One of the segments of True Stories—the 1986 cult film Talking Heads leader David Byrne shot in and around Dallas—begins with a title card: “Shopping is a Feeling.” But in Dallas, then and now, shopping is more than that: it’s practically one of the major sports. And yet, while it is known for its malls (Byrne shot part of that segment at NorthPark Center), Dallas has always lacked a crucial feature: a true shopping street.
Michael Nagy, a managing partner at UCR Urban, believes Knox Street is poised to change that. Of course he does: he was brought in two years ago by UCR to specifically lure more fashion retailers to Knox Street. So far, he’s been successful. Three national stores—Lululemon, Kate Spade, and Steven Alan—have recently opened in the district. The plan, Nagy says, is to build from there, “so that Knox will be thought of in the same vein as Montana Avenue in Santa Monica, Newbury Street in Boston, M Street in D.C., and other nationally known street retail.”
The Knox Street area is bound by Knox, North Central Expressway, Armstrong Avenue, and the Katy Trail. It has been a slow build to this point. UCR’s Mickey Ashmore and Lawrence Attaway began working with the district’s two major property owners, Sarofim and Lynn O’Neil Dauterman, in the mid-1990s. They brought in Pottery Barn, and other national home furnishings tenants (Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel) soon followed. Apple started to diversify the district when it opened a story on Knox and McKinney Avenue in 2003. But it was the success of boutiques like Forty Five Ten and Octane that proved the demand was also there for fashion concepts, Nagy says.
The biggest problem? A lack of available space. New fashion tenants will have to wait until existing leases expire—and for a new Sarofim project to open in 2015. The yet-to-be-named development on Cole and Armstrong avenues will have street-level retail topped by four floors of residential space. Among the new tenants according to wide reports—and hopes—is Trader Joe’s. (UCR will allow only that it expects a food store to open with the project.) Sur la Table and Little Katana will move from Travis Street to the new Cole property, making room for Sarofim to redevelop the area between Travis and the Katy Trail.
“Within the next five or six years,” Ashmore says, “Knox Street will be one of the top shopping districts in the country.”
A version of this piece appears in the January 2014 issue of D Magazine.