Real estate firm Todd Interests made a splash at the start of the year when word went out the developer was buying up nearly two dozen properties in the southeast sector of downtown Dallas’ Central Business District. The acquisitions encompass parts of the Main Street District and Harwood Street Historic District, but CEO Shawn Todd had a vision to convert them to a destination with a new identity — East Quarter.
A ceremonial groundbreaking took place in the spring, but it was more of a reveal about the company’s intentions. Observed piecemeal, this is one of the more modest projects to emerge in the downtown area. The 18 buildings purchased are relatively small, all constructed in the 1920s and 1930s.
The project budgets for the first round of restorations amount to a few million dollars per building. What makes the plan stand out is the parts assembled are greater than their whole, not just because of their historic significance but because the East Quarter is the last piece of the puzzle in this area — it connects Main Street District to Deep Ellum and the Farmers Market district, all regions that have experienced development revivals for years now.
It also helps that Todd has a history of doing respectful restorations of historic buildings. In defining the boundaries of East Quarter, he’s pulled in a number of prominent projects recently completed or underway by other developers, mainly the Statler Dallas and an adjacent multi-story, multi-family project that downtowners owe to developer Centurion American, as well as a new city park that’s yet to be built.
Construction work in the East Quarter began in June, with a cluster of buildings that circle the intersection of Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Commerce Street:
- 2200 Main Street; project cost at $4.55 million
- 2210 Commerce Street (Pershing Building); project cost at $2.8 million
- 2211 Commerce Street (Juanita Building); project cost at $2.255 million
Of the three buildings, the most dramatic makeover is 2200 Main, a five-story brick building that had many of the original windows blocked up with sloppy masonry work. Omniplan, the architect, is restoring the windows, bringing warm earthy colors to the exterior to replace a drab grey elephant skin look that functions like camouflage on a dreary overcast day. A one-story section at the corner of Main Street and Cesar Chavez Boulevard was knocked down to make way for surface parking and some trendy curbside landscaping.
The before-after comparison is remarkable. All three buildings are supposed to be finished this month.
The 2200 Main restoration includes modern utilities, a new elevator and a roof deck. The Juanita also gets a roof deck, albeit considerably smaller. All three buildings will be restricted to retail and office uses, as is the case for all of the historic buildings.
However, the land acquisitions included at least four vacant lots and Todd is considering residential projects for those.
A few blocks further south, Todd began asbestos remediation in the early summer on the three-story Masonic Temple, 507 South Harwood Street. Built in 1941, the 43,000-square foot temple is planned for office and special event uses. This building has been on a slower track due in part to the building being under the Landmark Commission’s jurisdiction. Todd wanted to add an elevator with penthouse/rooftop access and a roof deck. This was opposed by the commission’s Task Force and city staff on grounds these additions were vertical extensions.
Omniplan scaled back the roof deck, and Shawn Todd went before the commission in early October with the staff and Task Force against him. Todd argued that the addition was a minor alteration and adhered to what is allowed by ordinance.
“This is a wonderful building that we’re going to be able to showcase, along with 17 other buildings,” Todd said. “Unfortunately, the way the elevator shaft is with the building presently, it will not accommodate the number of people we view being in this structure.”
The Landmark Commission sided with Todd and obtained the permits a couple of weeks later. Passersby won’t be able to see the penthouse elevator or the deck from the street. Most of the work being done is to the interior, but the windows and window frames will be replaced and the gray stone exterior is due for a power washing.
The Masonic Temple is kind of an odd duck, in that it is not located near the cluster of buildings that are the main focus of Todd Interests’ marketing. Its location, as well as Omniplan’s renderings, are a good indicator of the scale of Todd’s ambitions and of how much work they still have ahead of them.
Two other buildings are in the first phase cluster, although their renovation didn’t begin until October. They should be ready for show and tell by June 2019, according to state architectural barrier reports.
- 2117 Commerce Street (Waters Buildings); project cost at $815,000; renovation of a 10,000-square-foot two-story building.
- 2112 Commerce Street (Magnolia Oil-KLIF Building); project cost at $2.8 million.
The Magnolia Oil Building, former home of the KLIF radio station, is the pizza slice-shaped building where Commerce Street, Cesar Chavez Boulevard and Jackson Street converge. It is the only building in the group that was restored recently, although by a prior owner. Todd is collaborating with restaurateur Nick Badovinus on alterations to convert the office building into a signature restaurant.
In addition to the Waters Building directly across Commerce Street, and combined with the other three buildings that surround the Commerce Street-Cesar Chavez Boulevard intersection, Todd has the gems in place to surround the heart of the East Quarter. In total, the buildings represent 200,000 square feet.