Monday, February 22, 2010

Addison develops an edgy side with new apartments

Prospective tenants who walk through the front doors of Addison's new Savoye apartments usually do a double take at the eye-popping design.A wall in the lobby is plastered with bright cushions and big-screen TVs. A metal staircase curves above the round leasing office. And at the top of the stairs is a residents' lounge with enough bling to fill a high-fashion hotel.

Cabanas are installed near the 'Splash' pool area at the Savoye apartments in Addison. Las Vegas-style pools are what it takes these day to lure renters willing to pay more than $1,000 a month. "The people who come in are pretty blown away by the place," said Carolyn Fredholm, senior community director for the project. "It's not what you expect to see in a community north of LBJ Freeway."

Addison city officials wanted a wow factor three years ago when they teamed up on the project with developer United Dominion Realty.

The Dallas suburb might not seem old enough for redevelopment, but that's exactly what the town is doing – replacing an aging apartment district on its western edge with new housing, retail and parks.

"The design of that project was very important to us," said Addison City Manager Ron Whitehead. "We need more urban residential in town to make everything else work."

The 120-acre development with the unwieldy name of Vitruvian Park is just south of Spring Valley Road near Brookhaven Collage.

The first phase of the $1 billion redevelopment – almost 400 luxury apartments – will open in two weeks.

"We already have 45 leases," said Tom Lamberth, vice president of development for Denver-based UDR, one of the country's biggest apartment builders. "We are off to a good start.

"We are primarily attracting people who are part of the North Dallas workforce," he said.

Uptown comparison

With average rents from $1,200 to $1,300, the project is on par with what's found in Dallas' affluent Uptown district.

"We've been compared to the W Hotel" in quality and interior appearance, Lamberth said. "We wanted to do something a little edgy."

WDG Architecture designed the seven-story building. Thiel and Thiel Inc. did the interiors for the public spaces, which are done in a river of light blue paint, modern furnishings and over-the-top artwork.

"What they are showing there is pretty awesome," said Charles Prince, who's moving from Lewisville into one of the Savoye units as soon as it's ready.

Prince works at the nearby Brookhaven Country Club and has watched construction on the project.

"I've been wanting to move since last year but waited for this project to open up," he said. "I didn't even look at anything else."

Savoye tenants will have two lounges with gourmet kitchens, a movie screening room, an Internet bar and a game room.

Outside there's a "Las Vegas-style" swimming pool and landscaped courtyards with fountains, fire pits and seating areas.

Each apartment includes a full-size front-loader washer/dryer combo and a 42-inch flat-screen TV.

The amenities may sound like overkill, but apartment analysts say they are just part of the new rental home landscape. To lure tenants willing to pay more than $1,000 a month, landlords need more than a stuffy "clubhouse" and mattress-size swimming pools.

"You have to do that if you are going to get some pretty high rents," said Greg Willett, apartment analyst for Carrollton-based MPF Research Inc. "UDR is certainly going for the very top tier at this point in everything they are doing."

To add to the new neighborhood's appeal, the city of Addison is building a $9 million park that will be the centerpiece of Vitruvian Park. Rebuilding is under way on the roads that cut through the project near Marsh Lane and Spring Valley.

"It's going to be especially great when we get the park landscaped and redo the creek area" through the park," Whitehead said. "Once we get all that amenity package together, we think it will be stunning."

Vitruvian vision

There's 16,000 square feet of retail space in the first phase and more planned for later.

Addison, which has about 15,000 residents, ultimately expects to see almost 5,000 housing units in Vitruvian Park.

Of course, the project's years of planning and construction didn't include opening the project during an economic downturn.

Groundbreaking for the second phase will depend on how leasing does and where the economy goes, the developer says.

The new apartments will compete head to head with other luxury rental units on the Dallas North Tollway in Addison Circle and near the Galleria.

The developer is offering leasing discounts "because the construction is still under way," Lamberth said.

UDR is also giving discounts at its new Belmont apartments in Old East Dallas. Such concessions are common for new rental complexes.

Unlike many other Dallas neighborhoods, there are fewer new apartment developments to compete with in Addison, said Willett.

"That market is outperforming the metropolitan area as a whole," he said. "But to open any project right now is obviously a challenge."

Dallas Morning News

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