After sitting vacant for decades, a hilly 5-acre site in the Cedar Crest neighborhood of Oak Cliff could see development kick off early next year.
The Elms, a 153-unit apartment project, is in the works on the property at the southeast corner of Morrell Avenue and Corinth Street Road. The developer is Smart Living Residential, a new firm from former Bank OZK commercial construction asset manager Swede Hanson.
The Elms will include a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments across seven buildings. Rents are expected to range from $1,300 to $2,200, and the units will be targeted toward people in the neighborhood such as teachers, firefighters, nurses and city employees.
Hanson is not using affordable housing tax credits at The Elms. He instead chose to use traditional financing methods and keep rent costs down through methods such as repeating design elements across all units, limiting unit types, keeping amenities to a minimum and identifying affordable land sites. It took about a year and a half for Hanson to find and close on this site.
“Our goal is not to disrupt the typical multifamily model, but it’s really just to add to it in such a way that allows us to more effectively and repeatedly provide high-quality, mixed-income rental housing,” Hanson said, adding that other developers focus on “the economics of the near-term exit instead of solving the long-term housing problem.”
The new development firm will focus on projects in southern Dallas. Hanson is already looking at a second project and hopes to eventually have about three projects in the works each year.
Smart Living, in partnership between Hanson and local investors Kevin Phillips and Dan Healy. acquired the 5-acre site in July 2021. It was already zoned for multifamily. The development team is beginning the permitting process. Construction is expected to begin in first-quarter 2023 and take about a year and a half to complete, with the first units opening by the first half of 2024.
The Elms will have a pool, which wasn’t initially included in the plans but was added after discussions with community members, Hanson said. It will also have a community patio.
The site is just east of the Morrell DART rail station and shares a property line with the former Cedar Crest Community Center, which the Salvation Army sold to faith-based nonprofit Behind Every Door in January, deed records show. Hanson is working to collaborate with several local nonprofits, including Behind Every Door.
“If you want to be a stakeholder, and you want to be an investor in southern Dallas, you need to be a stakeholder,” Hanson said. “You need to listen, you need to be active, you need to be present, you need to listen to what the community’s wants and needs are.”
The development team on The Elms includes Justin Parscale and Ryan Roettker of the Parscale Group, an architecture firm based in Dallas.
The project is organized as a series of individual buildings stepping down the hillside toward a creek. Roettker said the apartment buildings were designed to fit into the largely single-family neighborhood instead of creating a large apartment building, and be easily replicated on future sites to keep design costs to a minimum.
“Rather than introducing a building form that doesn’t mesh well with the local community, this kind of creates a small village of individual apartments, almost a townhome-like feel that better matches those single-family homes,” Roettker said.
Dallas Mayor Pro Tem Carolyn King Arnold said the project is one of several in the works around Cedar Crest and that new residents are drawn into the area by the views of downtown.
“It’s in a prime location, but it’s also just very much needed as we talk about putting in more housing options in the southern sector,” Arnold said. “I think we will begin to signal to folks that it’s OK to come on over to the southern sector. We have plenty of land opportunities in that area.”