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15 Years of Southlake Town Square

Mar 04, 2014 09:26AM ● Published by 16560

By Linden Wilson

Celebrating the iconic project that changed the landscape of the city    

Fifteen years ago this month, Southlake Town Square opened its $75 million first phase to the public. Built on 130 acres that used to be farmland, the square initially encompassed more than 250,000 square feet of office and retail space that included national brands like The Container Store, Gap, Pottery Barn and Williams & Sonoma. Today, the square is home to Southlake Town Hall, the city’s DPS headquarters, a Harkins theater, Hilton hotel and Barnes & Noble. It also features luxury retailers like Malouf’s, J.Crew, Michael Kors and Coach and upscale dining destinations including Mi Cocina, Truluck’s and most recently, Del Frisco’s Grille.

Many Southlake residents know the driving force behind Southlake Town Square, the late Brian Stebbins, but many don’t know how the project began. In 1995, Stebbins and his Cooper & Stebbins business partner, Peter Cooper, selected the future site of town square as the perfect place for their next venture. They wanted to build a master-planned, open-air, mixed-use lifestyle center that harkened back to eclectic, small-town communities with architecture reminiscent of pre-World War II America. To design the square, Stebbins reached out to — actually, more like tracked down — famed architect, David Schwarz. After discovering he was taking a flight from DFW to LAX, Stebbins bought a first-class ticket that same day so he could sit next to Schwarz on the plane. Stebbins sketched his vision for Southlake Town Square on a cocktail napkin during the flight, convincing Schwarz to take on the project.

In December 2008, Forbes.com named Southlake the most affluent neighborhood in the country, attributing the honor to real-estate growth that stemmed largely from Southlake Town Square. Its design; retail, residential and commercial spaces; and impeccably kempt parks have since become internationally iconic to countries as far away as Japan. Yet just like the story of Stebbins and Schwarz’s meeting, there are a few things you might not know about the history of our beloved community gathering place. Take a look through the following pages to discover the hidden gems that make Southlake Town Square special as it celebrates 15 successful years.

Fechtel Farm

·      Before it was Southlake Town Square, the site included a farmhouse built by the McPherson family in 1919. In 1950, Joe and Hazel Fechtel purchased the land for their farm, the second largest independent producer of processed chicken parts in the country.

·      The two maple trees in the front of Southlake Town Square were planted by Hazel and spared by accident.

Architecture

·      The bricks that surround the fountain on the ground display the names of community members who have contributed their efforts to the construction of Southlake Town Square.

·      Southlake Town Square originally planned to include big-box retail like Home Depot and Toys “R” Us, but the shorter block patterns Brian Stebbins decided on didn’t end up having room for them.

·      The band shell gazebo is inspired by the one on the SMU campus. It was originally going to be a larger building.

·      While designing Southlake Town Square, Brian Stebbins was inspired by Sundance Square in Fort Worth as well as the town square featured in the famous film, "Back to the Future.”

·      Southlake Town Square’s architect, David Schwarz, also designed the Texas Rangers Ballpark in Arlington; Sundance Square in downtown Fort Worth; Bass Performance Hall; and the American Airlines Center, among many others.

·      Various Southlake Town Square street names, including Grand, State and Prospect, are named after streets found in Chicago and Rockford, Ill., where Brian Stebbins grew up.

·      Between Brooks Brothers and the Apple store, there’s a noticeable line in the pavement that marks the end of the original first phase of development.

·      Previously, the land where Southlake Town Square sits was the potential site for a regional mall. 

Parks and landscape 

Rustin Park

·      Rustin Park is named after Hazel Fechtel, whose maiden name was Rustin. 

Frank Edgar Cornish, IV Park

·      Frank Edgar Cornish, IV Park is named after the late Frank Cornish, a Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman who passed away from heart disease at his Southlake home in 2008. Cornish won two Super Bowls during his stint as a Cowboy.

·      The live oaks in the park were relocated from the JCPenney campus headquarters in Plano.

·      The use of the extensive hardscape and the central fountain in the park were inspired by a trip to Italy Brian Stebbins took in 2005.

·      The site for the Italian eatery, Brio, was inspired by a trip Frank Bliss and Brian Stebbins took to Columbus, Ohio’s Easton Town Center, where the first location of the Italian restaurant was built.

McPherson Park

·      McPherson Park is named after the McPherson family, who lived near what is now Park Blvd. and Dove Rd. Members of the family once owned the land where Southlake Town Square is.

Other landscape info

·      Landscape design for Southlake Town Square was inspired by Savannah, Georgia, which is known for its historic squares. Brian Stebbins particularly liked Lafayette Square, but there are also elements of Orleans Square, Monterey Square and Wright Square incorporated in the design of Southlake Town Square.

·      One of Brian Stebbins’ favorite towns was Washington, Iowa. He had many fond memories of going there to visit his maternal grandparents. The city’s Central Park looks quite similar to Southlake Town Square.

·      The trees that line Southlake Town Square’s streets are Athena Elms. They have a single common mother located on the University of Georgia campus.

·      Former Southlake mayor, Rick Stacy, and his family donated the Christmas tree that’s planted near Rustin pavilion.

Retail

·      Initially, it was challenging to get retail into Southlake Town Square — in 1996, retailers told Brian Stebbins, “Good plan, good luck.” Brian then gave them helicopter tours of the property, and they changed their minds.

·      In March 2000 — only one year after Southlake Town Square opened — retail space was 100-percent occupied, and office space was 80-percent occupied. Six of the 17 national retailers in Southlake Town Square reported that their Southlake stores had the best opening-day sales of their entire national chains. None of the retail tenants turned over during the first year.

·      The block where the post office is located was 50-percent pre-leased before construction even began. 

Residences

·      In 2006, 43 Southlake Town Square townhome-style brownstones were completed as the first residential spaces of the project, offering close proximity to shopping, dining and entertainment.

·      In late 2013, Cooper & Stebbins announced plans to build The Residences (a five-story condominium building featuring 38 homes up to 3,200 square feet in size) and The Garden District, an extension of the existing Main Street Brownstones. These brownstones are expected to be available for occupancy by mid-2015.

Events 

Art in the Square

·      Art in the Square was created as a community fundraiser by the Southlake Women’s Club shortly after Southlake Town Square was completed. The festival draws nearly 1,000 artist applicants each year and raises hundreds of thousands of dollars.

·      Approximately 25,000 people attended the first annual Art in the Square weekend. More than 40,000 attended the second year, and the numbers continue to grow.

Stars & Stripes

·      Every year, Southlake and the surrounding areas celebrate the Fourth of July in the square with fireworks, food and drink and entertainment for the whole family.

·      More than 6,000 Southlake residents attended the first Stars & Stripes celebration. The second year, more than 20,000 attended.

Oktoberfest

·      For 12 years, this three-day festival has featured a wide variety of German food and drink, live entertainment, arts and crafts and the famous wiener dog races.

Home for the Holidays

·      Every November, Southlake Town Square comes alive with the magic of the holiday season and the illumination of the Christmas tree. Horse-drawn carriage rides, photos with Santa, face painting and entertainment always make for unforgettable memories.

Other event info

·      One major difference between Southlake Town Square and many other town center projects is that all of its streets are public, which means that city approval is required before streets can be closed off for festivals and events.

Miscellaneous facts

·      Southlake Town Square was originally going to be named Southlake Town Center. It was changed because Brian Stebbins used to visit his grandfather in the town square where he grew up in Rockford, Ill.

·      Brian Stebbins designed the Southlake Town Square logo.

In Print, Today, City+School Southlake Town Square fifteen years
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