Is Fort Worth's Outdoorsy Vibe Its Saving Grace?
As the coronavirus pandemic pushes consumers to outdoor-centric restaurants and retail establishments, Fort Worth is poised to benefit from historic redevelopment projects downtown that play off the area's cowboy roots and nature-loving aesthetic.
One of the more noteworthy projects attracting attention is the rehabilitation of the 180K SF Horse and Mule Barns, known as Mule Alley, at the Fort Worth Stockyards.
Anchored by the new Hotel Drover, which offers outside gathering sites and exclusive dining to visitors, the historic redevelopment is blending the city's past with its future.
As the pandemic has shaken up the market, The Stockyards has benefited from the outdoor nature of the destination and the low-rise office building concept that is dominant among Fort Worth's historic buildings, Fort Worth real estate experts say.
Social distancing guidelines requiring space between customers and guidance that outdoor spaces are generally safer in the pandemic than interior, closed-in areas have turned destinations with exterior common areas or patios into preferred sites for accommodating guests. Low-rise office buildings are likewise seen as more appealing because they are less dense and because occupiers don't need to use tightly enclosed elevators to reach their spaces.
“As far as trends, I think people will flock more [post-coronavirus] to [buildings] in the low-rise category, such as The Stockyards,” M2G Ventures developer Jessica Miller-Essl said while speaking at Bisnow's The Changing Landscape of Fort Worth webinar Tuesday.
Miller-Essl's firm was chosen to help activate retail and tenant activity inside the redeveloped Mule Alley at the Stockyards. The initiative wooed key tenants such as digital advertising solutions firm Simpli.fi and brewery and dining concept Second Rodeo Brewing to the alley. Demand for space hasn't slowed since the pandemic, and Miller-Essl said she is still fielding calls for leases.
Miller-Essl believes office tenants looking for space in DFW amid the pandemic will behave like Simpli.fi and “double down on having more of a campus-style environment” to call home.
“Fort Worth is poised [to benefit] because of our low-rise nature to attract more [tenants] than other cities would,” Miller-Essl said. “We've benefited a lot by being an outdoor environment.”
Dining outdoors also has turned into a crucial amenity within the hospitality sector, putting the entirety of The Stockyards and Mule Alley tenant Second Rodeo Brewing in a prime spot to attract guests.
The restaurant's owner, Jason Boso, has 4K SF of restaurant space situated indoors and another 14K SF outside at his Stockyards location. This year, in particular, Second Rodeo Brewing's outdoor space is generating both traffic and revenue for Boso.
“I have businesses all over the state of Texas and some out of Texas, and the science is there: It’s outdoors,” Boso said.
“If you are a restaurant, and you don’t have a large patio or some outdoor space that can be used all year round, you are hurting for sure, and my businesses that don’t have that are 50% down. But my businesses that have large outdoor spaces, some of them are actually up from 2019 as people clamor to stay safe but still socialize.”