Developer – Meet the Urbanist – One of the Goals of CNU23 in DFW

Posted by    |    April 12th, 2014 at 9:19 am

Ever marvel at the contradictions in your life, and why they appear so dissonant? I spent last week at Urban Land Institute’s Spring meeting in Vancouver, one of the gleaming cities in North America, ranking among the top 2 or 3 most desirable cities in the world in many surveys, to learn from some of the top real estate professionals on the planet. I love ULI for the depth of understanding of capital markets, demand drivers and development techniques and the sheer breadth of experience of its members. And yet I sometimes find the hyper-focus on the “corporate” side of real estate, which at its core is really a service business to end consumers, to be a bit sterile, devoid of passion. Not unlike law firms that can can become so inner-focused on their practice areas that they lose site of how their clients’ businesses function and how legal service needs to orient around those needs, corporate real estate development can turn inward and become an end in and of itself – the monetization of real estate and the bifurcation of developers and capital focused on specific product types are (necessary) symptoms of a modern economy. Capital markets and the development community understand simplicity and bifurcated uses – “we finance/develop X (fill in product type).” X has a cap rate that the junior analysis can plug into his Excel spreadsheet and can be mass produced by architects, engineers and contractors and easily financed on Wall Street.

In early June I head off to Buffalo to the Congress for New Urbanism. Vancouver vs. Buffalo and ULI vs. CNU – a study in contrasts and unfortunately full of dissonance.

To over-simplify, CNU is founded on a manifesto, not an economic agenda. The “Charter” espouses the desirability of walkable, mixed use development, which in many ways is the antithesis of corporate real estate with its specialization and mostly segregation of uses. CNU talks about ethereal concepts (except to the initiated) like “transect”, “form-based code” and “tactical urbanism.” On the opposite end of the spectrum from ULI, oftentimes the “urbanists” at CNU are not very practical/pragmatic – the dialogue is more along the lines of a 5,000 level college philosophy class, the rhetoric is inspiring and sounds life changing until you re-enter the real world outside the ivory towers and are slapped in the face with the cold reality of “now how do we go about changing the world without engaging with the world”, a feeling not unknown to many post-modern Evangelical Christian suburban churches who want to share their faith but have real difficulties engaging with the world outside the church walls. Interestingly many urbanists also talk about being “post-moderism” (yet another ethereal concept).

One of the real short-comings of the Occupy Movement was that it “protesteth too much” – it liked to hear to its own voice harping in the town square – but never quite figured out how to engage with the establishment. And short of a revolution not much change happens if you can’t engage the establishment. On the flip side, listening to people tangential to your core beliefs who have often heretical ideas can change a society.

One of our aims at CNU North Texas in hosting CNU23 in DFW April 27-May 2, 2015 will be to bridge this divide between the urbanism movement and the the corporate real estate community, to create an environment of listening and learning from each other, to ferret out what the end users of real estate really desire and to find pragmatic ways to develop sustainable desirable real estate products that fit the changing needs of our booming population and that can actually be built and financed. In short, bring together NAIOP, TREC, ULI, CNU, etc. – and all of our constituent trades/disciplines, from town planner to urban planner, from engineer to architect, from small infill lot developer to large office and warehouse builders, students and professors, debt and equity providers – and learn from each other and talk and plot and plan how we reimagine real estate in DFW.

I’m not sure whether all of this brings more or less dissonance, but as they say – “variety is the spice of life.” I guaranty it will be a fascinating week.

If you want to learn more about CNU23, or be involved in planning the Congress, email me at

Urbanism, I-345 Teardown and Affordable Housing in Dallas – Beyond Race/Place Rhetoric to a Metroplex Revolution

Posted by    |    April 6th, 2014 at 11:48 am

Let’s get this out of the way so you can categorize me: I grew up in suburban Kansas City (Overland Park), had 6 minorities in my high school (graduating class of 670), and went to SMU undergrad and law school.  I’m one of those rich, white, suburbanites who commutes into Downtown Dallas every day. I have been a commercial real estate attorney for 30 years. Got me pigeonholed?

Now take an African American or Hispanic from South Dallas or West Dallas or East Dallas, who commutes to their job every day in Downtown or North Dallas.  Got them pigeonholed?

