Real Estate

The Rebirth of the West End

Developers and other stakeholders are transforming the historic and entertainment district into a hotbed for innovation.

The West End District in Dallas (Michael Samples)
The West End District in Dallas (Michael Samples)

Along with serving as executive editor of D CEO and editor of D Real Estate Daily, I have the pleasure of being editor of the Dallas-Fort Worth Real Estate Review. These quarterly publications are produced by D Magazine Partners’ DRC Publications Group, in partnership with the Dallas Regional Chamber and The Real Estate Council. If you haven’t been reading them, you’re missing out.

(Led by Quincy Preston, this group, by the way, also developed and runs the robust Dallas Innovates platform, the Dallas-Fort Worth Relocation+Newcomer Guide, the Economic Development Guide, and the My Dallas Move e-newsletter. For digital editions of these publications, click here.)

The Summer 2016 edition of the DFW Real Estate Review was just released, and I want to draw special attention to the cover story, “Rebirth of the West End,” written by longtime Dallas business journalist Karen Nielsen. She interviewed countless sources, including developers, investors, business owners, civic leaders, and innovators, to give readers an in-depth look at the transformation that’s underway in the historic Dallas neighborhood.

Below is a sneak peek at the start of the lead story. Click here to read the full report, and here to read these additional reports, included in the package: Building a Smart CityModern Living in the Historic West End, and Lay of the Land. I’d also like to give a shout out to art director Michael Samples, who took many of the photos (Michael has never met a rooftop he didn’t like) and designed the entire issue.

The West End has one of the largest concentrations of historic buildings in Dallas with a narrative that dates back to the Caddo Indians in the 1800s.

Located in the northwest corridor of downtown Dallas, the 67.5-acre historical district has experienced its share of prosperity, depression, and rebirth. As the story goes, the city’s founder, John Neely Bryan, first established a trading post and helped attract the Houston & Texas Central Railroad, spurring construction of multistory manufacturing warehouses in the early 1900s.

For decades, the West End served as manufacturing hub for hats, crackers, candy, apparel, farm equipment and saddles. The developing suburbs eventually lured companies away from the city core and even heightened interest after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dealey Plaza couldn’t sustain the West End through a difficult economy.

In the 1980s, a new revival took shape, with a focus on tourism and entertainment. Many buildings were repurposed, housing the iconic Starck Club, touristy retail shops, a 10-screen cinema, Planet Hollywood, and night clubs in the Dallas Alley.

But 9/11 came and the district fell on hard times with many of the buildings succumbing to foreclosure and bankruptcy, sitting vacant for a decade or more. A smattering of institutional restaurants such as Spaghetti Warehouse and The Palm have held court since 1972 and 1983, respectively, and some apartments and office space kept the area on life support.

But now a cavalry of well-established developers and downtown stakeholders are driving the creation of an innovation district that could be at the forefront of  new ecosystems also being created in Atlanta, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and San Diego. Innovation districts are emerging near anchor institutions in the downtowns and midtowns of these cities and “have the unique potential to spur productive, inclusive, and sustainable economic development,” according to a Brookings Institute report.

It may be the West End’s most spectacular revival yet.


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