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DFW Is Not Ancient Rome, But Developers Are Building As The Romans Did

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Major Dallas-Fort Worth developers Beck Ventures, Transwestern Development, Centurion American and Ryan Cos. are living in the modern age, but when they build brick-and-mortar buildings across the Metroplex, they rely on the ancient Roman architectural philosophy of preserving history and creating a sense of time and place. 

DFW Is Not Ancient Rome, But Developers Are Building As The Romans Did
Beck Ventures' Scott Beck, Transwestern's John Thomas, JLL's Walter Bialas, DPR Construction's Jeff Parsons and Centurion American's Mehrdad Moayedi

"From a construction standpoint they are looking for placemaking,” Beck Ventures CEO Scott Beck said as he discussed what transplants and companies moving to DFW desire in new developments.

"They are looking not just for a place to have a corporate campus, but a place to have an environment. It’s important to build an actual place, not just a one-dimensional office campus or a one-dimensional retail center,” Beck said during Bisnow’s 2019 State of the Market event in Dallas. 

DFW Is Not Ancient Rome, But Developers Are Building As The Romans Did
Dallas Midtown rendering

Beck Ventures is the force behind the massive transformation of Valley View Mall near Interstate 635 and Preston Road. 

Once finished, Beck's Dallas Midtown development project will serve as a gateway to Central and North Dallas by bringing in high-end apartments, a luxury hotel, retail concepts, entertainment and office developments. 

Planning and Zoning Presentation - Collin Creek Mall
An "inspirational image" from Centurion American's Collin Creek Mall presentation

Beck’s development, along with Centurion American CEO Mehrdad Moayedi's revitalization of Plano’s Collin Creek Mall are two examples of developers pulling pieces of DFW shopping mall history from the ash heaps of history and giving them a place in modern times. 

Moayedi's Collin Creek Mall project involves the development of a new outdoor retail development, bringing the total retail space to 300K SF at Collin Creek. The project includes 200K SF of entertainment and services, 40K SF of restaurants, a 200-room luxury hotel and 1.3M SF of office space.

Moayedi referenced the ancient Roman philosophy of preserving history as one of the tenets behind his revitalization project.

While Dallas is nowhere near Rome in terms of its architectural timeline, the area has to preserve what little it has in terms of history, he said. 

DFW Is Not Ancient Rome, But Developers Are Building As The Romans Did
Ryan Cos. Vice President of Real Estate Development Paul Rowsey

While Moayedi is focused on history as the backbone to his Collin Creek Mall project — an endeavor he will reach by slicing a portion of the old mall’s roof to create an open-air shopping concept — Beck made it clear placemaking for multifamily tenants, corporate users and shoppers is a creative process and no two projects are alike. 

“Collin Creek, it makes sense to keep part of the mall," Beck said. “Valley View, it makes sense to tear it down and literally start over."

Beck said cities will have to get used to the idea of retail no longer serving as a development's main anchor as entertainment and experiential retail destinations become key traffic drivers.  

As for traditional strip centers, Beck's team searches for centers that predominantly contain service-oriented retail concepts as opposed to traditional retail. The reason is simple: In the world of placemaking, retail is out and experiential destinations and service-type products continue to drive traffic, he said.  

Ryan Cos. Vice President of Real Estate Development Paul Rowsey said retail concepts selected for mixed-use projects remain a critical component of any project. 

Sometimes retail is the smallest part of the project and produces the least income, but it is one of the things tenants are looking at when making a decision, he said.  

Moayedi also is mindful of Collin Creek's future retailers. The mall will no longer fit the 1980s' image of a suburban shopping center anchored by big-box retailers.

Instead, Moayedi said his mixed-use project in Plano is searching for quality mom-and-pop retailers and unique boutique retail concepts that will drive traffic and establish loyalty to the redeveloped area regardless of what happens in the overall retail space.