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6 Secrets to Building Great Mixed-Use Projects

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Billions of dollars of mixed-use projects are underway in Dallas. Everyone wants into the space, but it's not easy to pull off. We gathered a panel of experts at Bisnow’s Dallas Mixed-Use Revolution Wednesday. Here are their secrets for success.

1. Place Creation

6 Secrets to Building Great Mixed-Use Projects

KDC EVP Walt Mountford (left, with City of Richardson’s Cliff Miller) says it’s all about the place creation and combination of uses including a pedestrian experience in a safe place where people want to be. At KDC’s CityLine, the anchors are State Farm and Raytheon with dense office towers. They're surrounded with retail, restaurants, parks, a theater and multifamily. Another successful part of the project: being on the light rail line. It’s easier to create a mixed-use environment surrounding light rail; it’s harder to force those uses in other locations, Walt says. 

2. Have a Purpose

6 Secrets to Building Great Mixed-Use Projects

Corinth Properties founder Frank Mihalopoulos (left, with SBLM Architects’ Trey Lay, Alston Construction’s Mike Mehno and SBLM’s Richard Ireland) says there needs to be a purpose for mixed-use to be successful, whether it is focused on retail (like The Canyon project Corinth is developing with Stratford Land in Oak Cliff) or medical uses (like the mall repositioning Corinth did for 100 Oaks in Nashville.) A vision has to be created for what it can be and the various components need to be compatible, he says. The goal is to create synergy that makes it better than if the various uses had been by themselves, he says. It won’t work without a traffic generator, he says.

3. Location & Control

6 Secrets to Building Great Mixed-Use Projects

Stellar Development principal Steve Graham (right, with event moderator City of McKinney mayor Brian Loughmiller and RED Development VP Jeff Moloznik) says challenges can arise when you find the ideal location for the retail portion, but it doesn’t make sense for office, residential or hospitality. Finding those integrated uses can be difficult when a community or developer tries to determine the uses without demand. Steve, who is consulting with Berkshire Hathaway on its Grandscape project (surrounding Nebraska Furniture Mart) says the original NFM was on 50 acres and development blossomed on the surrounding 200 acres, but it was out of their control. For the new location in The Colony, the company had the foresight to purchase 430 acres (NFM takes up 110 acres of it) to develop its own mixed-use project. Berkshire Hathaway’s leadership is patient and not pushing the project, but is looking big picture for the right fit on the retail, restaurants and entertainment venues.

4. Parks

6 Secrets to Building Great Mixed-Use Projects

Lincoln Property Co SVP Tom McElroy (right, with Gensler’s Marsha Getto-Aikens) is working closely with the City of McKinney on its Gateway hotel and conference center project. He says parks are a big part of successful mixed-use projects. Lincoln’s HQ overlooks Klyde Warren Park in Downtown Dallas, Tom says, and it’s played a big role in the desirability of both Uptown and Downtown offices. With amenities like putting greens, table tennis and yoga classes in the middle of the City, it is playing a large role in creating demand around it.

5. Organic Growth

6 Secrets to Building Great Mixed-Use Projects

New York and Chicago are good examples of mixed-use that was born organically with a true authenticity, says RED Development VP Jeff Moloznik. The trick is to not let one use overshadow the others; but find a way to make that competitive element of those competing interests be compelling, Jeff says. For instance, Jeff says The Union at Field and Ashland by Cedar Springs has almost every component of mixed-use except for hospitality. A few fun facts about Jeff: He was a professional wakeboarder before becoming a developer and he still enjoys skateboarding. He says it’s always fun to go to the skate park and see the funny looks he gets from the kids because he looks like someone’s dad.

6. Critical Mass

6 Secrets to Building Great Mixed-Use Projects

Craig Ranch CEO David Craig (between Craig Ranch’s Demian Salmon and Valliance Bank’s Amber Nunley) launched his mixed-use 2,200-acre Craig Ranch almost 15 years ago when SH 121 was a two-lane road. One of the critical factors in a mixed-use project’s success is having a critical mass of people, either through employment or on the residential side, he says. That sense of place can be created. With a location in the suburbs in McKinney, David says he started with the residential component. There are now 2,500 employees, about 10,000 residents and around 300 acres left for development in Craig Ranch, he says. Commercial development is coming with Barclays Financial and more in negotiations, he says. And, if you speak Mandarin Chinese, feel free to strike up a conversation with David.