Like other major markets across the country, Dallas is in the midst of an urbanization boom, with millennials, Gen-Xers, and baby boomers in pursuit of a high-density lifestyle. The demographic shift has led to a burst of development and redevelopment in neighborhoods that surround the urban core. As they grow, these “pocket markets” are evolving into distinct communities with unique amenities and eccentric personalities.
This has certainly proved to be the case with three neighborhoods on the leading edge of change—Deep Ellum, the South Side, and the Harwood District. Here’s a look at the pocket markets, and the developers who are playing a key role in shaping them.
Founder, 42 Real Estate
This eclectic neighborhood on the east side of downtown Dallas has been an important part of the city’s historical and cultural fabric for the last century. Through the years, what once was a factory stronghold evolved into an entertainment district and a popular home for startup tech companies. Developer Scott Rohrman, who has snapped up more than 50 properties in the district in recent years, calls it a true melting pot within the city.
“The character—it has an accepting nature; it accepts anybody no matter who they are,” he says. “And because there’s not a set genre of people, that means nobody fits, but everyone belongs.”
Before devising a plan to revitalize the neighborhood with plazas and pedestrian-friendly amenities, Rohrman interviewed people who lived and worked in Deep Ellum, from property and business owners and bartenders to nightclub operators, musicians, and artists—to find out what they already loved about the community, and what they’d like to see change. He found one thing to be on everyone’s minds: accessibility. And Rohrman concurs. “We think there ought to be a transportation line from Fair Park to Trinity Groves, running through Deep Ellum and downtown, and it ought to be on a straight line back and forth so that anyone can know exactly where it’s going to be and when,” he says. “Urban planning doesn’t always fit a regional transportation mindset, so walkability, interaction with transportation—all those things—can really affect the quality of life of a community. If quality of life of a specific micro community is not taken into consideration, then essentially you’re destroying the fabric of that micro community—and our region is made up of them.”
Rohrman’s conversations with the people of Deep Ellum has driven a lot of the strategy behind 42 Real Estate’s planning and development. Although he couldn’t share specifics at press time, Rohrman says there are a few exciting things coming to the neighborhood, including a bowling alley, an olive oil store, a taco shop, a cold-pressed juice shop, a popsicle store, three new bars, and two new restaurants. Most of the brands are new to North Texas, he says.
One of his favorite new projects is Radiator Alley, which connects Elm and Main streets with what will be 12 restaurants and retail shops. An ice cream shop called Chill 360 has already opened in the passageway.
A key focus has been on restoration, rather than demolition. “We’re trying to save as many buildings as possible, and bring out the bones of them rather than hiding the bones—expose the wood beams and the brick,” Rohrman says. “And we’ve taken more paint off the walls than you can imagine.”
Founder & CEO, Harwood International
When you drive around the Harwood District on the northwest edge of Uptown, it’s impossible to miss the Swiss cow-adorned cranes hovering above you. That’s because Harwood International, led by Switzerland-born founder and CEO Gabriel Barbier-Mueller, has several new projects underway in the 18 city blocks that comprise the Harwood District.
It all started with Harwood No. 1, or the Rolex Building, a build-to-suit for the Swiss watchmaker that Barbier-Mueller developed in 1984 as Uptown’s first office building. It was followed by Harwood No. 2 at 2728 N. Harwood, a 10-story office building designed by architect Richard Keating and that houses Marie Gabrielle Restaurant and Gardens. Harwood No. 3 at 2727 N. Harwood, also designed by Keating, came in 1999 and today is home to Magnolias: Sous Le Pont restaurant. Harwood No. 4 at 2828 N. Harwood was built in 2000 and features a collection of antique horses and mounted knights in full armor atop an under-lit glass aggregate of more than a million blue glass rocks.