Throw in a controversial topic — like whether we rebuild or tear down I-345.  Does your race or place of residence or income level really, in and of itself, define your thought process on this question? TXDOT, not surprisingly, just proposed to rebuild the highway, with no real consideration of alternatives. In the face of what they knew were entrenched powerful interests, the brave few have come forward to tilt at that windmill – to challenge the status quo ante, to propose a new order.

The concentration of affordable housing in the Southern section, and HUD’s recent challenge to Dallas to create / support affordable housing in Downtown is another highly controversial topic rooted in race and place and income.

Name calling based on place and race and income is an antiquated concept nationally, but unfortunately still has a lot of play in Dallas.

Now for the shocker for those who pigeonholed me earlier: I was an affordable housing attorney early in my career and for 11 years left legal practice to develop affordable housing. I  have worked with and along both African American and Hispanic leaders.  I also became a Fair Housing advocate, to the point of suing cities (including the suburb I live in) for not allowing apartment development (talk about tilting at windmills). When I came back to practicing law I worked on an urban mixed use mixed income development in Hollywood — a W Hotel and Condos and 375 apartments, 75 or which are affordable in the midst of this $600 million development. And it is located above an LA Metro train station. Imagine mixed income, mixed use transit-oriented development in a city with horrible traffic issues.  My eyes were opened – could we do this in Dallas?  What benefits would this type of transit-oriented development pattern bring to the Metroplex?  Yes, the rich white suburban guy who at the time drove a Hummer H3, started thinking about whether our “drive until you qualify”, and please build more highway lane miles to support it – that guy had an epiphany.

I came back to Dallas after working 2 1/2 years on the Hollywood project and traded my H3 in for a Ford Fiesta. I started taking DART. I got involved with the Congress for New Urbanism and Urban Land Institute. I started reading books upon books about the “built environment” – how what/how we are building today is not sustainable. How we can’t build (or afford) enough highways to support the projected growth in North Texas. And how our fascination with the automobile has dealt a severe blow to what were once vibrant people oriented places.  My son now drives my Fiesta and I drive a Lexus hybrid that gets close to 50 MPG (how do you categorize me now — a Lexus hybrid — is he corporate or is he green?)  I decided to dedicate the balance of my legal career to the urban core of Dallas.

Now that I’ve looked under the hood (bad analogy intended) of how the Metropolex transportation/infrastructure/work-to-home environment works, I’m finding a 1972 Vega engine behind the glossy Cadillac finish.  It is fundamentally inefficient and outdated and it won’t continue to run well if at all going forward if we just keep on doing the same thing (remember the definition of insanity?).  I have similar thoughts around how we have developed affordable housing in Dallas, including some of the housing I built.

In school we are taught to challenge the established norm — this is the basis of critical thinking, without which we might still believe the world is flat and, to play the “race card”, we might continue to look at minorities as either possessions or second-class citizens.  It really is OK to say “what would happen if we tore down I-345?  can we analyze how this has worked in other US cities like San Francisco and Milwaukee, or international cities like Seoul, to see if it might be beneficial for Dallas?”  And can we openly discuss what true mixed income housing would look like in Downtown Dallas or North Dallas? Are we mature enough as a city to have this dialogue, trying to do what is best for the City and all its residents, both short term and long term, without immediately reverting to our old ways of name calling?  The minute we play the North vs. South Dallas card, or pit White vs. Black vs. Hispanic, we demonize very well intentioned, thoughtful people who – if you really get to know them and are willing to listen — have the best interests of the entire city at heart. You may politely disagree. But you may actually learn a thing or two.

One of those 6 minorities in my high school was one of my best friends. And I’m socially liberal but economically conservative, one minute I work on a multiple million dollar office or hotel, and the next on Fair Housing in the Valley. Categorize me now.

If we want name calling place/race/income level categorization, watch Fox News, CNN or the US Congress – polarizing political babble.  If instead we want to get something done that makes DFW a better place, then we need a Metroplex Revolution that listens and learns from each other in an atmosphere of respect and working for the greater good of the entire region.

