Venterra Realty has officially bought ilume and ilume Park
Both ilume and ilume park in Oak Lawn now belong to Houston-based Venterra Realty, which bought the two properties from Dallas-based Crosland Group, the original developer.
The deal closed on Monday, Oct. 24, according to Venterra’s chief operating officer, Richard Roos.
ilume opened in 2009, on Cedar Springs Road at Knight Street, with retail/restaurant space on the lower floor, and residential space above that. ilume Park, a “boutique hotel-style apartment community” catering especially to people with dogs, opened in 2013, about a block away from ilume — on Cedar Springs at Douglas Avenue.
From the time ilume was first announced, it — and later ilume Park — sparked concerns that the properties would continue what many saw as the “gentrification” of Oak Lawn, with developers tearing down existing older complexes and homes to make room for expensive, cookie-cutter apartment complexes that would draw in “more straight people” with higher incomes, and drive out the gayborhood’s eclectic existing population.
But Crosland Group owner Luke Crosland pledged from the beginning that he and his company and his properties would work hard to retain the flavor of Oak Lawn and to be a good neighbor and a good partner to the LGBT community here. It was a promise that Crosland kept.
Roos said this week that the gayborhood doesn’t have to worry about that changing.
“Our focus first and foremost is on our community,” Roos said, referring to the residents at the two properties. “But we know we have to be good citizens in the community around us, too. We didn’t come in here thinking to change things dramatically.”
Roos said that the LGBT community doesn’t need to worry that Venterra will try to change either the make-up of its residents or the make-up of the surrounding community.
As the company does every time it is considering purchasing a property, Roos said, “We’ve done lots of research on these properties and on this area. So if we had been worried at all about this being an LGBT neighborhood, we wouldn’t have bought these properties.
“At Venterra, we’re very good at being very good to all people,” he continued. “We get very high scores on diversity. This is a very diverse neighborhood, and we are a very diverse and inclusive company.”
He said Venterra has three primary pillars of business: Being a great operator (in terms of operating the properties in the most cost efficient and energy efficient way); creating the best possible work experience for Venterra employees, and creating a “better of way of living” for its residengts.
“We see that as being part of our path to success and that’s how we conduct our business,” he said.
There will be some changes happening very soon, Roos said, but those are changes that residents — both residential and retail — will appreciate since they involve updating facilities and catching up on maintenance that has been lagging.
According to a letter sent recently to residents at ilume and ilume Park, initial improvements at ilume are expected to include new carpeting and painting in the hallways, restriping and power washing in the parking lot, a new bike storage area and exterior metalwork repairs and paint. At ilume Park, the company will make enhancements to the dog park area.
Immediate improvements at both properties will include new fitness equipment, new and improved tanning beds, remodeling in the offices and clubhouses including color and decor changes, new landscaping and ground cover, new pool furniture and outdoor sitting area furnishings, and updated Mac computers in the business centers.
Roos said this week that property managers will also start looking at what events and activities they want to put in place as soon as possible for their residents — things like happy hours and re-opening the club room at ilume. Once that has been taken care of, he said, managers will look outward at ways to participate in the larger Oak Lawn community.
“We know the parade is a big event every year in September, and Halloween is another big event. We want to participate in things like that,” Roos said. He also said that at least for the time being, there will be no change in ilume’s arrangement with the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce, in which the chamber offices at the property rent-free.
But really, the only people seeing changes at either property will be the residents, who can expect a higher level of service than before. Whereas The Crosland Group’s main focus is on planning, developing and building such communities, Roos said, Venterra’s primary focus is on managing properties in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
“That’s what we do. We don’t build properties, we manage properties,” he said. “The Crosland Group has been very successful in building properties, and we are very successful at managing properties.”
Because Venterra is focused on property management, Roos said his company has developed a specific process. And while it was “a very hard decision” to make, he said, Venterra chose not to retain employees that had been in place when Crosland owned and operated the properties, because, “By bringing in people who already know our system, we can get the changes we need to make completed as soon as possible.
“I know that there are people who are unhappy with the changes that are being made. I also know there are residents who have been unhappy with the way things have been,” Roos said. “Our job right now is to make the changes we need to make as soon as possible, so that we can make those residents happy to be living at ilume or ilume Park.”
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 28, 2016.