Field Street Area The Next Stitch In The Tapestry To Connect Downtown Dallas
Developers tend to have a herd mentality, and in few places do brokers say that is more true than in the Field Street area of Downtown Dallas. For years, companies waited to see who would make the first move in this largely untapped area.
Once someone did, the dominoes fell fast.
“People want to see that there is something there already,” said Chelby Sanders, executive vice president with CBRE’s Advisory & Transaction Services group. “We hear a lot of people say, ‘I want to walk down the street and run into my peers, my competitors, the people I can do business with.’ People want to be around other people.”
Sanders said major investments by billionaires like Tim Headington, along with the opening of The Union — an office-meets-residential high-rise on Field Street — were tipping points for the area. After that, development activity quickly picked up.
“[The Union has] really activated that part of Field Street,” Sanders said. “It’s been so successful that now you can really leverage off of that momentum, and that essentially gives more people comfort in going there.”
According to Downtown Dallas Inc., the Field Street area comprises 80 acres of developed and undeveloped land. Its location between Uptown, Victory Park and the Arts District makes it an ideal connector between various hubs of activity in downtown.
“The opportunity with Field Street, which was seen by the private development community, was to try and link all of that success in an area that was really prime to make that connection,” said Evan Sheets, DDI’s vice president of economic development and planning. “This is really building an entire new population center.”
Four major projects nestled around where Field meets Woodall Rodgers Freeway will sink billions of dollars into the area. Hillwood Urban has a 38-story office tower with ground-level retail planned for the corner of Field and Munger Avenue. Just across the freeway, North End, an 11-acre development by Hunt Realty Investments, could include up to 3.7M SF of retail, multifamily, hotel and office space. The project will also include a public park.
President Colin Fitzgibbons said Hunt has owned the property, which is home to North End Apartments, since 1997. The decision to tear down the low-rise complex and convert the property to mixed-use makes sense given downtown’s explosive growth in recent years, Fitzgibbons said.
“Field Street is a very important corridor and entrance into downtown and to Uptown,” he said. “This [project] could go a long way in broadening the growth in our core.”
Fitzgibbons, like his fellow developers, hopes to make the area more walkable. Connectivity is a major focus for Woods Capital, one of the firms behind the future $1B Field Street District project between McKinney Avenue and Corbin Street.
Billy Prewitt, chief investment officer for Woods Capital, said his company had been following Headington’s land assemblage around Field and knew they wanted to be part of what happened there. He said Woods also bid on the nearby El Fenix site, which will be redeveloped by Stonelake Capital Partners.
“For a real estate expert, it’s just obvious that the Field Street area is going to be the next area of focus,” Prewitt said. “Getting a foothold in there, regardless of which site it was, was a priority for us.”
Woods’ project, which is being done in partnership with Kaizen Development Partners and Dundon Capital Partners, will include around 1.5M SF of office space, a hotel, two residential towers and up to 40K SF of retail space.
The Field Street District project’s adjacency to the D2, Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s future light rail that will connect Victory Park to Deep Ellum, posed a unique challenge for the development team. The above-grade line will move underground at the western edge of the property, Prewitt said, prompting the need for an elevated portal.
“It was important for us that this development is a connector, not just a standalone project,” he said. “D2 had the potential to be a neighborhood divider, so we were very collaborative with DART early on by letting them know our support for D2 was contingent upon being able to do it in a way that connects neighborhoods instead of dividing them.”
One area that could have been severed from Field Street by the D2 is the Historic West End. Phillip G. Honoré, executive director of the West End Association, said his district benefits from the rush of development activity happening around Field Street because it creates a spillover effect into his area.
“Without the developers, we don’t have a West End,” he said. “The property owners and the investors and the developers create space for our businesses, for our workers, for our residents. We would just have shells of old brick buildings from the early 1900s, so they are a crucial piece.”
Prewitt said the critical mass of multiple projects happening within a small vicinity is a good thing, because it allows developers to be intentional about planning.
“With basically all of the next big projects lined up along Field Street, it doesn’t really matter which one goes first because you know that for the next 10 years, the vast majority of the CBD infill development is going to happen within this corridor,” he said. “The city still has the opportunity to identify this neighborhood and focus on it.”
DDI manages a property improvement district that includes the Field Street area. One purpose of the PID, which is funded through a tax paid by property owners, is to ensure developers are coordinating with each other, which Sheets said is essential when so many major projects are happening at once.
“All of the owners are swimming in the same direction,” he said. “When you’re making improvements that can speak to improvements across the street … you really begin to build a cohesiveness, and that has a dollar value to it for an owner, and ultimately it has a value for the neighborhood because you build a unified vision rather than disparate pieces patched together over time.”
Prewitt hopes a renewed focus on cohesion and connectivity will allow each piece of downtown to flow together more seamlessly.
“There’s really this gap across Uptown and downtown when you look east to west that effectively runs along Field Street,” he said. “We need to sort of stop trying to plan every new development as the center of the universe and start trying to plan developments that are just one piece of a broader puzzle to sort of make the whole neighborhood healthier.”