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Downtown Dallas Parking Garage Designed for a Very Weighty Future

Explore downtown Dallas’ new 12-story parking garage, designed for electric vehicles and future development. This $66.8 million structure can support an additional 15 stories, setting a new standard for urban planning.

CoStar News

When it comes to parking garages, the future could be found in downtown Dallas. And it’s expected to be very, very heavy.

Dallas County’s need for more parking to accommodate potential jurors, attorneys, and judges visiting the George Allen Courts Building led to the construction of a 12-story structure that’s forward-looking in two ways: it’s built for only electric vehicles and designed to accommodate an additional 15 stories of development atop it.

It’s a $66.8 million structure that marks the nation’s first all-electric vehicle parking garage with development options on top, said developer Serra Real Estate Capital.

“There was a lot of forethought that went into this building that made it more expensive but gives flexibility for the county in the future,” David Kelly, a managing director and co-founder of Serra Real Estate, told CoStar News.

The garage is also an example of how the fast-growing greater Dallas-Fort Worth region, already the nation’s fourth-biggest metropolitan area, is considered by some as a good testing ground for future technology that can change real estate. Retailers are testing drones in the suburbs to deliver online orders to doorsteps, while Kroger has an advanced robotics warehouse in the region.

As for the future-focused garage, all 1,228 parking spaces are prewired to charge electric vehicles — cars and trucks that weigh much more than gasoline-powered versions. For example, the 2024 GMC Hummer EV pickup weighs more than 9,000 pounds with its battery adding about 2,900 pounds, while the 2024 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab, a full-size pickup reliant on gas, weighs less than 4,800 pounds, according to Kelley Blue Book.

With that weight differential in mind, Serra Real Estate ensured the garage’s reinforced concrete support beams were designed to support at least 11 million pounds. That’s the weight equivalent of 55 blue whales, the world’s heaviest mammal at about 200,000 pounds. The garage’s design secures its viability for the next half-century to accommodate heavier vehicles, as well as any EV charging innovations, Kelly told CoStar News.

“The uses of garages are changing with electric vehicle charging,” Kelly said. “With EV batteries weighing more than gasoline, we have prestressed the garage, so you can check 1,700 electric vehicles into a hotel and it does not collapse. We are future-proofing real estate.”

The garage also marks a risk: There’s no guarantee there are enough electric vehicles to fill all the spots, meaning the investment in the equipment may not be fully realized.

Big Price Tag

The nearly $70 million price tag for the garage is also hefty — and more than double the median price of developing a similar-size structure without all the bells and whistles. A ground-up traditional 1,228-space parking garage in Dallas would cost about $30.7 million at the midpoint range, according to WGI’s 2023 Parking Structure Cost Outlook.

EV charging typically makes up only 1% to 2% of parking spaces at structures across the country, WGI, an engineering firm that consults developers on parking garages, said in the report.

It’s common for parking garages in high-density areas to be designed for vertical expansion and future potential needs such as EV charging, but it is rare for a parking garage to be ready for 100% EV parking, said Jacob Gonzalez, Vice President of Client Solutions for WGI.

Jacob Gonzalez Quote
“Every garage is different in how you design them for EV and building in future flexibility,” Gonzalez, who has 27 years of parking garage engineering experience with a specialty in electric vehicles, told CoStar News.

Gonzalez said WGI just finished developing a roughly 6,219-space parking garage at the Kansas City, Missouri, airport with 56 spaces devoted to EV charging, or less than 1% of the garage. WGI also completed a parking garage for the Houston Zoo last year that included the zoo’s office atop the parking structure, and there were only six EV-charging spaces within the 260-space garage.

With some federal government tax breaks for EVs expiring and the cost of EVs remaining high, it hasn’t made sense for most developers to spend additional funds to incorporate EV charging for a possible future that is still evolving, Gonzalez said.

“Generally speaking, there’s a 20% increase in the cost of development to future proof” a garage like the Dallas County one, Gonzalez said, and costs go up more when planning for development on top.

Future Options

Dallas County is leasing the garage at 700 Jackson St. and the air rights above the structure through a credit tenant lease from Serra Real Estate. The garage has been open for a few weeks and has 18,164 square feet of ground-floor restaurant and retail space vacant and available for lease.

Right now, only the seventh floor of the garage has available charging spaces, while the other floors are being used as a regular parking garage. But with every parking space prewired for EV-charging infrastructure, the remainder of the garage is expected to be converted as usage of EVs increases. No one knows the timeline of when that happens, Kelly said.

The structure has three transformer vaults housing electrical distribution equipment from utility provider Oncor that are ready to ramp up the garage’s power capacity as needed for the anticipated EV charging. In addition, the garage is designed to accommodate solar panels on the east side of the roof.

“The biggest problem that a garage designed for EVs is the utilities bringing in power can take a lot of space in a mechanical room,” Gonzalez of WGI said.

Dallas County is expected to ultimately decide what might be built atop the parking structure, but the air rights it can acquire gives it the ability to put a 15-story tower on the property. Kelly said a hotel could make sense as the structure is near to what is expected to be a new convention center.

“The county is looking to the future,” he added.

Serra Real Estate, under the direction of Dallas County, has begun receiving potential hotel interest in the site atop the parking garage. The county, which receives all parking revenue or any potential EV charging revenue from the garage, will ultimately make any decision on future development at the property.

The parking garage has six passenger elevators and one service elevator with infrastructure built into the garage to accommodate two additional elevators if the county wants to add them.

Serra Real Estate is working on potential projects such as the Dallas County garage with similar proposals involving municipalities in the Carolinas and Alabama. Serra Real Estate is a municipal advocacy group, said Kelly, who is the former chairman of the Teacher Retirement System of Texas and is a director on the board of Invesco. He has developed over $3.5 billion of real estate in his 35-year career, helping finance more than $50 billion in capital market deals.

For the Record

Corgan is the project architect. Azteca-Omega Group and H.J. Russell were the design-build team behind the parking garage. CGA Capital financed the project.

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