From Dream to Downtown: How 130-acres of farm land became the retail center for 2.2 million customers
In 1995 Brian Stebbins, Peter Cooper and Frank Bliss began planning the development that would become Southlake Town Square. The opportunity lay in a well situated 130-acre family farm, northwest of Dallas, Texas and a strong belief in the rapid growth of a young community that was home to exceptional household incomes.
After a series of interviews with local real estate brokerage firms, CBRE was selected to assist Cooper & Stebbins and David Schwartz in honing the vision, developing the site plan, fashioning the merchandizing plan and determining a tenant mix.
Cooper & Stebbins and CBRE could see the potential for a strong retail center in this nascent suburb, but would anybody else? Despite the strong prospects for the area, it was still early and it was sparsely populated. Thus, CBRE’s biggest challenge would be generating tenant interest despite the lack of rooftops.
Our team approached Southlake Town Square with a single vision in mind; it was, simply put, to “build a downtown from scratch.” This meant working from multiple angles and with a wide range of partners.
Anchor the City
Southlake Town Square’s 130-acre mixed-use development plan was based on a visionary blueprint in the spirit of the world’s best historical small downtowns. A core piece of learning from successful small downtowns was to anchor Southlake Town Square with a seat for city government.
Cooper & Stebbins worked with the City of Southlake to relocate Southlake’s government center, Southlake Town Hall, to the project. This would not only provide an anchor to the development, but provide impetus for retail as the project would now have a heart.
Write the Story
CBRE’s biggest challenge was to tell the story of Southlake Town Square so that it resonated with the retail community. While household incomes in the area were strong, the population was still growing and census reports had yet to catch up with the projected rapid growth in the area.
CBRE worked to define trade area polygons, create drive time, sales comparables and spacing maps, and commission demographic studies to determine the trade area’s true population figures.
Our team also worked closely with the North Texas Council of Governments to understand the commission’s plans for future infrastructure that would enhance accessibility to the site.
The story was researched and created and then visually expressed using the latest mapping technology, aerials and graphics. These tools were produced, focusing on decision logic that would make retailers’ site committee approval possible.
Take it to Market
In order to generate retailer interest, CBRE made Southlake Town Square the showpiece of its marketing efforts at the 1996 ICSC RECon Deal Making show in Las Vegas. With tepid interest, CBRE and Cooper & Stebbins, listened intently and went back to the drawing board, reworking site plans and retooling the story to make a compelling case to retailers.
In 1997, CBRE returned to the show, again marketing Southlake Town Square as a signature property. The “no’s” and “maybe’s” of 1996 were, this time, greeted with LOIs. That year at RECon, CBRE secured fashion retailers including Talbots, Gap, Banana Republic, Eddie Bauer and Victoria’s Secret. Later that year at ICSC’s Palm Desert convention, William-Sonoma and Pottery Barn, both heavily sought after brands at the time, agreed to move forward.
In March 1999, after four years of planning and leasing the first phase, 250,000 square feet opened at Southlake Town Square. It was an instant success. In 2003, the Urban Land Institute named Southlake Town Square as one of eight Exemplary Projects in the nation. The Grand Avenue phase, which opened in 2006, brought Harkins Theatre, a high volume Barnes & Noble, Apple, Anthropologie, J.Crew, Brio and many more notable retailers and restaurants.
Expanded in phases since that time, Southlake Town Square today comprises over 1.4 million square feet, with 550,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and entertainment. Today, the primary trade area for Southlake Town Square extends outwards of twenty miles, serving 2.2 million customers that can reach the project in less than 30 minutes. Sales exceed $550 per square foot.
CBRE’s efforts for Southlake Town Square were instrumental in allowing our dream of creating a viable ‘downtown from scratch’ to become a commercial reality.— Brian Stebbins, Founding Partner, Cooper & Stebbins
- Do what’s best for the project. Really great projects take incredible focus, commitment and trust. CBRE and Cooper & Stebbins created a strong, trusting partnership. This allowed us to make decisions that were best for the project, which ultimately is what made it so successful.
- Rome wasn’t built in a day. Building projects like Southlake Town Square takes an incredible amount of commitment and patience. In the end, intense planning, research, creativity, vision and excellent leadership are “musts” to be successful.
- Developer: Cooper & Stebbins; Owner: RPAI
- GLA: 550,000 sf
- Year: 1999
- Retailers: Apple, Anthropologie, Michael Kors, Lululemon, True Religion, Coach, Lily Pulitzer, Lucky Brand, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, Vera Bradley, Trader Joe's, Oakley, J.Crew, Sephora