Thursday, October 16, 2008

Retailers Christen Shops in $1B MXD's Phase One

ALLEN, TX-MGHerring Group, capping four years of hard work, has started the parade of stores for the first phase of the $1-billion, three-million-sf mixed-use development in the far northern tier. As the Village at Allen's first shops get christened in back-to-back soft openings, crews are hard at work on its phase two and a 1.4-million-sf sister, the Village at Fairview.
As would be expected, it's been a mix of trials and triumphs as the Dallas-based developer assembled 400 acres at the junction of Stacy Road and US Hwy. 75 in two suburban cities for one of the largest mixed-use projects now being built in the US. Gar Herring, president of the development group, tells that the biggest challenge was revising the master plan after construction started in March 2007 when Minneapolis-based Target Corp. put in its dibs for a spot in the line-up. And his top accomplishment was a complex agreement with Phoenix-based Global Entertainment Corp. and the city for the $52.6-million Allen Events Center.

The all-star retail cast is using the dual projects as springboards for prototype stores and the largest formats in their line-ups. "They are putting their best foot forward to be creative and make showcase stores," Herring says. "Almost every major retailer we worked with has come back to do their largest prototype or No. 1 prototype."

Target's largest format store will open in March 2009. Macy's plans to build a 120,000-sf store and Dillard's will add a 200,000-sf box. The next groundbreaking is Oct. 23 when JC Penney Co. starts its first LEED-certified design--a 110,000-sf store in the Village at Fairview.
The Village at Allen's line-up targets more everyday needs while its sister will have higher end shops and white linen-tablecloth restaurants. Herring says more than one million sf of retail has been reserved on both sides of Stacy Road.

"We've not had anyone fall out for economic reasons or re-trade so we are fortunate," Herring says. "But, we do recognize it's a different world out there and we are adjusting our plans accordingly." He says the adjustment is focused on marketing and not rent concessions. "We've been very fortunate to hold to our rent pro forma," he confides.

Herring explains that the staggered soft openings have helped the marketing plan. "It keeps the momentum rolling and building," he says.

Today, Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us will cut the ribbon on an 80,000-sf combo, a first for North Texas, and TJ Maxx opens Friday. Next week, Dick's Sporting Goods will open a bi-level 80,000-sf store. Best Buy opened two weeks ago. Uncle Julio's, a regional Mexican restaurant that opened last week, still has a one-hour wait for dinner seats. Seven more stores will open before the month ends and six more in November. The run continues through March 8, 2009, when phase two opens. A 220-room Courtyard by Marriott delivers in fall 2009 and the 6,275-seat Allen Events Center opens in November 2009. Also coming is 500,000 sf of office. At the Village at Fairview, its first stores are penciled for Aug. 5, 2009 openings.