Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Demise of the West End Marketplace: It's About Time for Change

The Demise of the West End Marketplace: It's About Time for Change

On June 30, the West End Marketplace bites the dust. The 240,000 square foot building first opened its doors in 1986. It's pretty much been on a downhill slide ever since.

With the exception of an occasional splash with the arrival of a big name tenant, like Planet Hollywood (which also died a slow death), it never has caught on as expected. Many area natives came to view it as a tourist stop to be avoided and nothing else. As a result, it consistently failed to attract the people it needed most to survive-- local patrons.

What should have been a "must visit" venue, turned into a "must avoid" setting.

That's not to say it was a total failure. Some merchants did well there. Wild Bill's Western Wear survived and apparently will relocate in the downtown area. But for some reason, the concept never really worked. The West End just never has caught on as Dallas' answer to Fort Worth's Sundance Square.

Why? Why, at a time when much of downtown is thriving and there seem to be new projects on every corner, couldn't the West End become a hot spot?

For starters, throughout much of the nineties and early 2000s, it had to contend with the savvier and hipper Deep Ellum. For over a decade, Deep Ellum had a lock on the local music scene, drawing the much coveted 21-34 year old bracket to the Elm Street area. Of course, Deep Ellum is currently caught up in malaise also, although their problems have more to do with concerns about crime, more so than other factors.

And while it is some 30 miles away, Sundance Square has always been a bigger draw. Better marketed, plenty of parking (including some free parking areas in the evening) and seen as a destination for tourists, young people and families alike.

Many Dallasites would probably prefer hopping into their car and making the drive to Fort Worth, rather than simply riding Dart to the West End.

The biggest problems? It simply was never a big enough venue, nor was it in an open enough area. The West End Marketplace seems boxed in and small. Sundance Square and Deep Ellum are spread over a number of blocks.

And it was never really properly marketed. Even today, can the average person living in the area tell you what the West End Marketplace actually is? I sure can’t. Heck, the area never even managed to take advantage of its proximity to American Airlines Center and the Victory project.

Someone did a terrible job of marketing it over the years. What marketing there was seemed dependent on the arrival of tenants like Planet Hollywood and movie theatres. I can’t ever recall seeing an organized marketing campaign for the area.

The West End has been on a slow roll to the graveyard almost from its inception. And the demise of the West End Marketplace is probably the final nail in the coffin. It’s about time.

With the West End Marketplace gone, the possibility of a well planned, well-marketed multipurpose entertainment venue in Dallas becomes more viable. With such a venue, Dallas might finally be able to compete with Sundance Square and other entertainment destinations in the area.

I’m currently in the process of developing such a project to be called “The Texas Riviera™.” For a number of months we’ve been working on the creation of a multi-purpose, mixed use entertainment district that would become the standard for such areas. Stay tuned for more details.

Randall Turner is the CEO of Harvard Companies LLC. He has a passion for downtown Dallas and its development and his companies are a part of a number of projects in the Uptown and Downtown Dallas area.

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