By Steve Brown
Real Estate Editor
Published: 25 December 2014 09:45 PM
Updated: 25 December 2014 09:56 PM
What a year for real estate — 2014 will go into the record books as a time when the Dallas-Fort Worth property market was white hot.
The last time North Texas saw such a real estate boom was back in the 1980s, and most of that run-up was fueled by crooked savings-and-loan lenders and tax-dodge investors.
This time, it’s pure demographics — surging population and job growth — that’s powering the property market.
Construction cranes stretch from Uptown to Frisco.
And the size of developments has exploded, with billion-dollar construction deals underway in several locations.
The local housing market has the highest prices and tightest inventory of homes for sale in decades.
As usual, the biggest question in the real estate sector is: Will it last?
Biggest real estate deal: Toyota headquarters
The relocation of Toyota Motor Corp.’s North American headquarters from Southern California to West Plano is the real estate equivalent of the oil shale boom.
It’s a game-changer for both North Texas and property markets along the Dallas North Tollway in Collin County.
Toyota plans to move about 4,000 jobs to its $350 million campus in Legacy business park starting in late 2016. The more than 1 million-square-foot development south of State Highway 121 is part of the 240-acre, $2 billion Legacy West development.
Legacy West will also include a high-rise hotel, hundreds of new apartments and retail space on land surrounding the J.C. Penney headquarters.
Biggest property sale: Fountain Place
The green glass, rocket-shaped Fountain Place office tower is a 60-story exclamation point on the downtown Dallas skyline.
Designed by I.M Pei and Partners and built during the 1980s boom, the skyscraper is the ultimate in real estate bling.
The 1.2 million-square-foot Ross Avenue office tower sold this year to Atlanta-based Goddard Investment Group LLC, which plans to remodel the landmark tower.
Fountain Place went for an estimated $200 million, the highest price paid for a Dallas-area property this year.
Biggest worry: Falling oil prices
Back in the 1980s when oil prices collapsed, the folks in Dallas figured that was a Houston problem.
The plunge in oil profits hit Houston first and hardest, but it wasn’t long before the pinch in the Oil Patch was also felt in Big D and Austin.
Many economists are promising that the current slowdown in the energy sector won’t be a showstopper in the North Texas real estate market.
But even if energy companies aren’t the top job creator in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, a decline in oil and gas profits will be felt in these parts, too.
Biggest dust-up: Cityplace Sam’s Club
Shopping is at the top of the list of local pastimes. The D-FW area has one of the highest per-capita shares of retail space on the planet.
So who would have guessed that plans for another big-box store would cause such a stir in the Uptown area?
When Sam’s Club and developer Trammell Crow Co. disclosed details on a 150,000-square-foot warehouse store to be built on North Central Expressway next door to Cityplace, residents of the area threw a fit.
Neighborhood groups are still trying to block the new discount store with legal maneuvers, but the city of Dallas has signed off on the deal.
Biggest redo: The Crescent
Back in 1986 when they built Uptown’s Crescent complex, it was the largest and most expensive real estate project ever in Dallas.
So 30 years later, it shouldn’t be a total surprise that a remodeling of the 11-acre Crescent will be the biggest and costliest building redo in town.
Owners of the office, hotel and retail development will spend almost $65 million to bring the Crescent into the 21st century.
Don’t worry — there will still be plenty of French filigreed ironwork and cut limestone left on the landmark when they are done.
Biggest boom: Frisco
Frisco got its start as a railroad whistle stop and farming community.
Now the city north of Dallas is ground zero for one of the biggest real estate booms in the country.
More than $5 billion in property developments are in the works along the Dallas North Tollway, including the new headquarters for the Dallas Cowboys football team and a surrounding mixed-use project.
Biggest rebound: Dallas-Fort Worth home prices
Forget about the stock market and the price of gold. When it comes to feel-good factors, nothing resonates with consumers like the value of the roof over their heads.
Dallas-Fort Worth home prices have been on a roll the last couple of years and are now about 15 percent higher than they were before the recession.
Even with recent cautions by analysts that Texas home prices are overheated, most forecasts call for additional housing value gains here in the year ahead.
Biggest new market: West Dallas
Back in the day, West Dallas was often overlooked — its main streets lined with a collection of old industrial businesses, car repair shops and the like.
That was before they built the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge linking West Dallas with Uptown and igniting a real estate boom.
Along with the popular Trinity Groves restaurant complex, the neighborhood along Singleton Boulevard and West Commerce Street is now alive with apartment construction.
More shops and town homes are on the way, too.
Biggest loss: Ken Hughes
Next time you are at the movies at Mockingbird Station or eating lunch at the Quadrangle in Uptown, take a minute to thank developer Ken Hughes.
The Dallas builder and property agent, who was born in Pecos, went on to become one of the most creative commercial real estate players in the country.
Hughes died in November after a brief illness. But his legacy on the North Texas landscape lives on.
Biggest sector: It’s still apartments
Seems like every week brings word of another big rental housing project for the Dallas area.
Almost 30,000 apartments are in the construction pipeline in North Texas — one of the largest building totals in the country.
While critics fret about the potential of apartment overbuilding, Dallas’ huge population and employment gains are getting new rental communities leased.