Real Estate News

Posted by    |    February 18th, 2014 at 8:57 am

The National Association of Home Builders’ Remodeling Market Index shows remodeling activity at its highest reading since the first quarter of 2004. The index was at 57 in the fourth quarter of 2013. Any reading above 50 indicates more remodelers report market activity is higher than those who report lower. The index’s future market conditions rose to 58, the highest reading since recording of that measure began in 2005. “Steady existing home sales, historically favorable interest rates for home buyers and rising home equity have combined to release some of the pent-up demand for home remodeling from the past few years,” says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “This quarter’s RMI reading shows that the slow but steady improvement in the remodeling market will continue in 2014.” The National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s fourth quarter Remodeling Business Pulse data also showed an uptick in remodeling activity. The biggest reasons cited for an increase in home remodeling were home owners needing to do projects they had postponed and improving home prices. Source: Realtor Daily News

Investors are flipping houses again, a trend that had become popular during the housing boom but fell off after home prices started dropping. Now, with home prices back on the rise again, many markets are seeing flips on the upswing. Homes that were purchased and then resold within six months accounted for 4.6 percent of all U.S. single-family home sales during 2013, according to RealtyTrac’s fourth-quarter 2013 Home Flipping Report. House flipping was up 16 percent from 2012 and up 114 percent from 2011, the report shows. Rising home prices have helped investors see profits again. The average gross profit on flips was $62,761 in the fourth quarter of 2013, up from $52,746 a year earlier. “Strong home price appreciation in many markets boosted profits for flippers in 2013, despite a shrinking inventory of lower-priced foreclosure homes to purchase,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. In 2013, 21 percent of all homes flipped were purchased out of foreclosure, down from 27 percent in 2012 and 32 percent in 2011, the report shows. But investors are still finding homes to buy at an average discount of 13 percent below market value, the same average discount as 2012, “indicating that investors are finding discounted buying opportunities outside of the public foreclosure process — particularly in those markets with the biggest increases in flipping for the year,” Blomquist says. Source: RealtyTrac  

The 5 Kitchen Spots You Can Organize Today

Posted by    |    February 15th, 2014 at 11:48 am

Whether you have just 10 minutes or a full 30, you can tackle your kitchen’s messiest spots in a few simple steps.
This piece originally appeared on

1. If you have 10 minutes: 
Clear off the countertop.
Find a new home for any appliances you don’t use daily (or close to it). If you hand-wash dishes, dry them on a rack like the Siliconezone by Karim Sink Roll ($50); it rolls up for easy storage when not in use.

2. If you have 15 minutes: 
Sort out the cleaners under the sink.
Pull out your cleaning supplies; toss anything that has dried out or been used beyond recognition. Arrange the remaining cleansers by room or type (e.g., “bathroom,” “dusting”) and place each group into a plastic bin — they’ll be easy to grab at chore time.

3. If you have 25 minutes: 
Take on that overloaded utensil drawer.
Two questions: Has it been over a month since I used this? Do I have something else that works better? If you say yes to both, donate it! Can’t decide? Put it into a box in the basement; write the date on top. If the box is unopened a year from now, give it up!

And then:
Streamline your storage containers.
Recycle lidless, discolored, or warped plastic containers, then assess your needs: Most families of four are fine with 12 pieces total. Stick to vessels that are all the same shape so they’ll stack neatly and take up less space.

4. If you have 30 minutes: 
Reorganize the refrigerator.
Toss anything that’s expired, group like with like, and stash small items (yogurt, fruit) in clear plastic drawers like Fridge Binz ($8 to $20 each). Check the freezer: If you don’t recognize it, can’t remember when you froze it, or know that it’s more than six months old, chuck it.

The CEO and the Second Home

Posted by    |    February 15th, 2014 at 11:40 am

Homes That Invite Shop Talk

For business leaders, vacation homes become places to hold conferences, strategize and make deals

Wall Street Journal 
February 13, 2014 

Martin Puris, an advertising veteran, invited a Sony Corp. marketing executive for a summer weekend last year at his second home in the swank hamlet of Sagaponack in Long Island’s Hamptons.

The men relaxed by the 75-foot outdoor pool, dined in the adjacent airy sunroom—and struck a deal. Mr. Puris, former chief executive of ad giant Ammirati Puris Lintas, snared the Sony Music Entertainment unit as the third major client for Puris & Partners, his new corporate-strategy consultancy.

