For years, Fort Worth was considered the more laid-back, less flashy neighbor of Dallas. Not for nothing is the city’s nickname, Cowtown, a reference to the cow-herding, Stetson-wearing, Tex-Mex-loving natives who build the west, while hifalutin Dallas residents shop at tony centers such as Highland Park Village, where tenants include Jimmy Choo, Dior and Harry Winston; North Park Center, which features Tiffany & Co. and Valentino, and Neiman Marcus, with stores in downtown Dallas and North Park.
But Fort Worth has been coming into its own. A slew of corporations have been moving to the area. According to Marcus & Millichap, 114,000 jobs have been added since September. In the last two years, Facebook invested $1 billion, purchasing 39 acres for future expansion of a data center; Lockheed’s $1.2 billion reconfiguration resulted in 1,000 new employees over two years, and, in 2016, two manufacturing companies moved to Fort Worth from California.
The new jobs brought workers and families looking for homes to buy and apartments to rent. Subsequently, annual average asking rent growth is ticking above the national rate. According to Zillow, there was a 5.7 percent home value growth into 2016 compared with 5.3 percent nationally.
Retail development has followed. The Shops at Clearfork, a 500,000-square-foot open-air center, will feature about 100 retailers, restaurants and entertainment concepts. Cassco Development Co., which is developing the 270-acre mixed-use project, partnered with Simon Property Group to build the shops, located in southwest Fort Worth off the new Chisholm Trail Parkway.
One sign that there’s a market and appetite for luxury in the area is the fact that Neiman’s opened a 90,000-square-foot store at the Shops at Clearfork. The project bows in November, but Neiman’s opened sooner because the retailer “was in a location in a very old, tired shopping mall about three miles away,” said Vicki Hanor, senior executive vice president of leasing at Simon.
Tiffany’s, Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Tory Burch will be located opposite Neiman’s. Home furnishings, an area of focus for the mall, will include Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams, Z Gallerie and Arhaus, among others.
Fort Worth hosts 8.7 million visitors annually. “Within the trade area, the population is 1 million to 1.2 million, with average household income of $75,000,” said Hanor. “People love Fort Worth. There are five major museums” including the Kimbell Art Museum, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, Sir Richardson Art Museum and the National Cowgirl Museum Hall of Fame.
Other retail developments in the area include Frisco, a 380,000-square-foot center in Prosper, the Tanger Outlet Mall near the Texas Motor Speedway, and a 350,000-square-foot center under construction in north Forth Worth.
“The Shops at Clearfork will be the new luxury hub for shoppers and retailers,” said Kathleen Shields, senior vice president of development at Simon. “This project will provide the unprecedented luxury experience that the Fort Worth market craves, with high-profile brands, unique restaurants and premiere amenities.”
AMC’s 36,000-square-foot eight-screen movie theater will have more than 800 luxury recliners, a MacGuffins bar and lounge and a large outdoor patio. A 30,000-square-foot Pinstripes will open in late 2017 and feature 12 bowling lanes and six indoor and outdoor bocce courts. The concept will include an Italian bistro with service around patios with fire pits.
Houston-based B&B Butchers & Restaurant will open an upscale steakhouse and traditional butcher shop at the Shops; Fixe, which hails from Austin, will serve Sunday Supper, as well as lunch and a Daily Social happy hour and dinner; Malai Kitchen’s modern Southeast Asian cuisine will feature elevated versions of classics such as Tom Kha Gai and Iron Pot Green Curry Chicken; San Diego-based Luna Grill will offer a Mediterranean menu, and Mesero’s Tex-Mex experience includes slow-roasted brisket, Carne Asada, Chicken Paillard, ceviche and cinco leches.
Neiman’s NM Cafe serves the store’s famous popovers and strawberry butter, chicken consommé and mandarin orange soufflé.
“We’re focusing on bringing entertainment components to our centers,” Hanor said. “We’re looking toward the future and what uses will attract our customer to come to the center and stay longer. The restaurants and entertainment combined could do more volume than a traditional anchor tenant such as a department store.”
Hanor said the shops have the potential to beat the companywide-average sales-per-square-foot rate based on its tenant mix. “It’s comparable to our property, the Domain, in Austin, which we built in 2007 and far exceeds the company average.”
Simon in the first quarter of 2017 reported retailer sales per square foot for the malls and outlets at its centers rose 30 basis points to $615, compared to $613 a square foot in the 2016 quarter.
Launching a property in challenging times can be nerve-wracking, but Shields pointed to the residential and office components of the mixed-use property as cushions for the mall. “You have the office population there for lunch and dinner, and residents on evenings and weekends,” she said. “It plays a major role in having that captive audience.”
Revealing that Simon operates another property in the area, Hanor said the two are different, so there won’t be a conflict. “We own a smaller center in the market, University Park Village, which consists of lifestyle tenants. The Shops is more of a mixture of luxury and special retailers. The Shops is going to be the new place in town.”