My wife and I are Old East Dallas people. While we dated, she lived on Worth St and I lived on Junius. I raised my dog Oprah living behind Henderson on Moser Ave. When we told our realtor that we were looking for a house within two miles of Downtown, west of Munger, north of Fair Park, and under $200,000, “Umm, have you ever considered a condo?” he responded. I bet he was thinking to himself, “Good luck, young ones.”
We took the realtor’s advice seriously and found exactly what we were looking for in a fortnight. It was a two bedroom, two bathroom 1000 sqft home inside our price range and within our specified location. When we found our Swiss Ave condo, we knew we had to secure it quickly. There wasn’t necessarily a rush, since the previous owner had dropped the price over two weeks previous to the day we made our offer. My wife and I had to buy the place and soon or else we’d have gone mad with anticipation.
We now own a portion of Viola Courts, a building that is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. A building so odd in Dallas that the units have been difficult to market since the building’s construction in 1923, still Viola Courts is a residence that would be typical in neighborhoods of its era in New York or Chicago. Our building is located in the Peak Suburban Addition neighborhood, which dates back to 1855, when 2 miles from Downtown was more similar to Frisco than San Francisco. So its urban form is out of place among the foursquare and craftsman homes.
A century later, however, Viola Courts is perfect for my wife and I. We are close enough to her job that Oprah and I walk her to work every morning. We’re able to remain a one-car household. Jimmy’s Italian is our local grocery, again within walking distance. We are a quick bike ride away from Deep Ellum, Klyde Warren, Lowest Greenville, Lakewood Shopping Center, and the Asian restaurants on Bryan St. But the best thing about our condo is living on Swiss Ave.
We’re across the street from the gates that mark the Swiss Historic District, so I promise our address won’t get to our heads. Still, I am able to leave the building’s vestibule, cross the street, and enjoy a parkway with beautiful homes and people walking, jogging, and riding at all hours of the day. The shaded medians are our dogpark. We exemplify the Millennial movement to live closer to the city center, eschew the automobile, and occupy less space.
It’s unfortunate that this opportunity is so rare in Dallas because I know we’re not alone in wanting this kind of residence. There are plenty of single family homes of this age, but very few multi-family for sale. Most properties for sale in our desired area bottom out at half a million dollars.
In Old East Dallas, we’re seeing plenty of townhomes being constructed that are double the area of our home, include a two-car garage, and triple the price. There’s little incentive to build a similar condo product as Viola Courts, since the number of units don’t match models that are easy to finance. Also, predatory law practices target architects and builders who choose to build this kind of structure.
We understand that our single-car, minimalist lifestyle is not a typical situation in our region, but Dallas is a big enough city to attract and keep weird people like us. I wish there were more diversity of options for our contemporaries where couples with similar priorities as us can thrive.