Mr. Puris frequently entertains business contacts at the 12-acre property, where he also conceived his startup. “It doesn’t feel like work,” Mr. Puris explains. He can comfortably accommodate 16 people on his estate, which has a main house, a separate guesthouse and a large guest bedroom above a detached garage. The property has a total of nine bedrooms, 11 full baths and about 9,000 square feet of living space.

Like everyone else, top executives need time off to escape high-pressure jobs. Unlike everyone else, their vacation homes are often critical to their work. Beyond setting up computers, they must devote several hours a day to email and conference calls. Some interrupt their stays to fly back to headquarters for an unexpected meeting.

Visits to his vacation residence in Hawaii’s Hualalai Resort helped Harry H. Frampton to devise turnaround strategies during the 2009 downturn.

“Coming to a place like Hawaii allowed me to not be overwhelmed by the problems,” says Mr. Frampton, executive chairman of East West Partners, a property developer, manager and brokerage in Avon, Colo.

For instance, he recalls, he was at that vacation home when he decided which of his company’s resort development projects to defer due to the recession.

Mr. Frampton enjoys stunning sunset views from the main house in his nearly 5,000-square-foot compound on the Big Island. The estate, set on half an acre, also has two guest cottages, though they tend to be used only by other family members.

Vacation-home sales in the U.S. are rebounding. Sales rose 10% in 2012, after tumbling 56% between 2006 and 2010, the National Association of Realtors reported.

Hualalai Resort, half owned by Dell Inc. CEO Michael Dell, sold more second homes and lots in 2013 than any year since 2007, a spokeswoman says.

Prices are bouncing back as well. “I expect close to double-digit gains in second-home prices this year,” says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. He thinks primary homes will appreciate by only about 6%.

The median sales price for a vacation home in the U.S. was $150,000 in 2012, up 24% from 2011, according to the Realtors association. The increase reflects greater sales of higher priced properties. Their pricey amenities range from movie-screening theaters to wine cellars, private boat docks and golf-cart garages.

The second-home experiences of Mr. Puris and Mr. Frampton give insights into how an upscale residential retreat can benefit business leaders.

Mr. Puris started his career as a stand-up comedian, co-founded his ad agency in 1974 and later invented memorable slogans, such as “the ultimate driving machine,” used since 1975 by BMW AG to sell cars in the U.S.

He has cooked up other business ideas at his Hamptons house, where he and his wife, Mary Herrmann Puris, drive almost every weekend from their Manhattan loft apartment. He works during roughly a third of their typical three-day stays.

“This vacation home is where I have some of my best creative thoughts,” the 74-year-old executive explains. “This peaceful setting allows my brain to be uncluttered and focused.”

In November 2012, for example, he decided to stop running a U.S. joint venture for a U.K. marketing-services firm. He had forged the arrangement with his future British partner during a chat alongside the estate’s pool.

Mr. Puris pondered his next career move from its study. The book-crammed office, whose tallest windows overlook the pool, originally was the master bath. He remembers feeling inspired to launch Puris & Partners while there. The year-old firm employs playwrights, screenwriters and magazine columnists to teach companies to tell their story better and “capture the imagination of the marketplace,” he says.

He calls his bucolic estate Whimsy Farm. It has “secret gardens all over the place, fountains, odd places to have a drink or lunch,” he adds.

The ad executive unwinds there in other ways, too. He regularly uses its fully equipped exercise room and he races his 30-foot sailboat when weather permits. Until a few years ago, he owned and rode horses.

Whimsy Farm evolved from a 2.5 acre parcel that Ms. Herrmann Puris purchased in 1982, a decade before she married Martin. She spent $250,000 to build a small house with a 24-foot-high cathedral ceiling in the spacious living room.

The couple has completed three major additions since 1992. Among them: a glass enclosed sunroom that seats 30, an extra kitchen and a three-bedroom wing with floors made of 18th-century wood planks. The current master bathroom features a sunken whirlpool tub. Close by are their bedroom’s six closets and roaring gas fireplace.

Visiting relatives and business acquaintances usually occupy separate guest quarters. Expanding, renovating and landscaping the estate cost at least $4 million, Ms. Herrmann Puris says. But now, she says, “we’re out of add-ons.”

Mr. Frampton is sweating after a workout at the Hualalai Resort’s fitness center, but still feels comfortable as he enters his sun-drenched Hawaiian home. The reason? He routinely opens three sides to catch balmy breezes. The temperature fluctuates between 72 and 82 degrees this mid-January day.

