Turns Out, Not Everybody Loves Continental, Lone Star Gas Building Makeovers

Smuprotesters.JPG
Photos by Anna Merlan
A seemingly run-of-the-mill downtown development press conference had two surprise guests.
Over the years, the re-do of the Continental Building downtown has started to feel like a bit like Guns N' Roses's Chinese Democracy. Forest City, the developers behind turning the vacant building on Commerce into condos (complete with spa and yoga studio) kept telling us it would be done. They just couldn't say when, exactly. Just ... soon.

But now it looks like not one but two long-stalled downtown projects are set to move forward in the next year: the Continental Building and the Lone Star Gas Lofts, formerly the Atmos Complex, developed by Hamilton Properties. It's part of a long-planned makeover for the southeast part of downtown, and Downtown Dallas Inc., as well as the mayor and other city officials, are very excited about the whole thing.

"The best is yet to come," John Crawford, DTD's president and CEO, told a crowd of developer types at a press conference in the UNT building on Main Street this morning. "2012 and 2013, we'll have [new projects] darn near every month."

"We've come a long way," said Mayor Mike Rawlings. "This is all about how government and private enterprise work together ... People often say they don't work for the common good, but I think this is a good example of that."

Rawlings might have been directing those comments, at least in part, towards the protesters who appeared just outside the window almost as soon as the press conference began: two people in their early 20s, a guy in a black pullover and a girl with a pink sweater and a bashful expression. "Developers Are Getting Rich!" one of the guy's signs read. A few dollar signs adorned the poster board, along with the word "cha-ching." Back to them in a second.

rawlingsatddi.JPG
The front of Mike Rawlings, the back of John Crawford
Rawlings called the new developments "part of the fight for what needs to happen downtown." He praised the developers and the Housing Department for making sure the buildings will feature lower-cost housing: Forty-one of the Continental's 203 units are slated to be for people "earning 80 percent of area median income," while Lone Star's lofts are set to have 107 affordable units in phase 1 and 63 in phase II, with their definition of affordable as 60 percent or less of the median. (To refresh your memories: That's a pretty big step forward from a year or so ago, when Schutze pointed out a city council briefing that put the number of affordable units downtown in HUD-supported projects at, um, zero.)

"We must have affordable housing in downtown," Rawlings said, to house "teachers, people who work in stores, and artists." He too promised that these developments were the first of many. "This is the front end of this movie," he said. "Things are moving quick."

When it was her turn at the mic, Angela Hunt reminisced about living downtown with her husband a decade ago, when they shared the block with what she called "a decrepit parking garage and dilapidated buildings."

"I feel pretty qualified to say things have changed," she said.

Hunt called the two projects "assets" and "shining stars" to the neighborhood, and promised that the Statler Hilton (whenever that one happens) will also be a "shining star, all lifting up the area."

"This is about knitting our neighborhoods back together again," Hunt told the audience, "as well as pulling together the Main Street district with the Farmers Market."

David Levey of Forest City said that the Continental was "not an easy building to do" (we noticed) and that getting it planned and financed required "a tremendous amount of help from HUD and the city."

Ted Hamilton, president of Hamilton Properties, agreed. "There's no way we would have gotten started on construction without the city of Dallas," he said. "It's been a fun ride, and we look forward to the days ahead."

As the conference ended, we headed outside behind Angela Hunt to see what the protesters were sign-waving about. The lone security guard who'd been manning the door when we came in had been joined by another guard and three police officers. "You're not here just for this, are you?" I asked one of them, a bald guy with wraparound shades.

"I think so," the officer replied. He was not smiling.

"I'm part of the University Libertarians at SMU," said Tiffany, the protester in the pink sweater. Her male counterpart, Spencer, was busily engaged in a sidewalk debate with Hunt and a couple of developers about "government subsidizing," (the young libertarians were against it) and the "free market economy" (they're for that). The government helping pay for affordable housing, Spencer told Hunt, is "bankrupting our country."

"Affordable housing is bankrupting our country?" Hunt said, looking at Spencer skeptically. He said yes, sounding a little unsure. He recovered quickly and launched into a discussion of a shadowy UN mandate to force people to drive less.

"We'll have to agree to disagree," Hunt said, very politely. "This is one of the best things to happen to downtown in a long time." She looked at his signs a moment longer and added, "I have to tell you, this sounds a little paranoid."

Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
33 comments
Ien Black
Ien Black

ahh yes the free market worked just great for downtown Dallas, lets go back to the policies of the 1980's. * end sarcasm *

Guest
Guest

If the free market wanted protestors there, it would've already provided them.

Spencer the protester
Spencer the protester

Thank you to the observer for at least mentioning us and giving me a platform to defend my remarks. 

Spencer the protester
Spencer the protester

Spencer here.  I am VERY certain that the programs like the housing going in under HUD and other federal money is a factor causing the collapse of our government, not to mention it is destroying the middle class.  If I hesitated it was only because I had stated that point several times and was shocked that Angela Hunt hadn't picked up on that yet.

The reporter only stuck around for maybe 5 minutes of the debate never once asking me a question.  She failed to mentioned the entire 30 minute debate, prior to Angela Hunt stepping in, concerning economics.  We talked about bubbles and the boom and bust cycles of economies.  Austrian economics laid out by Hayek, Mises, Hazlitt, Rothbard, Friedman, and many other esteemed economists. (economists that predicted the housing bubble and this recession even when everyone else was going all in due to artificially low interest rates)

I am a resident of Downtown who pays FULL market price for my apartment. (a reward for my entrepreneurialism, education, decision making, and hard work)  These projects will force me and many other hard working middle class residents out of our apartments as the real-estate values artificially inflate. The vacancy in these buildings will then turn to more subsidies. 

It is not the governments roll to dictate where money should or shouldn't be spent.  Nor is it the governments role to decide which developers receive that money to build these projects. (with pools, gyms, movie theaters, ext non of which actually help the people the claim to love)

Go sit in a meeting in Austin where they are trying to determine who will get the limited, but increasing, funding. It always goes to the biggest developer.  Developers, because they are public-private (corporatism {Not capitalism}) write the rules and grading system to favor themselves making it impossible for entrepreneurs to go anywhere in this country.

Where are the people to stand beside me to say THIS IS SOCIALISM and is doomed to fail just like all other models throughout history.

The "shadowy" UN mandate might not of needed to be brought up, I agree.  However it is important for readers to research it.  Agenda 21 was authored by the UN for a more "sustainable earth" by working through local governments to institute policies.  This is very real and has a trackable success rate already.  Our local politicians SHOULD be educated on this matter since they will be the ones to allow the mandates to have weight in our cities.  Research it for yourself and I hop you see the issues here.

Thank you to the observer for at least mentioning us and giving me a platform to defend my remarks. 

Spencer the protester
Spencer the protester

Spencer here.  I am VERY certain that the programs like the housing going in under HUD and other federal money is a factor causing the collapse of our government, not to mention it is destroying the middle class.  If I hesitated it was only because I had stated that point several times and was shocked that Angela Hunt hadn't picked up on that yet.

The reporter only stuck around for maybe 5 minutes of the debate never once asking me a question.  She failed to mentioned the entire 30 minute debate, prior to Angela Hunt stepping in, concerning economics.  We talked about bubbles and the boom and bust cycles of economies.  Austrian economics laid out by Hayek, Mises, Hazlitt, Rothbard, Friedman, and many other esteemed economists. (economists that predicted the housing bubble and this recession even when everyone else was going all in due to artificially low interest rates)

I am a resident of Downtown who pays FULL market price for my apartment. (a reward for my entrepreneurialism, education, decision making, and hard work)  These projects will force me and many other hard working middle class residents out of our apartments as the real-estate values artificially inflate. The vacancy in these buildings will then turn to more subsidies. 

It is not the governments roll to dictate where money should or shouldn't be spent.  Nor is it the governments role to decide which developers receive that money to build these projects. (with pools, gyms, movie theaters, ext non of which actually help the people the claim to love)

Go sit in a meeting in Austin where they are trying to determine who will get the limited, but increasing, funding. It always goes to the biggest developer.  Developers, because they are public-private (corporatism {Not capitalism}) write the rules and grading system to favor themselves making it impossible for entrepreneurs to go anywhere in this country.

Where are the people to stand beside me to say THIS IS SOCIALISM and is doomed to fail just like all other models throughout history.

The "shadowy" UN mandate might not of needed to be brought up, I agree.  However it is important for readers to research it.  Agenda 21 was authored by the UN for a more "sustainable earth" by working through local governments to institute policies.  This is very real and has a trackable success rate already.  Our local politicians SHOULD be educated on this matter since they will be the ones to allow the mandates to have weight in our cities.  Research it for yourself and I hop you see the issues here.

