Dallas Ranks No. 3 in Converting Apartments from Old Offices | Dallas Observer

Housing Help? Dallas Is a National Leader in Turning Old Workplaces into Apartments

“Dallas is becoming increasingly unaffordable, so the only way to combat that is add to our housing supply,” one housing advocate said.
Downtown Dallas is home to a booming office-to-apartment pipeline.
Downtown Dallas is home to a booming office-to-apartment pipeline. Photo by R K on Unsplash
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Dallas is among the nation’s leaders when it comes to converting old office buildings into living spaces.

Big D ranks No. 3 in the number of former offices getting the home-makeover treatment, according to a recent report by RentCafe, a nationwide apartment search website. The city is breathing life into 3,163 new apartments this way.

Dallas placed third after two East Coast metros in the 2024 office-to-apartments pipeline: Washington, D.C., with 5,820 units and New York City with 5,215. 

Bryan Tony with the Dallas Housing Coalition said RentCafe’s findings are “incredibly promising.” Downtown’s amenities are a major draw to young professionals and urban dwellers.

“The more office-to-residential conversions that can take place here, the more attractive our downtown living experience and our housing affordability will be,” Tony said. “Right now we know that Dallas is becoming increasingly unaffordable, so the only way to combat that is add to our housing supply.”

The coronavirus pandemic upended the way that people work in Dallas and countless other cities worldwide, with many now clocking in from home rather than reporting to a traditional workspace. Another recent study found that the January occupancy rate in Dallas-area offices was 34.2% lower than it was pre-COVID-19.

At the same time, home prices have soared in North Texas in recent years, pricing out many would-be buyers.

Dallas’ leading adaptive reuse projects include the former Oncor building, with 330 units, and the Bryan and Renaissance towers, with 425 and 500 units, respectively, according to a RentCafe news release.

Tony noted that to keep up with housing demand, Dallas needs to develop 100,000 units by 2033. It’s crucial to get moving quickly on that goal. Also important: not leaving out low-income residents.

Nearly half of Dallas renters are forking over more in housing costs than they can afford, he said. It’s unclear how many of the adaptive reuse spaces downtown will fall under the “affordable” umbrella, but Tony believes that these transformations are a step in the right direction.

“Dallas right now as a whole, we have been affordable before, but we're at risk of really becoming unaffordable,” he said, adding: “Those gaps are becoming more apparent.”

“We want to keep that competitive edge as a city.” – Bryan Tony, Dallas Housing Coalition

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Advocates had been pushing to see $200 million allocated to housing in the upcoming bond package. In a straw vote last week, City Council was prepared to approve only $61 million toward that goal.

Many residents may soon be forced to move because of pricey housing, Tony said. Loads of jobs are located in Dallas, so he hopes that more housing will become available in and around the urban core to attract and retain talent.

“We want to keep that competitive edge as a city,” he said.

Jennifer Scripps, president and CEO of Downtown Dallas Inc., noted that at the same time that some companies are downsizing their space, Dallas is welcoming hundreds of new residents each day. In fact, the Dallas-Forth Worth region counted more newcomers between 2021 and 2022 than any other metro nationwide: nearly 170,400 additional residents.

But converting break rooms into bathrooms won’t necessarily be easy. Scripps pointed out that it’s challenging to reconfigure these spaces, pointing to factors like plumbing, additional toilets and other considerations.

Scripps said she’s toured properties that were converted a decade or so ago that have held up well.

“When people think about housing in Dallas, the kinds of apartments we offer in downtown, it wasn't always the kind of apartment stock people were used to,” she said. “So we've had to kind of reinvent our apartment market downtown over the last 15 years, and now I think it's showing lots of signs of health as we've had transplants from the coasts moving in, and a real demand that has been sustained.”

Scott Goldstein with Downtown Dallas Inc. noted via email that newer conversion projects tend to land in the luxury realm, with prices as high as $4.16 per square foot. But older conversion-project units may not necessarily break the bank, with some costing as low as $1.71 per square foot, he said.

Over the past couple of decades, downtown Dallas has also introduced more than 20 acres of green spaces, Scripps said. That’s good news for residents who need to walk their pups. And Dallas today is a national leader in greening its downtown with a veritable “portfolio of parks.”

Plus, the area is home to tons of cafes and restaurants, as well as services including tailors, dry cleaners and optometrists.

Many people want to work near where they live, Scripps said.

“By attracting highly qualified professionals and people who work in a variety of businesses that we have downtown …,” she said, “by having a healthy, diversified economy and attractive housing and high quality of life, it’s ultimately what all of this stuff is about, right? That we will have a healthier, safer and more vibrant downtown.”
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