Real Estate

Developer Request Hints at Potential for Downtown Dallas Grocery or Big Box Store

With the closing of Urban Orchard last August, downtown Dallas was left without a grocery store. Downtown residents with empty pantries are faced with heading to Uptown of Cityplace still, but a requested change in the development agreement between the city and Olympic Property Partners -- the firm rehabbing 1401 Elm -- suggests that could be about to change.

The city approved $50 million in TIF reimbursements for Olympic in January 2014 based on a plan for 512 residential units, office space and retail at 1401 Elm, the largest vacant building in the Central Business District. The agreement that secured the TIF funds called for a minimum 40,000 square feet of office space and a minimum of 25,000 square feet of retail or restaurant space. Now, the developer is coming back to the city to change those requirements.

Olympic is asking for the requirements to be simplified to 65,000 square feet of commercial space, period. Olympic's most desired use for the property, according to city staff, is an upscale grocer. Such a store "demands premium ground level space and space located directly above in order to configure at least 50,000 contiguous square feet."

Sounds good, right? It does, with one important caveat. Talking with the Dallas Business Journal in December about the potential for 1401 Elm, Jack Gosnell, who's be tasked with brokering retail for the building, also mentioned that the large contiguous space could be used for a big-box retailer.

"This could bring in a major retailer, like a big box retailer or a department store user," Gosnell said. "It's the first opportunity in downtown Dallas to bring in a 50,000-square-foot grocer."

Judging from the reaction to the Sam's Club that's getting built near Cityplace, here's guessing that a Wal-Mart might be a bit tougher sell than a Whole Foods.

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Stephen Young has written about Dallas news for the Observer since 2014. He's a Dallas native and a graduate of the University of North Texas.
Contact: Stephen Young