Like many big American cities, Dallas began seeing its residents take flight to the suburbs in the 1960s. With the development of large corporate parks like Legacy and Las Colinas, companies began growing in outer areas, too. But just as people pulled employers, developers, and real estate investors way from the urban core for a number of years, people are now pulling them back in again. Demand has moved away from closed-off, single-use enclaves to pedestrian-friendly live-work-play neighborhoods where the focus is on connectivity—in every sense of the word.
Rather than a new trend, it’s actually a return to the past, says Jeff Blackard, developer of Adriatica in McKinney and Entrada in Westlake. Blackard is on the leading edge of the movement with a development approach he calls “Neoretroism.” It hearkens back to a village you’d find in Europe or in pre-1900 America, where people of different strata are connected by a shared sense of community and where the uses of buildings evolve over time.
Neoretroism, Blackard says, goes beyond “new urbanism,” where neighborhoods are diverse in use and population, to build in flexibility and evolution—an ability for space to respond to changes that occur over time. “It’s a philosophy that advocates the recreation of Old World culture in a modern-day development environment through serving the needs of the village’s inhabitants,” he says.
A focus on people is at the heart of good urban design, on display at a number of vibrant mixed-use developments across Dallas-Fort Worth. Some, like Addison Circle, are the result of a city looking to attract permanent residents—and having the good sense to build what people want. Others, like Legacy Town Center in Plano, which began construction in 1999 and is now arguably the most successful mixeduse development in North Texas (see more on page 55), are the result of a developer who sought to create a sense of place. Both of these projects treat the pedestrian as paramount.
Walkability doesn’t just make good philosophical sense; it has a significant impact on a project’s bottom line. A recent study by Moody’s and Real Capital Analytics found that, since the recent recession, commercial real estate values in both urban and suburban markets have rebounded much more strongly in walkable districts, versus those that are car-dependent.
Dallas-Fort Worth is known for its deep base of talented developers. Founding fathers like Trammell Crow Co. and Lincoln Property Co. are based here, as are walkability and urbanism pioneers like Robert Shaw and Fehmi Karahan. Karahan led development of Legacy Town Center. Shaw introduced a new style of multifamily living. The former Dallas Cowboys player had seen his football career end due to a knee injury. He began working in construction, building garden apartment complexes, just to have something to do. Then he read two books on urbanism that changed his life: The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs and A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander. “It was the genesis of this big idea, of my purpose in life,” Shaw says. “I wasn’t arrogant to think everybody needs to live like this. My thinking was just that some people want to live in a more mixed, walkable environment.” With business partner Roger Staubach he pioneered this development approach in Uptown about 25 years ago. He went on to build thousands of apartments in Uptown—playing a critical role in the creation of the fledgling submarket’s identity. Finding success in urban infill, he then segued into suburban-urban with projects like Addison Circle. “Some people want an urban, walkable experience, but don’t necessarily want to live downtown,” Shaw says. “So that was the beginning of doing this in a suburban context in a way that doesn’t look Disneyesque or contrived. It had to be something authentic and real.”
Lately, the demand for mixed-use has come just as much from companies as it has from people. Locating within an amentity-rich, walkable development has become a recruiting tool when going a er that all-important millennial talent. That goal was the impetus that sparked CityLine, a $1.5 billion, 186-acre mixed-use project with DART station adjacency in Richardson. Anchored by a 2 million-squarefoot corporate campus for State Farm Insurance and developed by KDC, CityLine (so far) includes 3 million square feet of office space, 150 hotel rooms, a medical office building, nearly 1,400 multifamily units, aplaza and park, a 125,000-square-foot retail center anchored by a Whole Foods store, and 92,000 square feet of additional retail, restaurant, and entertainment space. When it opens later this year, it will start with a daytime population of more than 16,000 people.
Several other huge developments are clustered in what Frisco officials have dubbed as the city’s “$5 billion mile,” a span of the Dallas North Tollway running between Warren Parkway and Lebanon Road. New projects include The Star, a 91-acre complex anchored by a training facility and headquarters for the Dallas Cowboys. It’s backed by the deep pockets of the team’s owner, Jerry Jones. Immediately adjacent is the planned 242-acre Frisco Station, a joint venture between Ross Perot Jr.’s Hillwood, VanTrust Real Estate, and The Rudman Partnership. But it’s not just new construction. Developers are breathing life into long-forgotten real estate, too. Jim Lake Jr., for example, is nearing the finishing line on the 110,000 square feet of space that he’s redeveloping in Waxahachie’s town square. “Waxahachie has been waiting for somebody like us,” Lake says. “But it’s not just in Waxahachie. It’s happening in Grand Prairie, McKinney, and other cities, where old town squares are being redeveloped after the flight that happened some decades ago. They’re already walkable, and they all have unique, individual spaces that can’t be replicated anywhere else.”
