When the landmark Crescent complex opened in 1986, it was one of the most expensive real estate developments ever built in Dallas.
Now the owners of the Uptown buildings are about to begin one of the most costly renovations of a local commercial property.
Starting early next year, the 11-acre office, hotel and retail development will get almost $65 million in upgrades designed to bring the Crescent into the 21st century.
Most of the money will be spent on the outside of the French Renaissance-style limestone-clad buildings.
Lush landscaping, new lighting and a more inviting park at the corner of McKinney Avenue and Pearl Street are designed to integrate the Crescent into the surrounding neighborhood, the project’s managers say.
“In 1985, the Crescent was built as an inward-looking project,” said John Zogg, managing director of Crescent Real Estate Equities. “At that time, this neighborhood was not that great.
“Times have changed,” Zogg said. “This redevelopment is about making this project relevant today and embracing the neighborhood.”
Uptown has evolved in the last 30 years from a dodgy commercial district on the edge of downtown to a popular, pedestrian-friendly urban neighborhood.
The Crescent’s owners plan to open the complex up to the area by tearing down fences, installing eye-catching display windows and replacing yards of hot concrete with landscaping and pedestrian areas around the buildings.
One of the most visible changes will be the construction of a 1-acre park at McKinney and Pearl.
“The back door was Pearl and McKinney when this project was built,” Zogg said. “Today, it is the front door.”
Award-winning landscape architect James Burnett, who designed Dallas’ Klyde Warren Park, is overseeing the park and other outdoor spaces surrounding the Crescent.
“We want you to be walking down the street and feel like you are invited to walk in,” Zogg said.
To do that, the developers will remove yards of filigree fencing, gates and stonework that enclose the wide court between the three office towers and the hotel.
“Those big gates and fences keep people out,” said Andre Staffelbach of the Dallas-based design firm Staffelbach. “Inside, it’s just concrete and a sea of cars.
“The new landscaping will be wonderful, and people will be able to enjoy it.”
Paved areas in the central courtyard will be reduced and replaced by trees, planting areas and outdoor seating. Retail on the lower floors of the three office buildings will be opened up to provide access to the outside.
Enhanced shopping and restaurant space is a big part of the makeover.
“The Crescent has an opportunity to be a great retail experience,” Zogg said.
The Palomino restaurant on Cedar Springs will be enlarged, with a new outdoor seating area that dominates the north side of the building.
And bright glass storefronts will be added to the exterior of the Stanley Korshak store and adjoining buildings that line the street.
Inside the shopping atrium, a sunken fountain area will be replaced with an open seating and entertainment area.
“That retail court is one of the better event spaces in Dallas that is underutilized now,” Zogg said.
New signs will be added surrounding the Crescent, and the buildings will get a wash of lighting at night.
“Driving down Cedar Springs at night now, the Crescent looks almost totally dark,” Zogg said. “The entire exterior is going to be lit.”
The team that’s worked on the redo includes architect Gromatzky Dupree & Associates, contractor Beck Group, Staffelbach and Office of James Burnett.
Since 2011, the Crescent has been owned by an investment partnership controlled by New York-based J.P. Morgan Asset Management. Crescent Real Estate Holdings, through its unit Crescent Property Services LLC, leases and operates the buildings.
The architects and designers admit they were light-handed in their approach to altering what is recognized as a landmark Dallas building.
The Crescent was designed by renowned architects Philip Johnson and John Burgee with Dallas architect Phil Shepherd.
“We want to be very respectful of this property,” said Jo Staffelbach Heinz of Staffelbach. “But we wanted to open the property up and think about it differently.
“We’ve been working on this for almost 31/2 years.”
The owners will spend $30 million to remodel the office and retail portion of the Crescent.
The Rosewood Crescent Hotel is expected to announce plans soon for a $35 million upgrade of the hotel, spa and club.
The changes come on top of $15 million just spent to upgrade mechanical systems at the Crescent.
“This is the most ambitious enhancement project I’ve ever seen,” Zogg said. “All 11 acres of this project will be impacted.
“The owners wanted this project to remain the most prestigious asset in Dallas for the next 25 years.”
Crescent Real Estate also intends to link the streetside restyling at the Crescent complex with changes coming to its other major properties along McKinney Avenue.
The Fort Worth-based commercial real estate firm owns the Ritz-Carlton Hotel next door to the Crescent and is building the McKinney & Olive office and retail project two blocks away.
The McKinney & Olive tower will front on a new 1-acre landscaped plaza along Olive Street.
“We are going to redo some of the Ritz exterior too, so you have 20 acres that relate to each other,” Zogg said. “It will all be seamless.”