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Developers Hope To Keep Deep Ellum, Uptown Rocking Around The Clock

Uptown and Deep Ellum have long been areas that buzz with activity, but concerted efforts are underway to keep the districts alive both during the day and at night.

Developers working in the urban core are making strides toward achieving an 18-hour city — or an area that is active beyond the 9 a.m.-5 p.m. workday. Mixed-use projects have attracted an evolving roster of businesses and residents, and stakeholders at a Dec. 6 Bisnow event held at The Kimpton Pittman Hotel said this diversification is key to ensuring long-term sustainability.

Stephanie Hudiburg, executive director of the Deep Ellum Foundation, detailed the district's history and future growth during a Dec. 6 Bisnow event.

“The CBD really focuses on office, Deep Ellum really focuses on entertainment, and historically, the Uptown area has really been focused on residential,” Omniplan associate principal Andy Fast said. “Each one of these [areas] is combining uses together in order to create 18 hours of people being there.” 

The Quad, which Stream Realty Partners broke ground on earlier this year, will bring 430K SF of office, five new retail buildings and 1 acre of open space to Uptown’s Quadrangle. Granite Properties23Springs project will include 625K SF of office, 17K SF of restaurants and a street-level park.

“Uptown is a dynamic community that is walkable and has all the things you are looking for,” Granite Properties Senior Managing Director Will Hendrickson said. “It will be a beneficiary of the flight to quality we’re seeing.”

Electric Shuffle USA's Gene Ball, Lagniappe Capital Partners' Zach Shor, ZMOWERY Architecture's Zac Mowery, Madison Partners' Jon Hetzel and ARCO/Murray Design Build's Bill Krol

Despite its appeal, Uptown is not accessible to everyone. The submarket has some of the loftiest rental rates in Dallas — as high as $50 per SF triple-net depending on the asset — as well as zoning requirements that drive up the cost of development. But panelists said those hurdles may also protect the area from an economic downturn.

“If the market can continue to maintain its high barrier to entry nature, then the investment that’s being made today and tomorrow will be protected,” Merritt Development Group President David Merritt said.

In Deep Ellum, developers are adding apartments and office space to bulk up the district’s daytime population. There is more than 1M SF of new office product on the ground or in the works, including at The Epic, the Continental Gin, The Stack and The Assembly. 

The district also has 130K SF worth of new retail, including restaurants, shops and a 50K SF Tom Thumb, according to the Deep Ellum Foundation.

Merritt Development Group's David Merritt, KPF's Franz Prinsloo, Hines' Ben Brewer, Omniplan's Andy Fast, Morrison & Head's Ryan Chismark and Kensington Vanguard National Title's Zach Sams

“When you come down to Deep Ellum now in the middle of the day on a Saturday, it’s plenty crowded,” said Jon Hetzel, partner at Madison Partners and president of the Deep Ellum Foundation. “It just has a different feel than it has had in the past.”

Part of Hetzel’s work with the foundation is undoing the perception that Deep Ellum is unsafe.

High-profile incidents have occurred, he said, but the area is not considered a violent crime hot spot by the Dallas Police Department.

Still, ensuring safety in Deep Ellum was a priority for the foundation. Earlier this year, the district began closing some streets during highly trafficked hours in an effort to curb vehicle-based crime. DPD has also installed a dedicated task force for the district.

Merriman Anderson Architects' Milton Anderson, Granite Properties' Will Hendrickson, Stream's Ramsey March and Ryan's Maher Maso

“Through those efforts, our violent crime is down, last I checked, 40% year-over-year,” he said. “Perception is always going to be a struggle for us.”

Changing the way people view Deep Ellum will encourage more mixed-use development activity, which should kick-start office and apartment leasing, said Gene Ball, CEO of Deep Ellum shuffleboard bar Electric Shuffle.

“Our team works out of an office here every day — we’ve never had an issue,” he said. “It’s about getting people down here and showcasing all the different things we have to offer.”

Momentum in the urban core could be derailed by financing challenges that make getting a deal across the finish line more difficult. But in a well-insulated market like Dallas-Fort Worth, Stream Executive Managing Director and partner Ramsey March said he feels confident evolving districts like Uptown and Deep Ellum will weather the storm.

“I’m really encouraged and excited for the urban core of Dallas,” he said. “We’re shedding off the old skin of the ’80s and the ’90s.”