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Architecture & Design

The Evolution of Mixed-Use in Dallas-Fort Worth

Demand has moved away from closed-off, single-use enclaves to pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods where the focus is on connectivity—in every sense of the word.
Legacy Town Center (Michael Samples)
Legacy Town Center (Michael Samples)

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 new 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 a package on mixed-use development for the Dallas-Fort Worth Real Estate Review (quarterly publications produced in partnership with The Real Estate Council and the Dallas Regional Chamber), we took a more in-depth look at five of the most successful mixed-use projects in North Texas.

Click here and scroll down to read about Legacy Town Center, West Village in Uptown, West 7th, Bishop Arts, and Southlake Town Square. Also, click here to read perspectives on placemaking from Scott Rohrman, Jim Lake Jr., Terry Montesi, Mike Ablon, Duncan Fulton, Scott Polikov, Barry Hand, Lucy Billingsley, Larry Good, and other noted experts.

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