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Mary Candace Evans On The New Design District

The Dallas Design District is about to get a makeover. Will you recognize it when it’s finished?
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DESIGN DISTRICT REDUX: Within the next three years, the new Design District will boast artists’ lofts, condos, gourmet shops, a live theater, and possibly a luxury hotel.

Out With the Old, In With the View
Frappuccinos, fine dining, and feather beds, all at your new Design District.

Jim Lake drops a handful of bullet shells in my hand. I am in the Design District, one block away from the antique treasures of Slocum Street and wholesale showrooms where the uber chic have browsed high-end wares for their mansions since the ’50s. It’s where Laura Bush and Lance Armstrong go when they need a new lamp.

Lake, a developer who invested in Design District properties in 1990 – his father helped pioneer Design District development, and Allan Knight was his first tenant – explains what he found when he bought a dilapidated building off Irving Boulevard: stacks of luggage in a back store room, young Korean girls in prostitution servitude, and handfuls of bullet casings like the ones he just put in my hand.

“This area is being redeveloped before our eyes,” Lake says. 

We haven’t seen the half of it. In two or three years, he says, most of us may not even recognize the Design District. Lake is already leasing the area’s first residential lofts, a 92-unit building between Dragon and Slocum streets called Trinity Lofts with a view of the Dallas skyline and rents priced below Uptown. Behind them, he plans 20 more work/live loft units designed for artisans to live “above the store.” With the completion of Lake’s 157,640-square-foot International on Turtle Creek located at 150 Turtle Creek Blvd., the District now has its first gourmet restaurant, Margaux’s. There’s more: The city created a $33.5 million tax increment financing district for the area, called a TIF, which will include, among other things, a trail connecting the Katy Trail at Stemmons Park, continuing along the original Trinity River. Crow Holdings, which owns 26 of the area’s 160 acres, committed $6.3 million to improvements. Crow won’t confirm, but the rumor is that it is planning an office and residential development at Oak Lawn Avenue and Hi Line Drive, in the area vacated by McGannon and Brown Jordan.

“Crow is interested in redeveloping the area into multi-family, showroom, and office space,” says Merry Wyatt with Trammell Crow Company. “But we are still in the planning stages.”

Smelling the potential, other developers are planning an additional 25,000 square feet in showroom space, most attracting national newcomers. And Claude Albritton plans a live theatre next door to the International building. There’s even talk of a new luxury hotel.

In the meantime, wholesale tenants are relocating, many to Dragon Street and edging closer to Irving Boulevard. Rather than run off the wholesale tenants, most developers want to capitalize on the design riches already there.

“We’ve got more product than ever for the design community,” Lake says.


opens to the trade on Jan. 19 in the space vacated by Bella Italia; it will share the space with Thybony Wallcoverings. SANTA BARBARA DESIGNS unfolds a new selection of outdoor umbrellas and covers for 2006 including the new Double Decker Paseo umbrella available through David Sutherland Showroom – think mango. … BROWN JORDAN has taken over the old Adele Kerr showroom at 1617 Hi Line Dr., Ste. 460. … MCGANNON SHOWROOMS has packed up and moved over to 1617 Hi Line Dr., Building 700, with a larger showroom and outdoor display area. … TINA SYRING designed the awesome new modern offices at David Griffin & Company Realtors.DAVID CADWALLADER and architect RUSSELL BUCHANEN are working on the restoration and renovation of the magnificent Edward Durell Stone home (aka Robert Crandall’s former residence) on Park Lane and Meadowbrook Drive with rumors that the original water pool around the dining room may be revived. … The crowds ate up MARCO FRENCH’s warm contemporary/Southwestern design for Stephan Pyles’ new restaurant on Ross Avenue. “I am home again,” Pyles said, at the late November opening of Stephan Pyles. … And designer MELISSA WOODY tells me that Pasadena, Calif., isn’t just for football. Woody, an antiques collector, went to California to check out a new, monthly antique and flea market open on Sundays. Her report: loads of vintage ’50s furniture as well as clothing, jewelry, and accessories, and also great finds on traditional items. She says she purchased an antique Faience fireplace mantle, wonderful tole chandeliers, Oriental rugs, and more; shipping is not a problem.

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