I make a new friend."

New Suburbanism
The original Village was recognized by the American Institute of Architecture and other development groups as a highly successful new model. It set a new standard for apartment living - made it more desirable, seem less transitional. The Village includes three voting precincts, has a population of 10,000, and employs 200 people. This huge pre-made community has its own landscape company, its own apartment locater service, its own maintenance service, its own private patrol company.

"The Village is run like a small city," says LPC Senior Vice President Scott Wilder.

There were - and are - miles of jogging trails through The Village, lots of grass, playing fields, scheduled activities and special events like Fight Nights and poker tournaments at the country club, bands playing around the pool, and softball and flag football leagues organized by management. The Village was designed with the idea that being home should be fun.

That trend still prevails, but most new developments adopt the philosophy of New Urbanism: in mixed-use developments like the faux urban West Village, luxury apartments are located over a bustling street scene. The buildings are all new, but they give the illusion of a mature downtown; the feeling is that vertical and density are virtues. There is no real green space. Life is happening all at once and in one place - work and play, leisure and commerce are all piled on top of each another. 

 
The Village’s 32 swimming pools are the social centers of the community’s world.
The Village is a throwback to a suburban ideal. What you notice about The Village is the landscape. Touring the huge property in a golfcart with Village property manager John Horan, it’s easy to survey the green slopes and the little lake with the ducks paddling around and realize that you just can’t beat the topo here.

Topo means topography, something that is seldom included in dense New Urban plans. "You can’t add that in later on," says architect Larry Good of Good Fulton & Farrell Architects, the firm that is working on the master plan for the new Village.

Nadel remembers running around the golf course every day, wearing a path through the grass to avoid a certain fiercely territorial mockingbird. Even now that the golf course is gone, the jogging trail winds by water and grass. From his second-floor apartment, Scott Camp enjoys a view of rolling green hills instead of rooftops to the horizon like his old apartment in Valley Ranch.

The topo will remain intact, but The Village buildings are being updated - or to use developer-speak, "life-cycled." Go ahead  - use every age-defying plastic surgery metaphor you can come up with, they all apply. The buildings are being botoxed, brow-lifted, liposuctioned, face-lifted. Drawings show a projected town center, with shops and restaurants, maybe even a high-rise with a view. Good calls it The Village on steroids. The new buildings will fit in with the surrounding neighborhoods by incorporating elements of Prairie-style architecture - pitched roofs, bay windows, pillars, porches, and beams.

The interiors are changing with the times, too: kitchen cabinets in Village apartments were originally dark brown wood to go with the era’s earth tone aesthetic; in the ’80s they morphed to Euro-style white paint. As part of The Village’s current remodeling, dark carpet is giving way to tile and bamboo floors; crown moldings and signature colored paint embellishes outdated modernity. Retro-chic two-inch wood blinds are replacing minis, and white appliances are being replaced by black.

In the pre-Pottery Barn ’70s, no one was nesting. For one thing, most stores required more than a major credit card and a driver’s license to open a charge account. In that between-time - after leaving one family and before starting their own - most young people made homes with hand-me-downs and ingenuity. Cinder blocks and boards were stacked up to make bookcases. Mattresses and beanbags served as couches and chairs. Those amazingly giant stereo speakers did duty as tables. An enormous ashtray was a necessary accessory and both carpet and haircuts were shag.

LPC, owner of The Village, owned a furniture rental company just for tenants of The Village during the ’80s. "You could choose from three price tiers," says Wilder who, like many Lincoln executives, has lived off and on in The Village himself. Nadel’s rented decor included a blue-and-tan plaid sofa to go with the apartment’s chocolate-brown carpet.  

Contrast that with the intentional individual style of Eva Parks’ current apartment - a black sofa, bright red sculptural chair from Eurway, and a wall of professionally framed autographs from favorite bands collected during one dedicated summer. 
    

 

EXTREME MAKEOVER

Over the next five years the Village apartment community will get a makeover, including:

- Tile and bamboo floors

- Retro-chic 2 inch wood blinds

- All black appliances

- Gabled roofs, bay windows, pillars

- Future town center with shops and restaurants

- Future high-rise apartment building with view of downtown

Endless Summer
"In 10 years, we’ll have an all-new Village," Larry Good says. He’s looking at fantasy perspective drawings of gabled buildings and grassy courtyards.

In some senses, The Village is always new - the people come and go. 

At 3:45 p.m. on July 4, 2005, the thermometer reads 101 degrees and the humidity is 90 percent, but on the St. Augustine field next to The Village clubhouse, a group of twentysomethings are throwing an old ball around. You can see the sweat from the street. Sarong-wrapped in bright beach towels, Koozies in hand, the natives stream in and out of the clubhouse; a plugged-in band is blaring next to the fountain-spewing pool, which is packed with firm tanned bodies.

They are heedless enough of heatstroke and sunburn to be high school kids, but this is Dallas latest hip white-collar workforce celebrating Independence Day. During their first years of working and living on their own, they live in the heart of Dallas on the development that was dedicated to their demographic 30 years ago.