Mixed-use also has returned to the urban core of Dallas, with a flurry of projects underway in the area between Pacific Avenue and Main, Commerce, and Elm streets. Among them is the Statler Hilton, recently acquired by developer Mehrdad Moayedi, after securing a whopping $45 million in TIF funding from the city of Dallas, along with federal and state historic tax credits. That money will be used to fund Moayedi’s $175 million redevelopment of the Statler into 229 apartment units, a 164-room hotel, and about 30,000 square feet of retail space.
Also underway is a $65 million reinvention of the Dallas Farmers Market, following its privitization in 2013. Designed by Good, Fulton & Farrell, the new market will feature more than 30 restaurants and shops, a headquarters for the North Texas Food Bank, green space, and a 240-unit apartment complex.
AS PART OF OUR PACKAGE ON MIXED-USE DEVELOPMENT, WE DECIDED TO TAKE A MORE IN-DEPTH LOOK AT FIVE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL MIXED-USE PROJECTS IN NORTH TEXAS:
LEGACY TOWN CENTER
When Legacy Town Center was being developed in 2000, some doubted that the area was ready for such a radical concept as new urbanism. “A lot of people didn’t believe our story,” says developer Fehmi Karahan, who was selected to oversee the project’s retail component, The Shops at Legacy. “What we wanted to do was give people an experience, that open-air, pedestrian-friendly environment so you’d feel like you’re not in Dallas.”
Legacy Town Center was the first in the country to create mixed-use infill by building a town center in an existing office park. Today, more than 60,000 people work and live in Legacy, which has grown to include 16.8 million square feet of office space, 900,000 square feet of retail space, and several hotels. Legacy would not have happened without the bold leadership of several key people. The first is EDS founder Ross Perot, who bought 2,700 acres off what is now the Dallas North Tollway in the early 1980s with the vision of creating a high-end corporate headquarters park. Before long, Frito-Lay, J.C. Penney, and others bought land and developed sprawling headquarters at Legacy, bringing thousands of employees with them. But when land sales grew sluggish in the 1990s, EDS’ global asset manager and new director of Legacy, Marilyn Kasko, stepped in for a closer look.
She noticed employees taking up to two-hour lunches because the closest restaurants were at Park and Preston. There were no apartments, hotels, gas stations, banks, or places within Legacy where employees could gather for a drink after work. “We had to look at it from the corporate perspective of, ‘What do these companies want or need?’” recalls Kasko. “It was a new way of thinking.”
Art Lomenick, a former Post Properties exec, suggested that the “new urbanism” approach of live-work-play might be a good fit for the area. Kasko met and hired one of the concept’s pioneers, Andres Duany. With Duany’s designs, support from the city of Plano and key developers, the new urban center for Legacy was born.
WEST VILLAGE IN UPTOWN
Upon first visit, one might think they’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and emerged on the movie-set version of a trendy urban neighborhood, complete with strings of twinkle lights and beautiful people. But dense, open-air West Village, which opened in 2001 with 125,000 square feet of commercial space and 42 shops and restaurants, is more like a miracle baby. Designed by noted architect David M. Schwarz and developed by Cityplace Co., Phoenix Property, Urban Partners, and Henry S. Miller, it sits on the west side of North Central Expressway, on Cityplace Co. land that was cleared in the 1980s. The Uptown Public Improvement District, created in 1993 as one of the city’s first PIDs, made vital infrastructure upgrades, resulting in one of Dallas’ most pedestrian-friendly areas. West Village is two blocks west of DART’s Cityplace station and on the Uptown trolley loop. The mixed-use development has undergone five organic, demand-driven expansions, adding retail,residences, and businesses.
It’s now double its original size. West Village has become so successful, in fact, that it has spilled over to the other side of North Central Expressway, transforming the east side of Cityplace’s real estate with new living options and a 60,786-square-foot Kroger store. Of the 130 acres of land Cityplace started with 16 years ago, just a handful of acres remain.
WEST 7TH IN FORT WORTH
Just a few years ago, West 7th Street between Foch and Norwood was marked by vacant, poorly maintained lots and streets that lacked pedestrian-friendly connectivity. The “six-point” intersection, where West 7th, University Drive, and Camp Bowie meet, was, according to the Fort Worth Planning Department’s revitalization strategy, “an environment in which walking is impractical and uncomfortable.”
However, the area did have a few things going for it: close proximity to cultural institutions, like the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Kimbell, and major business and medical districts. West 7th, a 13-acre, neighborhood-scale mixed-use development, funded by a public and private partnership, was described as an attractive boulevard lined with shops, restaurants, apartments, and offices. Working in conjunction with the Historic Camp Bowie Inc. Public Improvement District, the city adjusted the streets to be more pedestrian-friendly through median placement, traffic signal placement and timing, and lower speed limits. Good, Fulton & Farrell designed West 7th, and Cypress Equities developed the project in multiple phases. Today, the neighborhood has completely been transformed. West 7th spans about five blocks, with 279,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 103,000 square feet of office space, and 550 residential units. Plans for a streetcar system are in the works.
