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Knox Street's familiar Weir's Furniture block is getting a high-rise makeover

Dallas' popular Knox Street business district is set for a makeover with a major new project.

The owners of Weir's Furniture and Atlanta-based developer Geyer Morris Co. plan to build a high-rise retail and office development on the site of the almost 70-year-old store.

For several months, the Weir family and the developers have worked to design the project, which preserves the Highland Park Soda Fountain building — more than a century old — on the corner of Knox and Travis streets.

"We are focused on saving that soda fountain building — that's been an original desire of ours," said Geyer Morris' Justin Schoellkopf. "We've let this dictate the design of the rest of the project."

Architects GFF and ArchiTexas have designed a mixed-use development that would wrap around the two-story soda fountain building.

The lower floors would have retail and office and step back from the street to a 12-story office high-rise.
Parking for the 50,000 square feet of retail space and offices in the tower would be in a six-level underground garage.

"It's expensive, but we wanted to do it," Schoellkopf said.

The planned building would be the first major office addition to the Knox Street area since the 1980s.

Schoellkopf said the offices would be tailored for family businesses, companies that want to be close to the next-door Park Cities and other firms.
Construction could start as soon as late next year.

Weir's would close its Knox Street location temporarily while the development is underway, said CEO Mark Moore.

"This is our birthplace," Moore said. "It's always been our family's vision to stay here."

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Weir’s Furniture Engages OLC to Rebuild Knox Home to Compete With Coming Restoration Hardware

Weir’s Furniture has been a fixture about town for 70 years. Their Knox store has sat witness to the area’s ups and downs. I think it’s safe to say Knox is on the up and up and Weir’s wants to remain an integral part of the transformation (new residents need furniture). You may recall back in July, I reported on Restoration Hardware’s plans to transform their piddly one story. Weir’s wants in on that action and so last night made their way to the Oak Lawn Committee.

As you can see from the map above, Weir’s is a Froggie and a Lulu away from Restoration Hardware’s palace of distressed wood. Add to that lease renegotiations on the north side of Knox in the coming years, and change is definitely afoot.

The biggest “good news” is the preservation of the exterior of the old Highland Park Pharmacy building that now houses the Soda Fountain. The news is especially good because we all know Dallas is typically a rip and replace town. DCAD records show the current Soda Fountain building dates from 1910 while Soda Fountain lore says it dates from 1923. Either way, the original location of the Pharmacy and Soda Fountain was kitty-corner across Knox Street beginning in 1912 next to a grocery store. The present building was also the location of Dallas’ first drive-in service. No word whether the carhops were on roller skates

Zooming out, you can see the corner becomes a focal point and preservation landmark for the proposed development. There are also several nods to the original building in the new structure. The decorative limestone line separating the first and second floors is carried across. The windows on Travis are restored and form an unbroken line across the ground floor of the new building … even the muntins, horizontal separations of window panes, are partly carried through. I’m particularly happy about the reopening of the original windows along Travis. They were closed when more interior wall space was desired and air conditioning made the operable windows unnecessary. My two cents would be to match the brick size of the older building on the ground level to further visually weave the two together.

Also, as you look along Travis, you see the loading docks are gone and the sidewalk opened up. Walkers know the building is really close to the curb, but by changing pull-in parking to parallel, they are able to put in a proper sidewalk and greenery. Before you get in a dither about parking, know that the project includes 800 new parking spaces … 100 percent underground.

As we saw with Restoration Hardware’s plans, multi-level green space is housed in the setbacks on the second and third floors. The setbacks pull the building away from the street, reducing canyon feel and at the same time offer reimagined green spaces. The second floor pullback will house a full length patio for the expected restaurant tenants, while the third floor will be utilized by office tenants. As you look down Travis, you can see the multi-level green continues.

Apparently the phones are already ringing for these restaurant and retail spaces. There may even be a whiff of interest from foodie favorite Eataly. Travelers to New York, Chicago, and Boston already know about the Batali-Bastianich-run mega food halls. If that happens, they may need more parking!

I hear you asking, “Where’s Weir’s going?” Above, you can just make out the corner Soda Fountain building to the left. Weir’s opens on Travis with a brand new 29,000-ish-square-foot showroom on two levels. The second floor patio will showcase their outdoor collections outdoors, interspersed with greenery. The third floor green space will again be utilized by office tenants. On the right will be the main entrance for the underground garage that will house de rigueur valet parking. Oh, and the furniture store isn’t the only thing moving. The Weir’s clock, now on Knox, will be relocated to the sidewalk outside the new entrance.

You may recall this section of Travis Street is where traffic-blocking loading happens throughout the day. Given the rapid increase of development, not only does Weir’s look great, but it offers better traffic flow and safety.

As you can see above, all those delivery trucks move to the alley. There are five large bays and four smaller truck spaces. You can also see a bit of the landscaping plan. The Soda Fountain also acts as shelter for the main entrance to the office building which is itself a green meeting point. Parking along Knox Street becomes angled to make backing-up into Knox slightly less perilous (although I’d be in the garage in a second).

All in all, it’s a plan that keeps history alive while moving a business into the next phase of Knox’s evolution. With all the new eateries, I’m waiting for someone to publish “Walking On The Pounds: The Katy Trail Restaurant Guide.”
New office and retail high-rise gets green light on Dallas' Knox Street

Developers have gotten the green light to proceed with the largest new building project in Dallas' popular Knox Street district.

Longtime Knox Street merchant Weir's Furniture and real estate firm Four Rivers Capital plan to build a new retail and office tower on the furniture store's Knox Street site.

Dallas' City Council and plan commission have given full approval for the redevelopment.

"The heavy lifting has been done — getting our entitlements," said Four Rivers partner James Mason Jr. "We are fully capitalized to build the project."

The 297,000-square-foot high-rise at Knox and Travis streets will include 250,000 square feet of offices, a new store for Weir's and additional retail.

Weir's will relocate temporarily when construction starts — probably in early 2019.

"They have been here 70 years and want to be here another 70 years," said Four Rivers partner Justin Schoellkopf. "They have showroom space on Spring Valley Road in Farmers Branch where the store will be housed during construction."

The building — just a block from the Katy Trail — will take 18 to 24 months to complete.

The developers hope to have the work coincide with construction the city plans to improve the street and sidewalks along Knox.

Schoellkopf and Mason formed their company four years ago and are lead partners in the Knox Street project with Atlanta-based developer Geyer Morris Co.

"James and I are longtime family friends," Schoellkopf said. "Our families have been here a long time — mine back to 1869.

"Our partnership with the Weir's family allows us to take the time to do this project right."

When Weir's Furniture opened its doors in the late 1940s, the Knox Street strip was a whistle-stop on Dallas' north side. Weir's and the Highland Park Soda Fountain building at the end of the block were just yards from the Highland Park train station.

North Central Expressway wasn't even built yet.

As part of the new development, the historic Soda Fountain building — for decades the Highland Park Pharmacy — will be preserved on the corner.

Commercial real estate firm CBRE is hunting for tenants for the office building.

And Dallas' The Retail Connection has been hired to lease the shopping and restaurant space in the new building.

The Retail Connection has teamed up with Austin computer firm billionaire Michael Dell on the more than a dozen buildings and land just sold on the eastern edge of Highland Park. Dell's MSD Capital and Retail Connection are looking at redevelopment of some of the Knox district properties that just sold.

"We've already begun working on a relationship with them," Schoellkopf said. "There is some great synergy."
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