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With more than 35,000 apartments under construction in North Texas, there are a lot to choose from.
But if you are hunting the ultimately luxury living address, look no further than a new building just opening on the eastern edge of Highland Park. Called the McKenzie, the 22-story high-rise just off McKinney Avenue is aimed at the top slice of Dallas’ rental market.
Units in the residential tower start at more than $3,500 a month for the smallest — more than three times the average apartment rent in North Texas. A top floor penthouse will run you $18,500 a month.
For those prices, McKenzie renters will get features and services found in five-star hotels and the priciest custom homes.
"With these residents, we felt rent wasn’t going to be the issue but quality of the units and the services," said Doug Chesnut, one of the founders of project developer StreetLights Residential. "Our average renter here is in their late 50s and 60s.
"They want high-end services like at condominiums."
Residents get to enjoy a rooftop pool deck with views of downtown, a full fitness center, private lounges with several seating areas, entertaining kitchen, private bar and several outdoor seating areas. On the ground floor you’ll find more formal public rooms with multiple lounge and salon spaces, boardroom and private studies and an outdoor walled garden.
"Our residents are treated like this is their home when they walk in," Chesnut said. "We went with the high-quality finish-out and custom construction."
With an average unit size of 1,600 square feet, apartments in the McKenzie are about 50 percent larger than rentals in StreetLights Residential’s other high-rise buildings.
About 25 percent of the 183 apartments at the McKenzie have been leased. The entire building won’t be completed until February.
Carmen Marsh and her husband were one of the first residents to move in this summer.
"We had a big house in Lakewood," Marsh said. "We wanted to downsize. We wanted a lock-and-leave home, and not worry about a pool or yard," she said.
The Marshes rented one of the larger three-bedroom units.
"We have a view of downtown," she said. "And we can walk to Javier’s and Chelsea Corner [restaurants] and basically anything we need."
Moving to the rental building, she said they are saving thousands of dollars a month in property taxes and maintenance of their old home.
"With the new tax laws there’s not a lot of benefit in owning a big house like that anymore," Marsh said.
Since the building won’t rent to tenants below 25 years old, residents don’t have to worry about a party crowd on the pool deck.
"It wasn’t going to be living with a bunch of SMU students here," Marsh said.
When StreetLights first started building high-rise Uptown apartments, the developer was surprised to see a large number of affluent empty nesters at the leasing office.
"We had to rethink things," Chesnut said. "People do this in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles — but in Dallas we don’t build for the more mature renter."
Most of North Texas’ new apartments are being rented by 20-somethings and early 30s residents moving to the area for new jobs.
McKenzie is the first building StreetLights Residential has done that’s aimed specifically at older, more affluent renters.
"We had the right location — if you were going to try it, we felt like this was the place," Chesnut said.
Many of the residents are relocating from large single-family homes.
"We have a lot of folks coming primarily from the Park Cities and North Dallas," said Sanders Avrea with Allie Beth Allman & Associates, which is leasing the building. "We have also seen corporate executives moving to Dallas who don’t know where they want to buy just yet.
"For people renovating their houses in the Park Cities, this gives them someplace to live," he said. "We do offer up to two-year leases, which is extremely unique."
Avrea said some of the new tenants are "upgrading" from other high-rise Dallas apartments.
"We get calls from people interested in this as a second home," Chesnut said. "They have children in Dallas, come see them a lot and don’t want to stay in a hotel."
Chesnut said that his firm may look at doing similar buildings in other select U.S. markets.
"We see in most of the big markets one or two of these buildings that are coming online right now," said Greg Willett, chief economist with Richardson-based RealPage. "The target audience is that downsizing baby boomer group.
"This is still a niche market until it gets proven up a little more."
And that may take a little while.
"Be ready for a long lease up," Willett said. "It takes these households forever to make up their minds.
"They can afford anything they want and will look at everything and take their time."