News Article | 9/11/2006

Views and service lure W pioneers

Maybe because she spent her early childhood in rural Arkansas, Melinda Jones says she’s always been awed by the skyscrapers of downtown Dallas.

She’ll soon be awed every day, waking up to views of the Big D skyline from a glitzy condominium with floor-to-ceiling windows inside the $180 million W Dallas Victory Hotel & Residences project.

Jones, a 35-year-old vice president of marketing for Dallas-based LeadsOnline and LeadsOnlabs, will move into the W condos at Victory Park in October. She’ll eventually be followed by her fiancĂ©.

“I have a home in Highland Park,” Jones said, “but the idea of moving to the (center) city is invigorating, despite my rural origins.”

Jones is part of the first wave of residents — empty nesters, single professionals and young marrieds, 20% of them from out of state — who have bought or put under contract condos at the W. What unites them is a yearning for posh city life, plus the ability to afford a front-row seat at one of the most ambitious developments in the city.

Victory Park, Hillwood’s mixed-use project anchored by the American Airlines Center just north of downtown, will morph over time into a bustling neighborhood with office workers, shoppers and residents.

Original estimates were for 61 condo units in the W project’s 33-story north tower — the residences sit atop the W Hotel — and 83 units in a 15-story south tower, though those numbers are changing as buyers reconfigure some of the spaces.

About 80% to 85% of the units are under contract so far. Approximately 20 units have closed. And about a dozen residents already are living in the north tower. They include Jordan Mizrach, 34, who was the first to move into a high-rise pad there and still is the only person on his floor.

Wanted to be first

Mizrach, who works at the Park Place luxury car dealership in Dallas, was living in a high-rise condo on Turtle Creek Boulevard when he heard W was coming to town. He decided immediately to move.

“I wanted to make sure that I had a good choice of unit,” he said. “There’s a lot going up around Victory. My goal was to be there first.”

W condo owners like Mizrach will have some personally invested neighbors.

Among them: Victory developer Ross Perot Jr., who, in addition to a W condo, has a private helipad at the top of the hotel. Hillwood Capital President Jonas Woods, who is leading the Victory project, also will have a W condo.

The W Hotel’s principal architect, Eddie Abeyta of Dallas-based HKS Inc. — he created the glass and concrete building’s ultra-modern design — has taken a condo in the W’s south tower, where move-ins start next month.

Abeyta’s colleague Nunzio DeSantis, principal in charge of HKS, purchased a condo in the north tower as a second home for entertaining family and friends.

Do the architects have any “insider knowledge” about the project?

“We know underlying things that make it special,” Abeyta said. For example, “how (the building) relates to the arena, and how its balconies interface with the streets and the plaza.”

Added DeSantis : “This building speaks to you, whether you’re driving or walking by curbside. That’s why we are so proud of it.”

For most condo buyers, the reputation of the 251-room W Hotel for upscale service was an instant lure.

But perks like 24-hour concierge service aren’t secured easily. Owners at the project paid from $500,000 for a one-bedroom unit, to $2.7 million for a three-bedroom unit. Penthouse owners invested about $1.5 million to $3 million per unit. Prices per square foot for the remaining units, which range in size from 1,100 to 5,100 square feet, run from $450 to $800.

Jones checked out other high-rise luxury condos, including the Ritz-Carlton and Azure, before settling on the W’s south tower.

“My father had a great love for room service, and it ruined me,” she said. “I work quite a bit and travel some, so having a 24-hour staff to handle things really appealed to me.”

In addition to first-rate guest treatment, W residents have access to the Craft steakhouse, the Ghostbar nightclub, the Bliss Dallas spa and an infinity pool, all located in the hotel.

Mizrach says his decision to buy at the W is affirmed regularly. After hitting the Katy Trail for a daily jog, he says, the hotel’s staff is there to greet him when he returns home.

“That has been the best thing so far,” he said. “It’s a nice touch to have bottled water and a towel waiting for me after running.”

Fallon Pastore and her husband Bill Pastore, both 61, had been looking to leave San Diego for Dallas when Fallon discovered the W condos while searching online. She says she already feels spoiled by the hotel services.

The Pastores have owned condos at several high-rise buildings, including the Trump World Tower in Manhattan.

“I think my apartment here is much more beautiful,” Fallon said. “I don’t think people in Dallas realize what a nice city they have.

“Downtown is going to sparkle when the freeway is covered with parkland, the Calatrava bridges are in and the museum districts gets the opera house,” she said. “This is going to the best place in the United States for urban living.”

The only downside so far, Pastore says, is that her car gets dusty from all the nearby construction.

Jones, meantime, hopes she’s trading a more isolated homeowner’s existence for a “Friends”-style way of life — one that will include hanging out at “a favorite coffeeshop.”

Echoeing the sentiments of her fellow residents, she says Victory Park “can become a community faster than a normal suburban layout could.”