Thank you to the observer for at least mentioning us and giving me a platform to defend my remarks. 

Spencer(The Protester)
Spencer(The Protester)

Spencer here.  I am VERY certain that the programs like the housing going in under HUD and other federal money is a factor causing the collapse of our government, not to mention it is destroying the middle class.  If I hesitated it was only because I had stated that point several times and was shocked that Angela Hunt hadn't picked up on that yet.

The reporter only stuck around for maybe 5 minutes of the debate never once asking me a question.  She failed to mentioned the entire 30 minute debate, prior to Angela Hunt stepping in, concerning economics.  We talked about bubbles and the boom and bust cycles of economies.  Austrian economics laid out by Hayek, Mises, Hazlitt, Rothbard, Friedman, and many other esteemed economists. (economists that predicted the housing bubble and this recession even when everyone else was going all in due to artificially low interest rates)

I am a resident of Downtown who pays FULL market price for my apartment. (a reward for my entrepreneurialism, education, decision making, and hard work)  These projects will force me and many other hard working middle class residents out of our apartments as the real-estate values artificially inflate. The vacancy in these buildings will then turn to more subsidies. 

It is not the governments roll to dictate where money should or shouldn't be spent.  Nor is it the governments role to decide which developers receive that money to build these projects. (with pools, gyms, movie theaters, ext non of which actually help the people the claim to love)

Go sit in a meeting in Austin where they are trying to determine who will get the limited, but increasing, funding. It always goes to the biggest developer.  Developers, because they are public-private (corporatism {Not capitalism}) write the rules and grading system to favor themselves making it impossible for entrepreneurs to go anywhere in this country.

Where are the people to stand beside me to say THIS IS SOCIALISM and is doomed to fail just like all other models throughout history.

The "shadowy" UN mandate might not of needed to be brought up, I agree.  However it is important for readers to research it.  Agenda 21 was authored by the UN for a more "sustainable earth" by working through local governments to institute policies.  This is very real and has a trackable success rate already.  Our local politicians SHOULD be educated on this matter since they will be the ones to allow the mandates to have weight in our cities.  Research it for yourself and I hop you see the issues here.

Thank you to the observer for at least mentioning us and giving me a platform to defend my remarks. 

AintNoSunshine
AintNoSunshine

This is great news and brand new direction for City Hall. It will also create a lot of jobs for in this E-conomy. 

MattL1
MattL1

Yeah, best not to bust out the "UN driving mandate" when a councilmember is asking you about a serious point.  I personally think it's in the public's interest to have a socioeconomically diverse population in the city center, but reasonable people can disagree about whether that's a laudable goal or how best to accomplish it.  However, your argument goes out the window when you start down the "shadowy UN mandate" road.

Allen Hueston
Allen Hueston

did they talk about the retail that will go in the buildings?

lorlee
lorlee

I assume they also opposed the tax deduction for home owners which runs more than $4 Billion which benefits only middle upper and upper income folks.  Fair is fair.  What's good for the goose.....

Jd
Jd

There is a glut of condos downtown yet the city pays to builds more?

Wylie H.
Wylie H.

I'm not sure I agree with the protestors, but I sure like the idea of more bright, young people becoming engaged in what the City is doing.  The more, the merrier.

Edit: The more I think about, the more I think they DO have a point, but maybe could have used an assist in how to frame their argument in a more coherent fashion (i.e. save discussion of shadowy UN mandates for another day).

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Eventhough they sound a little crackpot, they do have a point about lower cost set-asides and the effect it brings to the people in the building. It's happened time and time again at these loft properties downtown where they let in a wackjob who ends up inviting their friends/family to squat at the building on the weekends, especially if they have an outdoor pool. Instead of property mgmt stepping up to corral them in, they casually ignore the problem and stick to their "federal program" song and dance....

Anon
Anon

Maybe you should ask your beloved educational institution what it thinks of socialism. It loves the government's money more than anyone. I assume you protest every tuition dollar they accept from students using federal subsidy. Then you go protest the grant money they take from the federal government. Then you protest the fact that they are tax exempt. Then you protest the fact that they evicted private property owners using the government to force the sales so they could build the Bush library.

Or do you mostly just focus your protests on events that try to help out poor people?

