Is this the decade of downtown Dallas?
When Ralph Hawkins was searching real estate options for Dallas-based HKS Inc., he wanted to make a difference in downtown Dallas, which would involve moving his architecture company from its now-popular Uptown home.
“There’s a great opportunity to step up and make a positive move to downtown,” Hawkins told me, adding he wanted HKS to make its mark on a building.
After all, it’s what HKS did in Uptown after moving into a redeveloped warehouse off McKinney Avenue in the late 1990s, long before the street became one of the most expensive real estate addresses for business in North Texas.
Now, HKS is part of the revival of downtown Dallas, taking space in the $100 million office and residential redevelopment of the I.M. Pei designed 30-story tower at 350 N. St. Paul St., formerly known as Patriot Tower. The project is now dubbed One Dallas Center.
HKS isn’t the only business to see opportunity in the long-neglected city center. Other big companies, including Jacobs Engineering and PFSweb, have moved their offices to downtown Dallas. Big, investment-grade real estate buyers have purchased property — and are investing millions in upgrades — in the revival, with Cousins Properties buying 2100 Ross and M-M Properties purchasing Plaza of the Americas.
The reinvestment in downtown Dallas is part of the changing face of the city center, said John Crawford, CEO of the advocacy group Downtown Dallas Inc.
“Developers will continue to apply that kind of standard to buildings,” Crawford said. “They’ll redevelop properties not only for commercial use, but fill it up with residential. It’s part of the moving target for downtown.”
The goal: Increase the 8,000 residents within the four freeways — Interstate 30, Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Interstate 35E and U.S. 75/Interstate 45 — to up to 13,000 residents in the next five years.
The fuel behind the population growth in a once-dead part of North Texas is the city and private reinvestment revitalizing the city core. The projects include Klyde Warren Park, the expansion of The Joule, the redevelopment of the Farmers Market and the Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel, among many other projects.
“As we add more residents, we’ll get more retail to support the rooftops and people here and we’ll continue to see infill redevelopment,” Crawford said. “This is the decade for downtown.”
The Dallas Business Journal recently invited some of North Texas’ top real estate leaders to participate in a roundtable discussion about the future of downtown Dallas. The group’s outlook was decidedly bullish.
“Klyde Warren Park has made a huge impact on downtown Dallas; it was a game changer,” said Mark Dickenson, senior managing director of investor services for Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc. “The investment that’s happened over the past five to 10 years, you can see it now, and you couldn’t see it before. The city is going to keep connecting the dots in the central business district.”
“Downtown Dallas is in better shape today than it’s been in 35 years,” Whitman said. “Since the mid-1980s, it went straight down hill, and now it has absolutely turned around.”
“Downtown is really the hub of all the urban districts,” Weitzman said. “I started out in real estate working the downtown area, and it really went completely dead. Now, all these areas are being pulled together with downtown.”
Those neighborhoods include Deep Ellum, the Farmers Market, Oak Cliff, Fair Park and the new Trinity Groves development — all of which have their own development and redevelopment plans.
By creating much-needed neighborhoods near Dallas’ inner core and building up the residential base, the city will attract grocers and retail stores, said John Zikos, a partner at Dallas-based Venture Commercial.
“When we see more bodies living down there, it will attract stores,” Zikos said.
Typically, downtowns attract the younger generation, Weitzman said. All of them want to know one thing: Is it cool?
“They want to come home on the weekend, park their car and walk the rest of the weekend,” he said, all which requires nearby amenities.
The residents, along with the office tenants, will come, Whitman said.
“It’s going to have a lot more residential,” Whitman said. “I think occupancy in office buildings will be much better than it is today in 10 years.”