Mr. Frampton and his wife, Susan, spend about 12 weeks a year in Hawaii—mostly during spring mud season in Vail, Colo., where their primary residence is.

The compound, completed in 2008, is the fourth vacation home built by the couple in their 48-year marriage. They spent more than $8 million to buy the property, and then construct and decorate the house, two guest cottages and the garage, Mr. Frampton estimates.

“We made a real effort to make it an inside/outside house,” says the 70-year-old executive, wearing a yellow T-shirt and Nike shorts.

A trio of sliding glass walls recedes into pockets. Interior and exterior floors, made of soft sandstone, extend the living area to a covered rear veranda. This “lanai” faces a pool, hot tub, gazebo, and the Pacific Ocean. “We eat 100% of our meals outside,” he says.

The four-bedroom, 4.5-bath compound has no inside showers. “There is nothing much nicer than taking an outside shower,” Mr. Frampton says. Occasional raindrops during showers don’t bother him because “you were wet to start with.”

Mr. Frampton, who founded East West in 1985 and remained CEO until 2012, wants to apply his “outside living inside” approach to its Kauai residential project. Among other things, he says the homes will have receding doors like his “so they can open up a lot.” He monitors the Kauai project by flying there a few times each time he vacations in Hawaii.

The executive used this second home throughout the recession. Far from his stressful, 65-hour workweeks, he says he was better able to remain upbeat, set priorities and deal with lenders. His introspection led him to conclude the company would survive by continuing “to treat our employees with respect” and being as truthful as possible with business partners.

“I work hard,” he says, “But you can work too hard.”

How to Add a Kitchen Backsplash

Posted by    |    February 15th, 2014 at 10:15 am

The options for kitchen backsplashes are pretty much limitless in terms of material, color, size and cost. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide what’s best for you and your lifestyle. Knowing how to navigate the process of installing a new backsplash can help ease some of the stress. Here’s what to expect.

Project: Adding a new backsplash.
Why: A backsplash can act as a focal point in the kitchen, creating interest and balance between the other materials and elements. 
Details: The difficulty and expense of the project will depend on the complexity of the design. First you’ll want to decide what kind of backsplash you’d like to have. As mentioned, the options are endless, from smooth, backpainted glass to complex ceramic tile patterns and custom murals. Look at photos, research materials, meet with a designer and visit showrooms to decide what’s best for you.

Click here for the full article on

5 developments in Dallas to look forward to in 2014

Posted by    |    January 2nd, 2014 at 9:48 pm

Great article from Pegasus News on plenty of changes to travel in our area.

DALLAS — Late December is a great time to look back and think of the best restaurants, most scandalous moments or any other excuse to make a “best-of” list for Big D. And why stop now? But for something different, let’s focus on the year ahead and think about some very important transportation, infrastructure and real estate developments that’ll take Dallas to the next level. From projects that began more than 100 years ago to ones that were just dreamed up in the Internet age, here are my top 5.

Skip the brick for a statement-making chimney

Posted by    |    December 8th, 2013 at 1:50 pm

This new article on looks at alternative materials for chimneys from metal to concrete or masonry for a dynamic architectural element.

While their main function is to provide ventilation, chimneys do double duty when they’re elegant architectural statements. Standing tall and prominent on the exterior, they add visual interest to a home and — when covered in a complementary material — can provide a provocative contrast to the other volumes in the structure. Click to continue.

Overdoing a trend

Posted by    |    October 23rd, 2013 at 10:17 pm

I love the look of Chevron but I would have serious concerns if a client wanted to commit to this tile pattern on a more permananent basis. It’s one thing to swap out a pillow down the road but this is really putting a ring on it. 

Staging bathrooms.How to get that “spa” look.

Posted by    |    October 20th, 2013 at 6:36 pm

By Avril Brown

Bathrooms are a big deal for homebuyers,so if yours is a little lackluster you need to up the glam factor.

Removing all the clutter and all of your personal items is a given when prepping your home for sale .Buyers don’t want to see your hair brush,tooth brush or your cat’s litter.Now is the time to sort through what you really need to keep,give away,sell or throw out. Recycle where you can.Counter tops should be clear with the exception of a few accessories. Read more…