BISHOP ARTS IN OAK CLIFF
Once the terminus of the Oak Cliff streetcar line, this district had suffered since it was annexed by the city of Dallas in 1903. Its renaissance was sparked not by one big player coming in and effecting transformation, but by a number of key developers establishing stakes in the neighborhood.
Among them is David Spence, who launched Good Space in 1995 with a mission to “buy and save cool old buildings,” investing exclusively in the Bishop Arts District. He had a vision of an authentic neighborhood that required changes to city code and zoning ordinances— a slow, bureaucratic process. But Spence is the kind of developer who pulls his own permits.
Meanwhile, Jim Lake Cos., another Oak Cliff developer, had been amassing parcels in the Bishop Arts District since 1985, when Jim Lake Sr. was still at the helm, work that has since been continued by Jim Lake Jr. Both Good Space and Jim Lake Cos. were committed to “adaptive reuse,” taking dilapidated structures and rehabilitating them.
A tax increment financing district was formed in 1992, but it didn’t do much. The nearly $3 million in federal and city funds spent on infrastructure in 1999, however, did. Bishop Arts District got curbs and brick sidewalks. Hattie’s, a southern fine-dining restaurant, opened in 2002, attracting curious diners from across the Trinity River to what was once considered the wrong side of the floodplain. And the people kept coming. In 2010, the city council approved a Bishop/Davis rezoning that applied to 350 acres along West Davis Street between Zang and Montclair. Buildings could now be up to five stories high, and parking requirements for old buildings were reduced to decrease the emphasis on automobiles.
Also important: the city voted to allow the sale of alcohol in Oak Cliff, paving the way for Ten Bells Tavern in 2012.
Bishop Arts, with its upscale restaurants, shops, bars, and even a bookstore/coffee shop/ wine bar hybrid, teems with life, so much so that its recent past of boarded-up buildings feels increasingly impossible to imagine. It’s an overnight success, 25 years in the making. And now the next wave of change—further rezoning proposals and a new, $40-million mixed-use project just blocks away that developer Farrokh Nazerian and his son Michael have been planning and piecing together for almost 10 years—is on the horizon.
SOUTHLAKE TOWN SQUARE
Southlake, which sits about 25 miles northwest of downtown Dallas, is famous for its powerhouse high school football team. But another star is Southlake Town Square, a placemaking development that created a desirable urban experience from scratch in the middle of the affluent suburb. Developer Cooper & Stebbins started planning the project in 1995 after securing 130 acres of farmland. They gathered input from residents and filed building permits. Brian Stebbins, who died in 2012, wrote that the vision was for a human-scale city center that “allowed people to naturally come to this place and not have to think why they were coming,” because anything a person desired would be there, easily accessible on foot. Real estate brokerage firm UCR came on board in the early stages to develop the site and determine the mix of tenants. Cooper & Stebbins convinced the city of Southlake to move its government and municipal buildings, including a public library, to the square, eff ectively creating a true town center. When it opened in 1999, phase I encompassed 250,000 square feet of retail and office space, supported by a TIF that was established to fund its infrastructure. Today, Southlake Town Square contains 1.4 million square feet, serves 2.2 million people, and generates more than $550 in sales per square foot. The Square also features 43 luxury brownstones and a five-story red brick building with 38 condominiums, allowing residents to walk to dinner or to the movies. Earlier this year, Plano-based Granite Properties announced plans to build a seven-story, 160,700-square-foot office tower within the development.
LOOKING AHEAD: FAIR PARK AND SOUTH DALLAS
“What do we do with Fair Park?” It’s a complicated question that has inspired at least one city task force, a university research study, countless panel discussions, and no small measure of infighting between various organizations with an interest in the district’s 277 acres. George Kessler’s Fair Park, owned by the city and constructed for the 1936 Texas Centennial in Old East Dallas, is the site of the State Fair of Texas—but not much else. When Interstate 30 went up in 1964, it cut the neighborhood off from the rest of the city. The isolation is felt in diff erent ways—in the surrounding seas of parking lots, and in the impoverished neighborhoods just beyond.
Despite challenges, Dallas urban planner Patrick Kennedy and other experts say Fair Park and South Dallas offer the greatest potential for both large and small-scale development. Public transportation hubs are already in place. The parking lots surrounding the art deco buildings could become valuable square footage in the hands of talented developers. But there are a lot of old mansions in the historic neighborhoods of south Dallas that invite a more fine-grained approach, like the revitalization that occurred in Oak Cliff ’s Bishop Arts District. Stitching those two pieces of the puzzle—new development and adaptive reuse—together will be key.