Downtown Dallas's CEO on the Likely (Boutique Hotels) and the Would-Likey (Everything Else)

Categories: Development
DowntownDallas360_JohnCrawford.jpg
Patrick Michels
Downtown Dallas, Inc. CEO John Crawford
So back to my conversation with Downtown Dallas, Inc.'s John Crawford. I'd called yesterday to talk about those big empty buildings. But Crawford loves to spread the good news about downtown, so our brief chat got the extended dance remix treatment once he began talking about the small empty buildings presently in play. Which ones, precisely, he would not say. But according to Crawford, two locations are presently under contract -- both of which would be reborn as boutique hotels.

"The deals aren't done," says Crawford. "But they're either on third base or between second or third."

I told him: People might have a hard time getting excited about more downtown hotels, given the back catalog of oldies-but-goodies downtown, not to mention The Joule expansion and the Omni set to open early next year. (Says Crawford, breaking news, the first event for the convention center hotel will be scheduled for "11/11/11," mark it down.) Locals want retail, affordable housing, cheap eats, green space, etc. But more places for out-of-towners to stay? Not so exciting.

"Yes, they are for out-of-town users," he says, "but the extension is, part of the reason we have the interest is because of the convention center hotel. There will be overflow from more and bigger conventions. But they'll also be used for local events and meetings and conferences. Look at the Larry and Ted Hamilton's aloft on Young Street. It's doing great. They'll knock if out of the park. It's neat. They do weddings, meetings there. I see all of this being part and parcel of a bigger mosaic."

Yes, yes, but ...

Where's the retail and all the other stuff locals have been asking for since forever? Where, oh where, are the waffle trees?

"Unfortunately, those hotels will have eateries and coffee shops, but, you're right: We don't have a grocery store, a book shop, a movie theater yet," he says. "But we're working on it daily. We just don't have the critical mass to make it happen yet."

Crawford, of course, does point to those so-called "quick wins" he hopes will be generated by the Downtown Dallas 360 plan. Some of those, he says, will be part of Tim Headington's Joule expansion, which went before the City Plan Commission only today. So, I asked him, what, realistically, is likely to be the first thing to pop up in downtown that might make locals happy (or as happy as we get)?

"I think what will happen first is some kind of a corner bakery -- not the chain, but a local bakery concept where you're having breakfast, lunch, and and it could be combined with a bookstore," he says. "We're trying to combine mixed uses like that. And we're moving aggressively. Right now, we're not talking to anyone about a movie theater. We talked to one two years ago, but the cost was exorbitant. Something like a Studio Movie Grill might work, but the ROI on doing a movie theater is huge. And grocery stores in Oak Cliff and Walmarts in Deep Ellum -- if those things take place, it might take away from a grocery in the middle of downtown. That could impact that. But we're working on all of this it daily."
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43 comments
Chris Danger
Chris Danger

To make boutique businesses work, you need big commercial as the anchor. It works that way in the 'burbs, its the same business model in an urban downtown corridor. Case in point: Pasadena, CA. The main thoroughfare (Colorado Ave) goes right through the downtown corridor, where retail, restaurants and business all seem to co-exist without much issue. At one light, theres a Target 2-story store, across from that is smaller boutique businesses and restaurants that do brisk business on both weekdays and weekends, day and night.

While im not suggesting to the city lights project to put in a two story super target(or am I?) in the block area, some sort of retail (grocery/drug w/ pharmacy) would be a welcome relief to many who either dont want to mess with the ghettofied Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market or drive up 75 to mockingbird/lovers to a chain grocery store..

Speaking of, Whats the hold-up on Krogers taking over the old movie theater parking lot at Haskell??

Lakewoodhobo
Lakewoodhobo

Looking forward to this hotel announcement, but I would much rather see a boutique hotel in Fair Park. It could be Art Deco like the Miami Beach hotels and it would be absolutely packed during the fair or any of the growing list of events held there.

