Boom or Bust
Jul 05, 2016 12:09PM ● Published by Ashley Pape
By Lori Stacy
It’s hard to imagine the type of store or restaurant that Southlake lacks. Whatever your need, desire or taste, it’s likely that you won’t have to venture far from home to get it. Nearly every type of cuisine is represented here, from American-style (think Redrock Canyon Grill) to Thai and Vietnamese (think Malai Kitchen). Looking for a fitness class? Places in Southlake can indulge your desire to work out at the barre (Pure Barre) or try cardio cycling (ZYN22). And stores from Lauren James to Kendra Scott have joined the already impressive list of retail outposts in the city.
“My husband and I laugh about it,” says Lisa Fraga, who has lived in Southlake for 12 years. “Every time we wish a store would come here, it usually does.” Whereas Fraga and her family used to have to drive to Dallas to go to Tyler’s or Central Market, they now drive less than 10 minutes from their home.
Indeed, that has been the goal of the city’s leaders—attracting the quantity and quality of businesses that turn Southlake into a destination for both residents and visitors.
A Thriving City
“We’re getting close to having every kind of shop you can imagine,” says Shannon Hamons, Southlake’s economic development director. “A lot of what we do is vetting businesses that may or may not be good fits.”
He adds: “Southlake has become a destination in itself. The Hilton operates near capacity nearly all the time.”
Perhaps that’s why other hotels, such as the Westin, which plans to build a 220-room property at Highway 114 and Carroll, and Hotel Indigo, which plans to build a 121-room boutique property in Carillon, are heading this way.
“People in Oklahoma and Arkansas look at Southlake as a place to spend the weekend,” says Laura Hill, Southlake’s mayor, who credits not only the businesses for attracting out-of-towners, but also the popular festivals with a small-town feel, such as Art in the Square and Oktoberfest.
But she also realizes that the small-town moniker may not work with the city much longer. With roughly 29,000 residents in the city today, residential build-out is likely to be reached in five to 10 years, and, as Hill points out, “We don’t have that much land left [for development].”
The newest developments, including Park Village and Kimball Oaks, the 126,000-square-foot retail space that includes PGA Superstore and BJ’s Brewhouse, are already reaching capacity in terms of tenants—something their leasing agents say wasn’t too hard a sell.
But while some businesses are clamoring to come to Southlake, the city has lost others, such as Walmart Neighborhood Market, The Fresh Market, Steak ’n Shake and McDonald’s.
According to both Hill and Hamons, though, it wasn’t as much an issue of Southlake being the wrong fit, but rather that the businesses themselves were facing issues that had nothing to do with the community.
In the case of The Fresh Market, which has closed all of its Texas stores, Hill even reached out to the grocer’s management team to help them understand Southlake a bit more.
“I called the CEO and had a long call with him seven or eight months ago,” she says. “I said, ‘Are you okay with me being honest with you?’ When he said yes, I told him, ‘You must reach out to the community.’”
A Critical Component to Success
Hill feels strongly that the businesses that do succeed here are the ones that participate in the community, the ones that get involved and give back.
“The successful places are successful because they go above and beyond,” she says.
And as Hamons points out, “The vacant places don’t stay vacant very long.” As an example, the shuttered Steak ’n Shake wasn’t closed for long before Pollo Tropical came in to take its spot.
Hill echoes his sentiments: “There is a line of businesses ready to open in Southlake.”
Additionally, some of the places that have closed in Southlake have closed for corporate reasons and not because Southlake wasn’t a good fit, as with The Fresh Market and the Walmart Neighborhood Market, which was one of 23 such stores that Walmart closed as part of a corporate decision to, as Walmart put it in a January 2016 announcement, “ensure assets were aligned with strategy.”
Hill sees it differently: “They didn’t participate in the community.”
Contrast that with the busy and popular Central Market in Southlake, which hosts wine tastings, live music on the patio and in-store food festivals that draw in residents, and you can understand why Hill thinks there’s more to being successful in Southlake than just hanging your proverbial shingle.
Great Harvest Bread Company, which opened in June, is another example of a business working to become part of the community. Even before it opened its doors, Great Harvest Bread Company reached out to the city to find out where the bread employees made as part of their training could be donated. And rather than follow a standard-format design for the restaurant, the Montana-based company gave the space some Texas touches, including framed Texas flags and an old windmill.
No wonder, as Hill puts it, the restaurant already has a “cult-like following.”
During its grand-opening celebration, Park Village—home to RA Sushi, Michael’s, Sur la Table and many others—donated its proceeds from the kick-off to Miracle League of Southlake, which provides children with special needs the opportunity to play baseball.
Retail centers and restaurants are not alone in ingratiating themselves with the community; businesses that choose to locate here, as with the city’s largest employer, Sabre, and the forthcoming T.D. Ameritrade, do as well.
Kim Hillyer, a spokesperson for Ameritrade, says that community involvement is important to the company. “Our employees are highly engaged and expect to get involved in Southlake once we do move. There’s a school across the road from the new campus and employees have already asked about volunteer opportunities there.”
These large corporate campuses along Highway 114 have also been a contributing factor in the city’s retail and restaurant success, as these businesses bring not just revenue, but employees who shop and dine in the city, particularly during the weekday, when retail traffic is lower. TD Ameritrade will welcome 1,500 employees into its 300,000-square-foot campus when the first phase of building has been completed, and the Granite Properties office building being developed in Town Square near Highway 114 is expected to have more than 700 employees in the 160,000-square-foot space.
A Plan for Growth
But while the city sees the economic benefits these large corporate campuses bring, some residents, such as Fraga, worry about the impact they will have on neighborhood roads. Fraga lives in Kirkwood Hollow, near Sabre and the TD Ameritrade campuses. With no freeway access road, her neighborhood street—Kirkwood Boulevard—has become a thoroughfare, which concerns not only Fraga but many of the residents of Kirkwood Hollow, she says.
To that end, Hill is pushing for an eco-friendly trolley system that would shuttle people to and from the various businesses and hotels in Southlake. A transit system would at least help alleviate some of the traffic and parking concerns, as employees at these businesses would be encouraged to park once in the morning, and leave their cars there, even if they frequent the city’s retail and restaurant establishments during the day.
“We have to start modernizing and becoming more eco-friendly,” Hill says. With large retail centers such as Town Square, Kimball Oaks and Park Village, she adds, “We do have a city ‘center.’”
About the only business not present in the community, and noticeably missing from Southlake Town Square, is a big-box department store. But that doesn’t worry Hill or Hamons.
“I couldn’t care less about a department store,” says Hill, who notes that the community attracts smaller, more unique stores and restaurants.
“We continue to get more boutique businesses—small, regional businesses that really pick and choose the best place to be,” says Hill.
Hamons agrees, pointing out that Cooper & Stebbins, developers of Southlake Town Square, were close to a deal a few years ago with a big-box department store retailer, but ultimately the retailer’s demands, they felt, were too costly.
“The need for a department store is less now,” Hamons says. “I think we can carry the day without that big box.”
It’s a reality to which Southlake residents are accustomed: New stores and restaurants move in; others depart. So what can be gleaned from all this commercial commotion? The shops and businesses that come to Southlake—and succeed—do so to the benefit of Southlake’s residents through community involvement and contributing to a healthy tenant mix.