Herb Weitzman: Anchored to the Past

Herb Weitzman

I’ve had the term “anchored to the past” in my head recently, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s a play on words—a retail anchor, of course, is a lead tenant, and today’s retail growth is literally anchored in the past: Key tenants are opening in areas that experienced their first heydays before many of today’s real estate players were even born.

When I look at the key areas of the Dallas market where our people are doing deals—areas that are gaining traction as great retail destinations—you can see that many of them are on their second or third act.

We have a long history with these areas of Dallas-Fort Worth, and that history enables us to tie the past with the future and add perspective on projects being reinvented and reborn. We have worked with developers on the design and scope of projects at every major regional retail district in the region, including: mixed-use retail projects like One Main Place, First City Center, Main Tower, and the Anatole retail; the ring-road retail for malls including Irving Mall, Six Flags Mall, Red Bird (now Southwest Center) Mall, Forum 303 Mall, the Parks at Arlington Mall, NorthPark, Firewheel Town Center, and others; and major retail projects like Casa Linda, Old Town, Northlake Village, and Caruth Plaza.

Let’s take a look at a few of these evolving projects that are anchored in the past and now moving forward into the future:

Golden Triangle Mall trade area. Golden Triangle Mall opened in 1981 as the only regional mall in Denton. At the time, the area surrounding the mall was wide open. We worked to bring a collection of retailers and anchors to the area, including Mervyn’s and a number of shops and restaurants. Over time, the mall saw its ups and down. One of the original anchors, Montgomery Ward, went out of business, leaving a large vacancy. But about 10 years ago, the anchor space was redeveloped for Foley’s (now Macy’s) and Barnes & Noble.

Almost as important to the future success of the mall, the past decade or so has seen an explosion of new retail in the area. This growth, which today encompasses 37 (!) anchor stores in and surrounding the mall, resulted due to several factors: one, the presence of the mall had created established traffic patterns to the intersection of Loop 288 and I-35E; two, Denton’s growth during the 1990s through now has been some of the strongest in Texas; and three, a major road widening project for Loop 288 increased the ease of access to the area. As a result, Golden Triangle Mall is now preparing to move into the future in a big way.

A partnership of Cencor Realty Services and the MGHerring Group, a Dallas-based mall developer, is now under way with a multi-million-dollar renovation and redevelopment of the mall. Soon, when shoppers enter through major new entries at the mall, or dine at a totally new food court, or shop at an exciting array of new shops, they will be participating in a retail project whose success is anchored in the past and moving fast into the future.

• Old Town in The Village.  As hard as it is to believe today, it wasn’t that long ago (at least to those of us who have worked in Dallas real estate since 1961!) that the intersection of Lovers Lane and Greenville Avenue was open land. In the late 1960s, working with developer Lincoln Property, which was under way with its massive The Village complex of apartments, we helped create the unique layout for Old Town in the Village. Several trips to specialty centers in California helped create the vision for the center, a collection of buildings arranged around courtyards and fountains—one of the first pedestrian-oriented mixed-use projects Dallas had ever seen.

Old Town opened to great fanfare in 1970 with a collection of boutiques, specialty shops, restaurants and clubs, as well as Tom Thumb grocery specifically designed for the singles who populated The Village. Over the years, Old Town saw its occupancy drop, but a renovation in the 1990s created a new vision for the project, adding a stronger focus on restaurants and created three new anchor spaces at the center. The anchors—Borders, Michaels and World Market—were put in place to increase traffic, and that stronger traffic resulted in cross-shopping and a new round of success for Old Town going forward. Today, that Tom Thumb is still going strong, and although Borders closed last year, we recently negotiated a deal for a new anchor, one that will add new focus and energy to the project.

• Twin Creeks in Allen. Of course, perspective also gives you insight into the future. When we first began working on the Twin Creeks Village project at U. S. 75 and McDermott in Allen in the 1990s, some market watchers questioned our thought process. The area, far north of Dallas, was growing, but still a long way from reaching the kind of density to support major retail. But we knew the growth was coming, and the retailers we brought on board—Tom Thumb, Hobby Lobby, Petco, Staples and Big Kmart—understood it too. Later, when Kmart exited Texas, Stacy Furniture took its anchor space.

Twin Creeks now is in an area of outstanding density, and it’s been a success from the day it opened.  The center has expanded several times for concepts such as 24 Hour Fitness, Holiday Inn, and a restaurant-row that includes On The Border, Chipotle, Mimi’s Café, Jason’s Deli, and many more. At more than 450,000 square feet, the center is at full occupancy, testament to the value of a location that at one time seemed unlikely to succeed.