Barbier-Mueller and company took a short break before building Harwood No. 6, now known as Saint Ann Court, in 2009. This building is home to Saint Ann Restaurant & Bar, as well as The Ann & Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Museum: The Samurai Collection. Harwood No. 7, Frost Tower, came in 2015 with Polsinelli and Rochon Family Office as lead tenants. Current occupancy in the portfolio stands at 96 percent.
The developer says his strategy is to leave an 18-block family footprint in Dallas by introducing urban planning techniques borrowed from his favorite international cities. “These models include lively interactions on the ground level of our high-rise developments within our master plan, European patio gardens, al fresco dining, and many architectural vignettes [that] provide the comforts needed within a bustling city environment,” he says. Art is a big part of his development strategy, too.
Barbier-Mueller has several new projects underway, including the 22-story Harwood No. 10, a Class AA office tower with 9,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space and adjacent gardens; and Harwood No. 8, a “twisted tower” for Rolex designed by famed Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and HDF, Harwood’s in-house design group. Landscape architect Sadafumi Uchiyama is creating tiered gardens with waterfalls that cascade over the side.
Lately, the Harwood District is emerging as a restaurant hot-spot, with Happiest Hour, Mercat Bistro, and Dolce Riviera all among the newest offerings. Next summer, Harwood will open Blue Ciel, a 33-story luxury condo tower, featuring two- and three-story homes whose prices will start at about $800,000. It will join Azure, a 31-story luxury tower built in 2007.
After decades of effort, Barbier-Mueller says Dallas is finally coming into its own. “The city and Harwood are finally getting the international attention they deserve in business, architecture, and art,” he says. “I’m proud of the Dallas culture and its transcending energy.”
President, Matthews Southwest
No one has had a bigger impact on the South Side district than Jack Matthews, who’s largely responsible for creating it. Beginning with his transformation of a former Sears Roebuck & Co. merchandise center in the late 1990s, Canada-born Matthews has transformed the area around South Lamar Street into a bustling residential, retail, and entertainment district that’s also home to the Dallas Police headquarters.
SouthSide on Lamar, the former Sears building, is now home to 457 residential lofts, 25 artists’ lofts, and 120,000 square feet of office and retail space. Matthews says the property was redeveloped with its rich history in mind. “We really just tried to keep as much of that building as we could,” he says. That meant everything from the boiler doors and metal work to its original brick walls and columns. “We believe that people like history, and they like being able to touch it, feel it, and understand it,” Matthews says. “This offered us the ability. The more of it we could keep, the more people liked it.”
The president of Matthews Southwest went on to develop Gilley’s Dallas, which sits near SouthSide on Lamar and has a large ballroom that can accommodate up to 3,800 music fans. He also led the development of the $500 million Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel, which opened ahead of schedule in 2011. A year later, he opened another hotel, the 76-room boutique NYLO Dallas South Side. Throughout it all, Matthews says he aims to blend the old and the new.
“We convinced Bill’s Records to come into the area just because we like the idea of an old record store,” he says. “We also like to have effectively no national brands. It’s not that we don’t like national brands; we want something unique. … If you come to that area, you’re experiencing part of real Dallas.”
Matthews recently brought the “last piece” to the South Side neighborhood with Alamo Draft House, because he says he liked the vibe of the much-loved theater chain. Wildly successful, Matthews says it’s coming close to doubling the nighttime population of the neighborhood. Another addition, Opening Bell Coffee, was chosen in favor of a big-box coffee brand for its own unique personality—and the fact that it fits in well with the neighborhood by offering live music six nights a week.
The developer’s work in the South Side is far from finished. Plenty of things are in the works, but the biggest, he says, is the Dallas hub for the proposed 240-mile “bullet train” connecting Dallas and Houston. “The high-speed rail comes into the north corner of it, and we’re working on more residential,” Matthews says. “There’s an old building that’s right beside South Side Studios—it’s quite large, it’s an old cotton building—and we’re getting ready to dust that off and try to put some more residential in. … We really want to be open to every type of person.”