Bob
Bob

Why don't all of you folks who think bookstores are not doomed put all your retirement money into Barne & Noble, or whatever other bricks-and-mortar bookstore you can still find, and see what happens? I have known owners of three local bookstores that slowly, inexorably, withered away while the big boys flourished, and now it is time for the big boys (B&N, Borders, Walden, etc.) to meet their fate.

Mourn Borders, mourn Cokesbury, mourn Doubleday, but face reality--we don't put our book-purchasing dollars where our mouths are.

And leave Luby's alone.

MattL1
MattL1

One word: Monorail

Yakuza_Fighter
Yakuza_Fighter

You can put the book store next to the buggy whip store, slide rule store, floppy disk store, etc.

NealK
NealK

"'Unfortunately, those hotels will have eateries and coffee shops, but, you're right: We don't have a grocery store, a book shop, a movie theater yet,' he says."

Does Urban Market no longer count as a grocery store?

http://www.urbanmarketdallas.c...

Mjblazin
Mjblazin

What's the attraction of boutique hotels? Most corporate travel departments, now strictly managed by computer applications, have caps that don't allow staying in them. Who stays in them, in the middle of a recession, besides a celebrity on someone else's dime?

Montemalone
Montemalone

If they want suburbanites to come downtown, line Main St with Red Lobsters and Olive Gardens and Outback Steakhouses and toss in a Cheesecake Factory and a Mi Cocina. then you need Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, A&F, and whatever other stores are in the mall. Walgreens, CVS, Petco, etc. and, you'll have to knock down some buildings to create massive parking lots with free parking. In other words, turn it into Plano.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Seem to recall a Wall Street Journal article a few years back about a hotel that was pulled from Victory Plaza due to the fact that Dallas was overbuilt in luxury hotels. Too much high end stuff. Am reminded of the fictional detective Nero Wolfe’s saying “That is of course is the advantage of being a pessimist, a pessimist gets nothing but pleasant surprises, an optimist nothing but unpleasant”. Sounds like the sales and marketing department where I use to work-they would sit around all day telling themselves and building up their expectations ignoring all dissenting opinions and when reality set in they were shocked: “but we had all those feel good meetings…. What went wrong?” they would remark.

lg
lg

Walmarts in Deep Ellum??????????????????

scottindallas
scottindallas

Nothing says hip and urban like John Crawford.

This Isn't Rocket Science
This Isn't Rocket Science

I fear he is of the generation that just doesn't get it.Maybe it's not so much a generational thing as much as a mindset thing.

Hotels? Big businesses? Please. Not the answer.

First, you need FREE.Free parking and stuff I can do for free with my family every day of the week.Free parking and multiple free nights at museums, the symphony, etc.Free parking, free arts things, AND family-friendly restaurants.A great playground near less expensive restaurants along the lines of El Fenix or Penne Pomodoro.Somewhere else, a great soccer field.OUTDOOR CAFES.And lots of security.But get people downtown first. Hotel guests will just head to Uptown to eat and shop or Northpark.

Businesses downtown will simply die on the vine with the crew currently in charge of downtown.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

Grumpy, keep in mind: Walmart is putting a Sam's on Bachman Lake, on Northwest Highway and Webb Chapel Extension. And though it has yet to be announced, they will be planting a Walmart right next door, in the shopping center where the old Sound Warehouse and Office Depot once stood (should the paperwork ever go through). Which means NW Hwy will have a Sam's, a Walmart and that Target (from what I hear the most profitable in town) all in a row.

Guest
Guest

So the convention center hotel is expected to be so successful that there will be enough overflow to justify even more downtown hotel space but so risky that no private financing sources could be found to build it?

That seems.... unlikely.

Downtowner
Downtowner

Boutique hotels are not necessarily a bad thing. They bring in more visitors, who in turn demand more services that us poor downtown folk want. But please, quit asking for a bookstore because it's quite clear from the Borders bankruptcy that those are a thing of the past. A RadioShack or a Gamestop would probably make more money, but we do need more grocery/bakery/food options.

