The History of a Few of the Most Successful Mixed-Use Developments in Dallas – Fort Worth.

The following article is courtesy of the Dallas – Fort Worth Real Estate Review, penned by Christine Perez. View the full article here.


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.

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.

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.

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, 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,
effectively 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.

“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 different 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.

If  you are looking to buy or sell development land in the Dallas – Fort Worth area, we would love to help. Call our office at 214-827-1200 or contact Troy Corman at 214-690-9682.

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