Businessman realizes dream in renovations
He hopes East Dallas area will flourish

the dallas morning news

February 1996


Jody Sowell Staff Writer of The Dallas Morning News

 

Broken glass speckles the courtyard of the Lakewood Apartments. A toilet sits on a walkway. Bright red signs warn of asbestos and order people to stay away from the Gaston Avenue building.

Yet where some notice only decay, developer Braden Power sees progress. Mr. Power, who bought the 30 year old apartments in August, has started renovating the complex after a lengthy fight to save the building
from the wrecking ball.

"It's a winwin situation," said Mr. Power, 27. "For the city, it increases the tax base. For the neighborhood, it turns an eyesore into an asset and one of the best looking buildings in the area.

"For the tenants, they have an apartment with low cost and character, and for me it's just a tremendous
opportunity."

He also hopes the complex which neighbors and former tenants once thought was beyond saving will
inspire other developers to renovate the 1950's and'60's era apartment complexes that line Gaston from Old East Dallas to the Lakewood neighborhood.

City Council member Craig McDaniel, who lives a block off Gaston, said he is confident that Mr. Power will be able to achieve his goals.

"I'm looking forward to having a nice neighbor," Mr. McDaniel said. "In the end, his stuff looks good, and
what's really good about him is he lives in the area and he has a personal stake in what happens in the
community."

But it hasn't been an easy process. Mr. Power's project was delayed by neighbors who wanted the complex torn down and by banks that were not willing to finance the work.

Clearing those hurdles has given him cause to be impressed when he stands amid the destruction that the
renovation has wrought.

"It's been a long battle to get to this point," said Mr. Power, who specializes in East Dallas renovations.

"You can't imagine the trials and tribulations that we have gone through. It was a nightmare, a complete
nightmare."

The complex was known for its problems well before its future became news last year: Raw sewage seeped
into people's apartments, ceilings collapsed, roaches crawled everywhere, and vandals occupied vacant
apartments. As many as eight people were living in some of the 45 apartments.

"I don't think we're doing the poor any favors by allowing them to live in substandard housing," he said.

"The places simply weren't built to accommodate families. I think we are overtaxing the properties."

While Mr. Power negotiated to buy the property, city officials ordered the complex torn down. But a state
district judge threw out the demolition order because the city had failed to file appropriate documents in the case.

The reprieve allowed Mr. Power to close the deal. Meanwhile, the Housing Crisis Center advocacy group
brokered a settlement with the former owner that paid $6,000 in relocation money to the building's remaining tenants.

Despite its condition, Mr. Power said he bought the $100,000 property for its possibilities. He hopes to reopen the apartments in October after spending more than $1 million to fix them up.

The new onebedroom units 1,000 square foot apartments with French doors won't have much in common
with their predecessors. Some will include 16 foot ceilings.

Mr. Power said the apartments sit in an ideal location minutes from downtown and near Swiss Avenue and
the Munger Avenue Historic District.

"You don't always have to tear it down and start over," he said. "You have to make them an asset to the
community." Mr. Power said that's what he is doing.

"We're going way far and beyond what anyone has done on Gaston," he said. "We felt like we had to go a
step beyond. We are the first ones on the street doing something.

Mr. McDaniel said he believes the renovation could be a shot in the arm for the community.
"It's only natural that the properties along Gaston will follow suit," he said. "These neighborhoods were among the first ever developed in Dallas. They were real popular then, and I think they're going to come back.

 


Copyright 1996 The Dallas Morning News Company