A downtown movie theater would be awesome. Put an Alamo Drafthouse in the Main Street corridor, reopen the West End Cinema or build a 3D IMAX at Victory Park, whatever will have the biggest ROI, but do something.

Gangy
Gangy

Walmarts in Deep Ellum?!

Ed D.
Ed D.

There will still be a need for bookstores in 10 years since people still want and need books. (The buggy whip market didn't move online, just almost out of existence.) What's happening now is a shake-out from the massive over-building of chain bookstores, not the end of all bookstores everywhere.

A good downtown bookstore might be modeled on the kind of bookstore you find at the airport (compact layout heavy on periodicals, best-sellers, and impulse buys) but with the addition of good customer service that gets to know the neighborhood and stocks accordingly. It won't be the biggest bookstore in Dallas but it would be just right for a walkable downtown as part of a larger retail mix.

This Isn't Rocket Science
This Isn't Rocket Science

I was at the big Barnes and Noble on NW Hwy last night.Lots and lots of people.We had to wait in line to purchase our books.

Yeah, so those crazy, behind-the-times book readers...

abuckley1970
abuckley1970

I went for the first time today - awesome little spot - very well thought out. We bought a few groceries and wine then ate lunch there and the food was quite good. My 12 year old has asked to go back. :)

It was nice to see people out walking around and stopping by for groceries or carry out. If they go under, I'll be surprised.

NotTheSuburbs
NotTheSuburbs

I was thinking the sam thing when I read that comment.

Anyone know if they are profitible yet?. I ate lunch there thursday and they were pretty busy. I'm addicted to their patty melt.

Oak Cliff Townie
Oak Cliff Townie

A ten minute cab or courtesy van ride west on the Tom Landry to Cockrell Hill there are three name brand Mini Hotels that are well within a traveling Business persons budget.All the conveniences of home with in an even shorter van ride across the bridge or the street .

As If we travel that much anymore most of our gatherings are on conference calls or Satellite CCTV.

This Isn't Rocket Science
This Isn't Rocket Science

Wow. You just listed all the places I see in NYC, which has a pretty vibrant downtown scene. But maybe it just seems that way to me since I went to HS in Plano.

In fact, 5th Ave. in NYC has a lot of the same stores Northpark Mall has.

Why? Because people seem to spend money there.

And CVS? Get out! There's one (or some place just like it) right by the hotel we always visit. The line at that drugstore is often a long one, too, bc apparently locals and tourists need drug stores.

And next to those chain places, tucked here and there, are really interesting shops and restaurants and musuems I don't see in Dallas.

Across from the Eckerds/CVS/Walgreens in Boston, I had the BEST cappuccino I've ever had (Modern Bakery?). Got my coffee, walked across the street and got a spiral notebook for 1 child and Chapstick for the other child.

Chains seem to allow other businesses to take root.Inexpensive places increase foot traffic.

If it's good enough for NYC and Boston, I'm pretty sure it's okay for Dallas. The point is to meet people's needs, not bleed them dry so they can't wait to get home or back to the burbs.

Guest
Guest

I see more people walking around downtown Plano on any given day than I find walking around downtown Dallas.

I kinda think that Downtown Dallas would be improved by something like Eastside Village, and some of those storefronts that make up what most would consider to be the entirely of Plano's downtown would be awesome in downtown Dallas (granted, with fewer antique shops inhabiting them), but most of the similar buildings in Downtown Dallas were knocked down years ago to make parking lots.

Not that 99% of Plano is like downtown Plano... but then again, the part of Dallas I live in is extremely similar to what people think of when they think of Plano (regular suburban neighborhood down the street from an Arby's).

abuckley1970
abuckley1970

I know, right. A walmart in deep ellum? where in the hell are they are going to put it? and best of luck to them dealing with that PD (sarcasm). LOL

I'll believe that when I see it. Parking is already a nightmare in DE so unless walmart can open up shop under 2500 sq. ft., they're screwed anyway.

Guest
Guest

Just curious, but who do you expect to pay for all this free stuff?

