Just when it seems that the East Dallas real estate market can’t get any more surreal, it does. I now fully expect Rod Serling to step out from behind a teardown, Twilight Zone theme music swelling, to discuss property development.

That’s about the only way that what’s going on makes any sense. Let me say, first of all, that I know nothing about real estate. And every time I think I figure it out, I realize I know even less. I don’t understand why someone would build a $350,000 teardown in a neighborhood of duplexes and rent houses. I don’t understand why homes — with one bathroom, for God’s sake — cost more than $100 a square foot on Lower Greenville. I don’t understand why someone would pay $1,200 a month to live in a 1950s-style home that has all the charm of a 1950s-style home.

Yet the other day, driving down Henderson midway between Central Expressway and Ross, and next to Bonham Elementary, I saw something that would have been worthy of Mr. Serling. Phoenix Property, a well-known developer, is putting up what it calls a 150-unit luxury apartment complex in a neighborhood that is in no way luxurious.

No one at Phoenix was available to discuss the project, so my conception of luxury may differ a bit from theirs. But regardless of the price per square foot or whether the apartments have Jacuzzis or merely hot tubs, this is not the kind of neighborhood where one usually sees the kind of people who rent luxury apartments (unless they got off Central at the wrong exit).

Down the street a bit is a restaurant where daylight robberies of the armed variety are not completely unknown. Around the corner, garbage is piled on the street and the rent houses look as if they’ll blow down in a hot breeze. This is not one of those neighborhoods that receive regular visits from the code inspector. It reminds me of a part of East Dallas in the old days, where a cop once told me he never felt safe — and he was the one with the shotgun.

And just to make the puzzle a little more interesting, a bunch of experts reported in July that the Dallas rental market is as bad as it has been since the first George Bush was president. Vacancy rates are at 10-year highs, while rents are actually decreasing because of a glut in the market.

Yet a respected, well-known developer (with family ties to Lincoln Property, which owns The Village and is a major national player) figures it can make money building on a less than desirable part of Henderson. So what can possibly be going on?

Maybe Rod Serling knows, because I don’t have any idea. It’s possible the people at Phoenix have just guessed wrong, but since they did the apartment development across the street, on the other side of Henderson , I can only assume they understand the neighborhood and the market.

Obviously, much has to do with historically low interest rates, cheap land (the lot the building is on has been more or less empty for 20 years) and a proximity to Central Expressway, the Park Cities, and the rash of new, hip and trendy construction in Uptown, which isn’t all that far away. And let’s not forget that East Dallas itself has been hip and trendy for the past couple of years.

But there is hip and trendy, and then there is hip and trendy. Those of us who have lived here for a while — and I have asked almost everyone I know who has, including some people who are supposed to know about real estate — are completely befuddled by this. Is this a sign of how much East Dallas has truly changed, and we just don’t realize it? Is this going to become the rule, just like expensive teardowns and pricey homes on lower

Greenville ?

Or, will Rod Serling eventually walk out from behind a shrubbery, smile and say: “They thought they were living in East Dallas . Instead, they had moved into the Twilight Zone.”


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