Bob Young: Why Urban Retail Concepts Are Headed to the Suburbs

Bob Young
Bob Young

Consider these concepts: Hotel ZaZa, The Rustic, Steel City Pops, Torchy’s Tacos, PakPao, Prince Italia, and eatZi’s. Each made its mark with an urban location. Hotel ZaZa is a boutique hotel landmark in Uptown. The Rustic offers dining and concerts at its freestanding site, also in Uptown. Steel City Pops draws the crowds on Lower Greenville. Torchy’s Tacos is best known for its original food-truck location in urban Austin. PakPao packs them in at the Design District. Princi Italia delights diners in the dense, close-in Preston Royal market. And eatZi’s has offered quality food and more at its Oak Lawn location for years.

So where are they each opening new locations? Uptown? The Design District? Fort Worth’s West 7th?

Nope. They’re expanding to the northern suburbs.

Hotel ZaZa, The Rustic, Steel City Pops, Torchy’s, and others will soon open in Frisco’s mixed-use project, Wade Park, now under construction along the Tollway in Frisco.  PakPao, Princi Italia, eatZi’s, and other specialty restaurants like Mi Dia from Scratch and Royale Magnificent Burgers, are part of the retail lineup at West Plano Village, which also features apartments and office space.

The mix of local, one-or-two-location concepts going into these mixed-use projects perfectly illustrates the trend I want to talk about: the suburban-urban evolution.

People today want an urban environment and experience, even when they live in the suburbs. Developers are responding with new-vintage multifamily blended with restaurant and service space. These projects fits the bill with what we call the burgeoning suburban-urban marketplace.

We all think of urban Uptown Dallas as the epicenter of mixed-use construction. But on a strict dollar and square footage basis, suburban Collin County is dominating this category. Why would Collin County be seeing this type of urban-style development on such a large scale?

A big reason is demographics. The market is getting denser. Take West Plano Village for example. Within a 3-mile radius, there are nearly 100,000 people, and the daytime population is nearly 120,000.  Go out to a 5-mile radius, and you’re looking at around 310,000 people.

Now let’s look at the same type of demos in Oak Lawn, one of our densest urban neighborhoods. Within a 5-mile radius of Oak Lawn and Avondale, right in the heart of the district, there are 355,000 people. That’s not that much higher than those Plano demographics.

These outlying markets are going to continue to become denser, and residents are showing that they like the trend. Even in the suburbs, people want the urban experience. They love the whole live-work-play environment.

That’s not to say the single-family home is going anywhere soon. That type of residence dominates our suburban markets and will continue to do so.

But as our markets get denser, there is a place for all types of projects to succeed. And one of the most successful types will be those that provide the suburban-urban experience.

Bob Young is managing director of The Weitzman Group. Contact him at [email protected]

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