The townhouse niche, how one builder could transform a pocket of Old East Dallas

Brad Winters with Miles Durham. (Photo by Rasy Ran)
Brad Winters with Miles Durham. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

Miles Durham’s small company built 100 custom homes, from Kessler Park to Interstate 635, over the course of 10 years.

They were luxury homes built when it seemed like practically anyone could buy a big fancy house. But then the housing market crashed. So Durham changed focus.

“I looked around and said, ‘I’m not comfortable building spec houses for a million dollars,’ ” he says. “I don’t have the intestinal fortitude for that.”

Durham partnered up with Brad Winters, a guy he’s known since second grade, to start EKO Builders. If you haven’t seen EKO’s name in our neighborhood, you’re not looking very hard.

A partial look at the framing of one of the townhomes. (Photo by Rasy Ran)
A partial look at the framing of one of the townhomes. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

The company has about 25 townhome projects underway in East Dallas.

Empty lots and teardowns in Lakewood now fetch at least $200,000. In some parts of Dallas, they sell for upwards of $500,000. Add a custom home, and the buyer’s price could approach $1 million.

Instead, EKO started buying up land in Old East Dallas — on Live Oak, Fitzhugh, Ross, Bennett and Bryan — to build luxury townhomes.

Imagine that same $200,000 lot with six townhomes selling for nearly $400,000 each.

Construction began last month on the first of the company’s planned 217 townhome units.

They’re three stories (some with rooftop decks), about 1,500 square feet each and have two bedrooms, two-and-a-half bathrooms and two-car garages. They’re priced around $370,000.

“We want to keep it affordable,” Winters says. “Our buyer is someone who is priced out of Uptown or Lakewood.”

Durham and Winters began their venture in August 2014. They cash-flowed the company for a year, training employees, designing their buildings and interiors, working out their construction plans and nabbing investors. The company started buying land in June 2015, and this past August, they bought 4.5 acres in the Bryan/Fitzhugh area.

A worker measures and cuts on the rooftops of townhomes built by a joint effort between Eko and Durham Builders. (Photo by Rasy Ran)
A worker measures and cuts on the rooftops of townhomes built by a joint effort between Eko and Durham Builders. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

Their projects are three-story homes, so they weren’t designed with downsizing Baby Boomers in mind. EKO expects young buyers who have busy work lives. They’re city-dwellers who want to walk to dinner or ride bikes to the movies.

The company is adding about 148 townhomes in the area surrounding Jimmy’s Food Store. It’s a neighborhood with a lot to offer in the way of urban life; there are neighborhood bars and restaurants, and it’s close to Downtown, Uptown and Lakewood. But it also has a lot of crime and run-down apartments. EKO’s new townhomes could add about 300 new middle-class residents there.

“It’s an opportunity to have a positive impact on a neighborhood that we’ve had a vision for since 2014,” Winters says.

EKO also has a townhome project near the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff and one near the Farmers Market Downtown.

They essentially are a design/build company, and they’re small. Durham lives in Lake Highlands; his dad is an architect who does some work for EKO. Winters flies into Dallas frequently from his home in Denver (he’d logged 80 flights through October this year). His background is in finance. The rest of the company consists of an office manager and a construction manager. They’re a small shop with the ability to take on unusual projects. Their farmers market property, for example, is on an odd, semi-circular lot that other builders had overlooked. But they put pencil to paper and made it work.

“We pride ourselves that we have a good handful of investors who trust us with their money. We have to make people money, and we have to do it in a way that doesn’t put them at risk,” Durham says. “We’re doing that by delivering projects that we believe in.”

Workers construct townhomes in East Dallas at Bennett and Ross Avenues. (Photo by Rasy Ran)
Workers construct townhomes in East Dallas at Bennett and Ross Avenues. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

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