For middle-class newcomers looking to live in the Park Cities, the bubble is getting even harder to burst.
Bulldozers and wrecking balls are a common sight in local neighborhoods, with older apartment complexes as some of their most frequent targets.
That means that while draws of Park Cities living are still there — the safety, the public services, and the school district — the options for those at an affordable price point are dwindling.
Local realtor Charles Gregory said when clients asked him about finding entry-level apartments in the Park Cities a decade ago, he probably could have found something. These days? He said some complexes have a wait list of 18-24 months, and that’s just for an $800-per-month efficiency unit.
“Those are few and far between,” said Gregory, an agent with Dave Perry-Miller and Associates. “It’s completely financially-driven. The land is just too darn valuable.”
Gregory said the significant rise in property values during the past several years, combined with favorable selling conditions, have created a scenario for turnover. In other words, investors and property owners simply can’t do business the same way they used to.
For example, the 4100 block of Lovers Lane includes several aging apartment buildings that are also some of the most affordable in the Park Cities. At the Park Lane Apartments, which cover 23,625 square feet, land value rose from $591,000 in 2005 to $1.2 million last year. Such an increase is common.
“When I see one still standing, I wonder why,” Gregory said. “Regardless of what the land is used for, it’s gone up so much in value that it doesn’t make sense at a lower price point. I don’t see any way that this trend is not going to continue.”
Other factors have contributed to the decline in multifamily development, as well, especially around the SMU campus in University Park. The university purchased and razed the 350-unit University Garden Condominiums, and others were demolished to clear land for the Highland Park Middle School campus and the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.
Another reason could be the development boom in Uptown and other nearby neighborhoods, where zoning is friendlier and land is cheaper.
“All the building is being done in Uptown and downtown and Knox-Henderson,” said Steven Spodek of Dallas Luxury Realty. “There’s really not a lot out there to pick from.”
Then there’s the recession in 2008, which caused plenty of strife within the development community. While single-family construction bounced back fairly quickly, multifamily has been slower to rebound locally.
“It hasn’t been until recently that we’ve seen some multifamily being scraped and redeveloped,” said UP city manager Robbie Corder. “I think there’s an increased interest and an increased demand for multifamily, but so far it’s been kind of slow.”
Since 1977, UP has eliminated multifamily zoning in six different locations of varying size throughout the city, but has added only one block since then, along Lomo Alto Drive. That accounts for a 33 percent reduction, from 115 acres to 78.
Almost all of the apartments in the city are clustered either near the high school or SMU, and some apartments near the college campus could open up with the recent increase in campus housing.
The city also has introduced guidelines in recent years to requirements in density, parking, and design. But that isn’t intended as an indirect effort to keep people out, Corder said. It’s simply more practical.
“Since we’re completely built out, the city is not adding multifamily districts,” he said.