Victory Park: Master Planning & Design

The AIA Associates Committee assembled a panel to discuss Victory Park for their monthly “On Tap” speaker series at Teknion’s Showroom on Thursday, September 15, 2011. All of the panelists were involved in the projects that have been built at Victory and included John Hutchings, AIA, HKS Architects; Craig P. Williams, AIA, David M. Schwarz Architects; Jaime Fernandez-Duran, AIA, WDG Architects; Eddie Abeyta, AIA, HKS Architects; and Andrew Bennett, AIA, BOKA-Powell Architects

The following are some highlights of the discussion:

The group was involved in the original design work for Victory Park, from David M. Schwarz and HKS’ involvement on the American Airlines Center and the latter on Victory Plaza East and West offices and the W Hotel and Residences; WDG’s work on the Vista, Terrace and The House residences; and BOKA-Powell’s work on Victory Park One office building. The Cirque was designed by Gromatzky-Dupree with Page Southerland Page the architect-of-record. The panelists’ comments provided background to the development, planning and design processes involved in creating the first phase of Victory Park’s community.

The original site development model was prepared by Hillwood with the assistance of a local civil engineering firm. Fred Koetter of Koetter, Kim and Associates was brought on board to develop a master plan and did so, assisted by the design team of David M. Schwarz and HKS Architects who had begun work on the American Airlines Center. According to Craig Williams, this program was a major learning curve for Hillwood, who didn’t have retail experience and so turned to The Related Companies to obtain their help in this area. Elkus Manfredi was then hired to re-think and revise the master plan.

As a result of the reorientation of the master plan and Hillwood’s priorities, the original design for the plaza didn’t get built. Per Eddie Abeyta, the W Hotel’s designer, the plaza’s original design was based on a traditional piazza, with retail extending out from the building onto the plaza. Instead, restaurants were built internal to the buildings instead of indoor/outdoor, thereby negating the original intent of the plan.

Mr. Abeyta added that the thrust of Victory Park Lane was to create a neighborhood environment, an area internal to the experience of Victory Park and a destination distinct from any other in Dallas. The American Airlines Center brings people to the area, but there isn’t enough critical mass when there aren’t any events. There were conflicts with the vision and how the developers programmed the Victory Park Lane space along with the effect of one-sided development, resulting in its not working. Craig Williams added that a master plan has to be flexible to be successful, that his firm is working on the retail, dining and entertainment that will weave all together in the Caesar Hotel complex in Las Vegas. The site has to connect people and the W Hotel, while a nice sculpture, was built on a site considered at the time to be a second-draw because of the plaza, that from the plaza to the hotel, there isn’t any space at the hotel to serve the plaza (and providing connection). And in Dallas, land isn’t valuable enough, yet. In Washington, D.C., they would push parking underground. North Houston does have problems because of this (as does Victory Park Lane with the Mandarin Hotel structure); Victory Park Lane is better but one-sided, and retailers want cross-shopping; so it’s not flexible in this economy. Jaime Fernandez-Duran noted that Victory Park was built almost as an island offshore, that if the economy improves, Victory Park, Uptown and the downtown will eventually come together, but the two-sided retail will not be built for another five years.

Andrew Bennett discussed the concept of bringing a newer office product to Victory Park, one distinct from many of the earlier buildings in the downtown that, due to constraints of their construction, were being renovated into housing. Victory Park’s offices are built with ten foot glass and interstitial floor space for economy in refitting and servicing essential services, making this space more competitive than comparable space downtown.

John Hutchings discussed DART light rail at Victory Park, noting that it serves its purpose but the developers knew it would take a long time to become viable, that the critical mass is not there, yet, the density necessary to make it work to its full potential. And light rail growth at Victory is limited by station platform length and frequency. Eddie Abeyta added that service will be expanded from Museum Way at the Nature and Science Museum site through Victory Park (along Museum Way) to Victory Park station (DART’s D2 plan). Craig Williams noted that the original Koetter-Kim master plan did make use of the light rail connection [with a transit-oriented concept], however, the development still needs 9-to-5 and 5-to-9 use to make rail fully effective.

There was discussion about the North End apartments, that here a complete apartment community is cut off from Victory Park by a fence along North Houston Street. If a section of this fence were to be removed, residents could have access to the amenities at Victory Park. The apartments were designed to be taken down in blocks in the future, though, allowing for development along N. Houston from Museum Way to Olive Street.

Hillwood is still active in Victory Park and owns the property to the north of American Airlines Center. Einstein owns the south half of the development, setting up a potential conflict for future development of the site. While a master plan is in place, the primary driver for this development is the real estate deal over all other considerations.

In response to a question concerning Hillwood’s point of view on development at Victory Park, the panelists generally agreed in their conclusion that Hillwood was aware of how Victory Park could have been developed differently than what was done and, that with the cost of land in Dallas providing too many choices of where to build, they underestimated how this would affect the development’s success, and that they regret the site’s retail development model. While noting this, the economy was cited as a major factor in the venture’s fate, and an optimistic note was made that with development at Woodall Rodgers, both Uptown and Victory Park will eventually come together, providing an impetus to resume development at Victory Park.

The AIA Associates noted that Hillwood was invited to attend the panel discussion but declined. Also, Gromatzky-Dupree, the design architect, and Page Southerland Page, the Architect-of-Record for The Cirque residences, did not participate in the panel discussion..

The Koetter, Kim and Associates master plan can be viewed at: http://koetterkim.com/indexFlash.html Then “Projects,” “Urban Design,” and scroll to right to “Victory District Urban Design”

The BOKA-Powell Victory Site Plan can be viewed at: http://www.bokapowell.com/#/planning-and-urban-design/25/

The Elkus-Manfredi master plan is not available on their website.

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