Anna Merlan
Anna Merlan

Hi Spencer, 

I stuck around for about 15 minutes of your debate, if we're calling it that, before I had to go file my story. I also failed to mention the part of the discussion (my favorite) where one of your conversational partners listened to you ramble on with increased bewilderment for several long minutes. He then told you, very kindly, that you had -- direct quote -- "no idea what you're talking about." My apologies for the omission.

I wish you the best of luck in rooting out socialism from the Dallas City Council and the  sidewalks of downtown.      Very sincerely,The Reporter 

Rangers100
Rangers100

Libertarianism is a fun little cult for white kids.  Most people grow out of it.  You sound like a smart kid.  I'm sure you will too.

Ms Freedmans
Ms Freedmans

So true, which in fact no Money has been spent on Low-income, and the Vouchers recieved by the low in-come pays the market-rate rent, but no, Mrs. Hunt told me that developers did'nt want to build, that the City has the Funds but developers were not interested, and a week later I was watching Channel 8 news, and, they were speaking on how developers get paid more to develope for Low-income, I knew then that Council Represenitives tell you anything. But like you said it shall fail-bust how ever, just as it did in 1928-1932, I've read the HIstory. I believe they torn down housing in my Community and will not rebuild, simpley it's the white flight thing!!!!!!!!!

Anon
Anon

Lots of us oppose that, along with every other ridiculous consumption preference the federal government throws at the tax code. Get rid of them all, even the deduction for local and state taxes. Seriously it's just ridiculous that some forms of spending are deemed 'good' and given preference while others are not.

And no, I'm not one of these two people.

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

No, it benefits mortgage holders who choose to itemize their federal tax return.

williamedia
williamedia

Both the Continental Redo and the Lone Star Lofts are apartments not Condo units. Demand in DFW is at an all time high for Apartments which is why so many apartment projects are currently under construction.

Ellum08
Ellum08

Jd, these buildings will be turned into apartments, not condos. Since the Continential Building, and maybe the Lone Star complex, is also receiving federal tax credits for historic buildings, the units have to 'income producing' not private.

Downtown_worker
Downtown_worker

If they are so bright, why did they spell it "bridge to no where"?

Gabe
Gabe

On libertarian principles, I agree with them. But ending affordable housing set-asides is so far down the list of what needs to happen that I'm a little embarrassed for them.

Jon Daniel
Jon Daniel

If they were true libertarians, they would be demonstrating at the bank buildings and the fed

Spencer the protester
Spencer the protester

Actually, we protest those too.  The freely available money to students drives tuition prices up.  And historically, these rent controls do not help poor people in the long run.

J. Erik Jonsson
J. Erik Jonsson

Actually, apartment construction financing is ridiculously cheap right now; so they're being overbuilt just about everywhere.  Good thing City of Dallas and HUD are throwing fuel on that fire.  Or rather, helping to inflate that bubble.

downtown resident
downtown resident

"Bridge to No Where" is a reference to the nearby city run MDHA / Bridge Homeless Shelter.  Hamilton Properties is proposing a supportive housing project called St. Paul Apts across the street from his Atmos Complex Project. Also, funded by the city of Dallas, State and Federal Funding.  St. Paul Apts will be developed by Hamilton and run by MDHA/The Bridge mgmt as transitional housing.  More corporate welfare.   

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

John, they kicked them out for actually coming up w/ talking points...;)

Some Dude
Some Dude

Anon, the financing market is very hot for existing projects. However, for a proposed project, there is primarily only one avenue for financing and it is a very costly and timely road. Odds are it will be at least one year before financing will in hand on the Atmos project and it was nearly 2.5 years ago when the Continental project began searching for financing. I'm very family with the debt markets, especially with the multifamily makets.

Anon
Anon

You are apparently 'some dude' with absolutely no idea about the multi family financing market. It's hot hot hot right now. Yes, you have to be a developer who has completed projects in the past and not joe off the street, but the money is there in a big way.

Some Dude
Some Dude

J. Erik, yes interest rates are historically low right now. However, obtaining financing on proposed projects is nearly impossible. Very few channels available for it.

Anon
Anon

it's cheap because Fannie and Freddie (read Joe Taxpayer) subsidize it. it's responding to demand, just not the actual private market demand for rental property

Daily Reader
Daily Reader

I think Downtown Worker is referring to the spelling.

Now Trending

Dallas Concert Tickets

Around The Web

From the Vault

 

General

Loading...