It’s early afternoon in the Bishop Arts District on a Tuesday, and it’s easy to see the lure of the North Oak Cliff neighborhood. Parking along North Bishop Avenue is tight as locals wander into shops and fill benches outside of eateries. I meet developers Katy Slade and Nick Venghaus outside of La Reunion, where we order a few glasses of water and iced coffee. The two long-time industry leaders ventured out about two years ago to launch Mintwood Real Estate and, along the way, have put in some groundwork for future projects and helped turn two vacant office floors in Santander Tower into a chic hotel called The Guild. Today, we were there to talk about their first ground-up project.
Katy and Nick were both previously at Gables Residential for a little over a decade. She was on the development team, and he was running construction. They did a lot of really cool mixed-use deals, including the Gables McKinney Ave. The duo makes for the perfect partnership as Nick has a great capacity to understand complicated construction projects, and Katy excels at researching and understanding the needs of the market to build innovative projects. It all ties into how they could build 55 units on the site of a former 10 unit apartment building on Melba Street.
The site is unique—and at first glance probably not optimal for a multifamily residential—as there is a height restriction of four stories on it. Of course, that means parking was going to be an issue.
“You look at it, and you go, ‘well, you can’t really get the quantity of units to really make the land price work and the construction price work,” Nick says, looking back at when he and Katy first toured the site. ” But as Katy and I started looking at the site, we said, ‘you know, the grades really changed. And we think that looking at the grade change, we can fit a below-grade garage within the rules of zoning underneath the building, which will give us the ability to park 50-plus units. And so we started looking at that and running the numbers on that. And we said, yeah, this makes a lot of sense. It’s a viable project.”
The project, and others like it, are transforming the once single-family mid-century residential vibe of the neighborhood into what Bishop Arts is known for: Being trendy.
“What’s fascinating about this new zoning is that it is taking a neighborhood with a single-family residential vernacular with deeper setbacks, and it is requiring all the properties to be built within 10 feet of the front property line,” Katy says. “So it’s completely shifting the neighborhood aesthetic. As we were puzzle piecing through the site, we realized that you can’t surface park plus build four stories on these little lots – the high parking requirement meant we needed to build parking below grade.”
As Katy and Nick are starting to see some of their ideas and projects come to fruition, they also are really solidifying the thesis of their firm. They want to build in incredible walkable communities and find nuances that make sites interesting. They also want their developments to enhance the community.
When looking for the ideal place to plot their first ground-up development, Katy and Nick were pretty methodical about their selection. They started out by pinpointing a few target neighborhoods that had both an interesting fabric and walkability to retail, drew a radius, created a map using DCAD property map parcels, labeled every owner within that radius, looked up the zoning, and figured out where the best opportunities were. Michael Nazarian’s work in Bishop Arts—and his commitment to long-term neighborhood preservation— made the up-and-coming locale stand out.
“Walking the streets of Bishop Arts, it’s easy to see why everyone wants to live there. We couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to build more housing here.” Slade tells me. “The neighborhood’s character is diverse, genuine, and irreplicable because of the old buildings, small businesses, and reasonable block sizes.”
Still paying homage to the old Bishop Arts, with design, Katy and Nick—along with architect OMNIPLAN—took the pitch roofline model that is still seen throughout the community and applied it to their new multifamily.
The residential will host 55 units with an average size of 700 square feet. A unique aspect of the property is that about half of the units will be studios. And while the studios are technically studios, Katy and Nick put a lot of thought into the design to make the bedroom area have its own separate space by enclosing it with 8×4 foot barn doors.
“We’re coming into this neighborhood and trying to achieve a good price point for people,” Katy says. To achieve that, they looked at their work at The Guild, specifically with the sleek kitchens that opt for modular design and smaller cooktops instead of taking up 200 square feet to host an island and large stove. “When you’re talking about rents that are in the Dallas Market, two bucks and higher a square foot, 200 square feet is an extra $400.
“So that was our focus. How do we shave that down and use what we learned by doing the hotel? Where can we make it really slim?”
And while it is hard to justify the cost of manning amenities in a 55-unit building, the duo decided to transform four 10 by 10 rooms (originally meant to be electrical rooms) into two business centers and two small fitness centers.
The project broke ground earlier this month, and they plan to open a few of the small units in Summer 2022.
In addition to studio apartments, the new development also will have one and two-bedroom units. They anticipate rents to start at $1,200.
“There’s a different charm to Bishop Arts than most other neighborhoods in Dallas,” Katy says. “There’s more diversity. There’s more character. There’s something that is really appealing to people from Dallas and those who aren’t from Dallas, where it offers something different. That helps make it more attractive to move to. It’s really compelling for us. We love the neighborhood.”