AMLI Deploys ‘ArborLift’ Tech To Move 4 Heritage Live Oaks for Addison Tree House Project

AMLI hired Houston-based Environmental Design to use its innovative ArborLift technology at the Tree House development site in Addison. Inflated, sausage-like rolling bladders help get the trees to their new homes.

Some companies will move mountains to get a project going. AMLI Residential is moving something else—four heritage live oak trees—to make way for AMLI Tree House, a multifamily and retail development that’s all about trees itself.

The Chicago-based developer is building a project called AMLI Tree House in Addison, featuring 370 apartments within its main building, 35 apartments in a senior-friendly building, 14 rental townhouses, 30 for-sale townhouses, unique live/work residences, and 7,000 square feet of retail.

But the four heritage live oaks were in the way—each weighing “as much as the Space Shuttle Endeavor,” AMLI said.

Instead of cutting them down, AMLI hired Houston-based Environmental Design to deploy its innovative ArborLift technology to relocate the trees nearby, preserving their historic growth. The trees are being moved to within a new three-acre Redding Trail Park and Trail extension, which AMLI is donating to the town of Addison as a part of the development.

AMLI will also be planting more than 350 new trees—including live oaks, chinquapin oaks, cedar elms, and ornamental trees such as Japanese maples—with over half slated for the trail park and trail extension. The remaining trees will be planted around the multifamily and retail development. 

ArborLift tech uses inflated ‘bladders’ to roll a tree home

AMLI moves one of four heritage live oaks in Addison, using ArborLift technology from Houston’s Environmental Design. [Photo: AMLI]

So how do you move a big live oak that’s been rooted for decades to a new home far in the distance? Environmental Design’s cutting-edge ArborLift tech is pretty amazing, but it has a down-to-earth look and feel.

The company says its tech “adds a safety component to giant tree transplanting” that’s not available when using cranes or lifting gantries to wrestle them roughly into the sky. 

Environmental Design carefully excavates around a tree and preserves the tree’s all-important root ball. The tree is then lifted onto a low timber platform that rests on a long row of sausage-like bladders. The inflated bladders are designed to roll with minimal disturbance over turf, concrete, and hardscape surface. When the tree is ready to move, a large excavator rumbles its engine to life and slowly tugs the whole shebang toward the tree’s new home.

“This patented technology allows us to safely relocate trees with root balls in excess of 36 feet in diameter with weights exceeding one million pounds,” Environmental Design says on its website.

Tree moves began on August 7

The tree moves began at the AMLI Tree House site on August 7 and will continue through late this month. The placements have been mapped out to precision—with the trees moving as little as 45 feet and as far away as 443 feet. (Now that’s a lot of bladder rolling.) The actual tree travel may be even farther, AMLI told us, since the site conditions and equipment needed to maneuver the trees will require “a non-linear path.”

“Three of the trees are being moved from underneath the future parking garage of our 4/5-story apartment project,” Taylor Bowen, president of the AMLI Development Company, told Dallas Innovates. “The fourth is being moved from underneath the footprint of the future townhomes that will abut the park.”

Bowen said that fourth one is the one that’s only moving 45 feet—”although the placement was well thought out and will provide some great shade over the future dog park.” All four trees will be highlights of the new park space AMLI has donated to the town of Addison, he added.

“Costly” tree moves weren’t required by Addison, but met AMLI’s goals

Moving the heritage trees wasn’t required by the town of Addison, Bowen noted. Instead, it arose out of AMLI’s goal of “ensuring impactful environmental design without overdoing it.” 

“One way to accomplish this goal was by collaborating with the town on how to relocate some of the larger heritage oaks onsite to their future park,” Bowen said. “AMLI chose to undertake those costs as a part of our commitment to make this park a unique asset for the town and our project. By deciding to transplant the heritage live oaks, we were better able to space out the remaining required trees within the park in a manner that didn’t lead to overcrowding, rather than taking the easier path [and replacing the trees].”

Extensive time and effort were put into coordinating the tree transplants and pruning, fertilizing, and caring for the existing trees last spring, Bowen noted.

AMLI is working with the town of Addison to make the project a gateway

AMLI said it has worked with the town of Addison to ensure that the AMLI Tree House project will serve as “a gateway to—and a catalyst for—the town’s Midway South Redevelopment Plan.”

“We’re committed to creating one of the most beautiful live-work-play destinations in North Texas, and in turn revitalizing this underinvested corridor,” Bowen said in a statement. “AMLI Tree House is a great example of integrating quality environmental design into a residential community and creating well-curated community enhancements via a significant public-private partnership. We’ve been proud to walk side-by-side with the town of Addison and their dedicated staff in crafting the design of the future three-acre Redding Trail Park and Trail extension.”

Janna Tidwell, director of Parks and Recreation for the town of Addison, said her team has worked alongside AMLI “to further plans to extend our trails as a part of Addison’s city-wide trails master plan.”

“AMLI is helping the town to meet the needs of residents by providing a green corridor that will connect residents to trails and nature-inspired landscaping,” Tidwell added in a statement.

Going for more green with LEED Silver design

The developer aims to make the Tree House project even greener by designing it for LEED Silver certification, the company said.

“AMLI has a cultural commitment to creating environmentally responsible apartment homes like AMLI Tree House,” said Erin Hatcher, AMLI’s VP of ESG & sustainability. “We work daily to ensure that our communities use land, water, and energy more efficiently and provide lifestyle amenities that allow residents to live more sustainably.”

Bowen says preserving the heritage trees and planting hundreds more enhances the “overall site aesthetic.” It also provides, for both the AMLI Tree House community and the new park and trail extension, “concentrations of trees and other pockets that will feature more open space for gathering.”

“The intent was to carefully curate a landscape plan that incorporated the town’s feedback,” Bowen said. “Our team is proud of the overall design, as it was thoughtful and incorporated good feedback from the town.”

Construction for AMLI Tree House is slated to begin in the first quarter of 2024. Pre-leasing is expected to begin in Q2 2025, with initial move-ins during Q3 2025. Final completion on the project is slated for Q3 of 2026.

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