Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Dallas Chop House Lands Prime Spot in Downtown

DALLAS-Metropolitan Real Estate Investors LLC will expand its 1.5-million-sf Comerica Bank Tower, adding a 1,300-sf glass-enclosed annex to a long-dark restaurant space to park a new steakhouse in the CBD. Leading restaurateur Michael Hogue will debut Dallas Chop House in summer 2009.
The all-in construction cost is still being fine-tuned, but more than $2 million will go into the interior finish-out alone for the 126-seat restaurant, according to Hogue, who signed a 10-year lease for the restaurant spot and patio at 1717 Main St. He says construction is slated to begin by November. "We are going to build a brand that will be part of Downtown Dallas and an institution," says the owner of Hogue Enterprise Co.

The plan to add a high-end restaurant to the 60-story landmark's roster has been in the making seven of the eight years that its gatekeeper under two owners has been in charge of leasing. The deal will light a 5,750-sf restaurant space for the first time in one decade.

"We really wanted a high-end restaurant. There was some interest before, but not the quality that we wanted," says Don Dowell, the tower's long-time leasing agent who transitioned to Cushman & Wakefield of Texas Inc. at Metropolitan's behest after it bought the trophy. "He [Hogue] has the right vision. He is a successful restaurant operator and has a really good following of people."
Hogue's specialty fares are Dallas Fish Market, which is one block from Comerica Tower, and Go Fish Ocean Club, which relocated and just opened last week near the Galleria mall in North Dallas. Go Fish launched in 2005 and Dallas Fish Market in 2007.

"This building itself is a trophy. What we're looking for as owner is to provide as many amenities as we can to our tenants and that's where we add value," says Steve Korn, CFO of the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Real Estate. "It's a true amenity by putting the Dallas Chop House into our building. It's not only for our tenants, but the Downtown as well."

Hogue is a local entrepreneur and self-made man who's "very creative and qualified," Korn stresses. "We're very pleased to have him opening in the building."

Hogue tells GlobeSt.com that he had eight months into the planning of a steakhouse concept when his broker, Jack Gosnell, executive vice president of locally based UCR Urban/ChainLinks, put the Comerica tower "opportunity" on his table. "We want to grow Downtown Dallas into a dining destination," Hogue says, adding the Dallas Chop House's planned view of the high rise's plaza and Main Street Garden Park had the right ingredients for his entrepreneurial vision. And to his surprise, the name was available.

Hogue says the new chop house will be a cut above steakhouse competitors, featuring an aging case to produce its own prime, a "steak library" of books about the cuisine and the region's first Kosher station. It also will have valet parking and 150 designated spaces in the tower garage. The interior design will include a custom fireplace and open kitchen while the menu will sport a catering service for the tower's high-powered tenant mix of financial institutions and law and accounting firms. "I believe there's a built-in business in there," Hogue says. Dallas' 5G Studio Collaborative LLC is the project architect.

Dowell says construction is being timed to coincide with the city's completion of Main Street Garden Park, the final touches for Mercantile Place on Main, a Forest City Enterprises' project, and the ramping up of the University of North Texas' in-town law school. "The Downtown had to evolve to the status it is now before this would really work," Dowell stresses. "The park and Mercantile Place coming to completion is what made it right now."

Dowell says the high rise's occupancy is 87%, an economic engine fueled by 60 tenants and 4,000 workers. Tenants like Comerica have been asking for a high-end restaurant in the building. Even though there are restaurants a block away, Dowell says the Texas heat and rain can make that a challenging hike.

"We think it will ultimately help our leasing and tenant retention," Dowell says. "These owners are great. They understand the vision and the value to the property."

Putting the glass extension onto the Philip Johnson signature design means the owner plans to spend "extra money to make sure everything is in sync with the architecture of the building," Korn says about the December 2006 buy, which topped $216 million. "We've invested a lot into the building and we don't want to damage the integrity of it."