From January 18-21, 2017, the Baker Program in Real Estate Class of 2018 visited Dallas, Texas to participate in their domestic intersession trek. The purpose of these treks is to expose Baker students to real estate markets with diverse characteristics, particularly those that are in contrast to our familiar setting of the Northeastern United States and New York City. This disparity was immediately apparent in Dallas – a sprawling city with no physical barriers to growth. Per the latest Census data, Dallas was second in the nation with numeric population growth at 144,704 as well as led the nation with employment growth at 3.6% (US Bureau of Labor Statistics). In addition to the immense growth, Dallas provides a variety to an array of strategies, from urban investment to planned suburban development. This article highlights the morning of the third day of the trip, during which students visited the new Hillwood headquarters in the Turtle Creek neighborhood of Dallas.
On the morning of January 20, the Baker students ventured over to the Turtle Creek neighborhood of Dallas, where they were hosted by Ken Reese, the Executive Vice President of Hillwood Urban. In addition to the amenities provided by the neighboring Uptown neighborhood, Turtle Creek is well known for hosting the Katy Trail, a jogging and bicycling path that runs behind the site for the new Hillwood headquarters and is affectionately referred to by Ross Perot, Jr. as “Dallas’s beachfront.” Despite the nearly six-acre size of the site, the new development will contain a 200,000 square-foot, three-story building, with the building, landscaping, gardens, and connection to the Katy Trail using less than half of the available land on the site. The building was designed to be more compact in order to feature the surrounding preserved woods and parkland. In keeping with the natural, park-like character of the new development, the building is constructed of high quality limestone, wood, and glass.
Immediately upon entering the building, students were met with quotes of famous Americans across the display screens and an American flag art feature on the wall behind the reception desk. The entrance from the underground garage is below the main entry way to the building in order to not detract from the natural features outside and from those of the building itself. In addition to the electronic “i-Pad like” displays throughout the building, it contains many unique features, such as an innovative noise-reducing and aesthetically pleasing ceiling constructed from pieces of wood of varying sizes. The headquarters also features memorabilia from the Perot family as part of the building’s function as a museum.
As soon as the group walked into the main space on the ground floor, it became apparent that the new headquarters are designed to house a health-oriented environment to promote employee wellness. The artfully engineered stairs and chandelier are the focal point of the building, encouraging employees to utilize the stairs as much as possible. The cafeteria on the ground floor offers local and healthy options at affordable prices, and the outdoor seating area flows naturally out of the cafeteria with a calming, bubbling fountain by the seating area. The walls and offices are made largely out of glass, bringing natural light throughout the building as much as possible. Cubicles are designed to be as low as possible, allowing for both more natural light and more interaction among employees. The desks within the offices are outfitted with convertible desks to reduce sitting time, and every desk already contains a reusable water tumbler for each employee. The building also contains a gym with showers and a separate outside entrance to allow employees to go straight from exercising outdoors to the shower area before they head to their workspace.
One of the other interesting features of the building was the copy rooms, all of which are designed to function as safe rooms. Each copy room is outfitted with Kevlar walls and bulletproof doors, and the peepholes are carefully placed and designed to be minimal.
Many of the challenges of the development process were due to uncertainty surrounding the approvals and entitlements as a result of the site being surrounded by city parkland. Hillwood was also required to remove the original pedestrian bridge and put in a new one, which it is also required to maintain. In addition, the site is required to constantly pump water due to its proximity to Turtle Creek; however, the 100,000-gallon system allows for water to be reused for irrigation purposes.
Touring the new Hillwood headquarters provided for great insights for Baker students regarding the development process (and the challenges it may present) and how a company’s character and values can be carefully integrated into every aspect of its projects.