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Phil Romano’s Newest Trinity Groves Concept Aims To Solve Networking

Plans for the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge were only a whisper when West Dallas Investments started buying land west of the Trinity River around Singleton Boulevard. Several years and 80 acres later, the investment team headed by Jim Reynolds, Phil Romano, Stuart Fitts and Butch McGregor plans to open a one-of-a-kind concept aimed at perfecting professional networking.

Trinity Groves in Dallas

The Network Bar, a brainchild of Romano’s, will open more than 6K SF at Trinity Groves in October. The space behind Off-Site Kitchen and below the Trinity Groves offices will have four private meeting rooms, but that is where its similarities with a traditional office begin and end. 

The concept will integrate technology, programming and events, membership, and food and booze. The Younity Group, an app development company in which Romano has invested, will develop an app for members who pay dues. Annual fees vary between $500 and $1K and there are corporate sponsorship options. 

Think of it as a members-only LinkedIn with a headquarters, Romano said. Members will be able to see who is at the Network Bar from their app, incentivizing them to stop in for an alcoholic or coffee drink to meet a specific person. The only way into the bar is through the app. 

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge in Dallas

The bar, which is under construction, will have Restoration Hardware furniture, plenty of standing room, pool tables, art and music, Romano said. A limited menu of finger food and light bites will be careful to not compete with any of the existing concepts in Trinity Groves. 

Members can attend programming such as lectures and seminars. Dues will go in part toward funding charities.

Once the Network Bar takes off, Romano is open to the idea of licensing it to a hotel or co-working concept that would scale the business to different cities. Romano said some brands have shown preliminary interest. 

All successful businesses must solve a problem, Romano said, and he sees one with how new people (his nickname for millennials) network. He wants to take something daunting and make it fun, efficient, safe and — perhaps most important — face-to-face. 

Cypress at Trinity Groves in Dallas

By many measurements, Romano and his business partners have been successful in their Trinity Groves development. WDI's investment fund in 2012 and 2013 raised about $14M, which it used to run the restaurant incubator now known as Trinity Groves. Even some of the smallest footprints within Trinity Groves — Cake Bar and Kate Weiser Chocolate — earn more than $1.5M annually.

And new retail is forthcoming. The 350-unit Cypress at Trinity Groves has about 100 residents already living atop 35K SF of retail that is 60% leased. Texas Capital Bank, Steam Theory Brewing Co., Bingbox Snow Cream Co., Morgan Cafe and K’s Kitchen have all inked leases. West Dallas Investments developed the multifamily project with Columbus Realty Partners.

Cypress at Trinity Groves got a lot of interest from national retailers, but West Dallas Investments looks for concepts with a point of difference, Reynolds said.

“We don’t want a Starbucks or a 7-Eleven,” he said.

Autograph Collection by Marriott at Trinity Groves

A 16-story, 223-room hotel is the next development to take shape, but not until the Argos concrete plant is demolished to make way for the Marriott Autograph Collection hotel that will be operated by WDI. Amenities include a four-star restaurant, 15K SF of event space, an infinity pool and skyline views. 

Reynolds expects Argos to vacate the plant completely by August so WDI can break ground in the first half of 2018. And until the Network Bar delivers in October, Dallas residents will have to network at one of the dozen Trinity Groves restaurants next door.  

Hear more from Romano at Bisnow’s Big Retail South Event on Sept. 19 in Dallas. Get tickets here.