NotTheSuburbs
NotTheSuburbs

Couldn't disagree more with the free parking. The last thing downtown needs is more cars. Parking needs to be more expensive to get people to use mass transit and to walk. Streets need to be narrowed, traffic slowed down, sidewalks widened, Look at all of the great cities of the world, Are they vibrant because of cheap parking? Why are those people walking around?

I take Dart to work 99% of the time but when I do drive, I pay $2 for all-day parking. If it were $10-$15 a day you'd see a lot more people taking the train.

Downtown Dallas is not the suburbs. There is plenty of free parking in Frisco.

Guest
Guest

Downtown Wylie has a book shop. :)

Yakuza_Fighter
Yakuza_Fighter

I'm sure they all went to Luby's afterward. Seriously, I'm not sure why urban planners and Angela Hunt have such a hard-on for the rapidly disappearing bookstore. Like the other poster wrote, bookstores will go the way of record stores.

Border's couldn't even make the highly desirable West Village location work.

Personally, I would like to see Dallas open a hostel downtown.

Guest
Guest

Today's book stores are yesterday's record stores, they are not long for this world. In 5 years I expect most people will either: (1) buy digital; or (2) buy hard copy on-line. In 10 years it will be almost exclusively digital, as will be movies, games, and music. I'm not saying there won't be a place for book stores, but I expect there won't be many of them and they are going to be used book stores in low cost locations.

NotTheSuburbs
NotTheSuburbs

Are you serious? There are tons more people walking in Dallas than downtown Plano.

This Isn't Rocket Science
This Isn't Rocket Science

Hmmm....let's see.

Currently we have mass transit and no free parking and downtown Dallas is dead.

On the other hand, places with free parking like Northpark, Uptown, Frisco, Southlake, etc. are very vibrant and full of people spending money.

I'm not pro car or anything, but reality is what it is.I like bike paths and jogging trails and mass transit and being outside; without free parking downtown will never catch on.

abuckley1970
abuckley1970

ah...that makes a little more sense. should've read that first before I responded to lg. LOL

Still don't think that's a good place for it even though it is close to the DART station. But, if it's zoned for it and there are no deed restrictions prohibiting it....

I would hate to see them get TIF funding.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

Why would Walmart go into the failed City Lights location when it has a store on the west side of Central across from City Place at the next exit north?

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

You just hit the nail on the head, why doesn't downtown have a YHA-sanctioned hostel? Thats something i've asked for years, seeing other major cities have at least one.

When it comes to bookstores, yes theres going to be a need for them for years to come, but the big chains are going to pair down into smaller locations.

abuckley1970
abuckley1970

Agree with all of that but I'm betting it's all digital in 5 years versus 10.

Guest
Guest

Whenever I go down to Downtown Dallas (which is, admittedly, usually nights and weekends), the places I walk by are frequently virtually abandoned except for the guy who wants to either sell me a DART Rail ticket or to get my DART Rail ticket from me if I'm done with it (admittedly, there's a similar guy at the Downtown Plano DART station).

Not counting the vendor at the Lily Pad, I counted seven people between St. Paul Station and Main Street Gardens (and back) the last time I was down there.

But I go to Downtown Plano (admittedly, almost exclusively on weekends) and there are old folks walking the antique stores and people in the park across from the DART station and people filing in and out of the two restaurants. Even if it's only a couple of dozen, that's still more than seven.

DoubleOJoe
DoubleOJoe

Yes, and we also have a winery, tons of restaurants, performance spaces, and events on the square. Not to mention Franconia Brewery not to far up highway 5. You might almost think that people enjoy spending time in downtown McKinney because there are plenty of interesting things to do... hey, has anybody mentioned that to Dallas developers?

Downtowner
Downtowner

I would love to see a Half-Price Books downtown, but how can you not put bookstores in the same category as record stores 10 years ago? Yes, those places may have bookstores today but will they be around in 5-10 years?

Downtowner
Downtowner

Because the one on Hall is a Neighborhood Market and the City Lights store might be a "real" Walmart or a hybrid of some sort. Not saying I support it, but just saying that might be the difference.

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