Plano's Legacy West is aiming to have the Coolest Stores in North Texas

December 04, 2015

The leasing for Plano’s Legacy West is being done in layers.

The announcements about headquarter moves, restaurants and a hotel came first. Now the slate of retailers is coming together for Plano’s $2 billion development.

The first phase of Legacy West, more than 300,000 square feet of restaurants and retail, will open in March 2017. The $2 billion development is being built by Karahan Cos. on 240 acres next to J.C. Penney’s headquarters.

Suitsupply, an Amsterdam-based men’s apparel brand, Sprinkles cupcakes and Planet Blue, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based beach apparel boutique, have signed leases.

Mark Masinter, managing member of Dallas-based Open Realty Advisors, said several other leases will be signed in January. He’s going after stores from NorthPark Center and neighborhood hot spots such as Knox-Henderson and West Village. Masinter was also behind the retail rejuvenation of Henderson Avenue in East Dallas.

“Plano is no longer just a suburb of Dallas,” Masinter said. “And now great brands want to be there, and we’re giving them the environment they want.”

Putting stores and restaurants into these megaprojects is a complicated task that requires thinking like a curator, said Marsha Getto-Aikens, a business development strategist for Gensler, the firm that designed Legacy West.

The concept of mixed use has come a long way from a little retail, a little office space, and apartments, condos and maybe a hotel thrown in.

Some mixed-use developments being designed today are like entire new urban cores serving multiple generations, with options such as public elementary schools, libraries, parks, hospitals and assisted-living apartments.

Legacy West is considered a mega-mixed-use project, practically a new city inside another city.

The Hudson Yards project in New York, which will have 17 million square feet of commercial and residential space and the first Neiman Marcus in Manhattan, is another example of a mixed-use development on steroids.

Such projects will take years to complete, and tens of thousands of people will live and work there.

Sizable population

From just the three big corporate offices announced so far — Toyota, FedEx Office and Liberty Mutual — Legacy West will have a daytime population of 13,000 employees with a $1.3 billion annual payroll.

That doesn’t include the headquarters employees already there, others coming, visitors to the 300-room, $82 million Renaissance Hotel, and the occupants of hundreds of apartments and offices being built along the west side of the Dallas North Tollway at Legacy Drive.

“Plano isn’t considered a second-tier market anymore,” Masinter said. “Retailers know they can come there with a second store and do the business they do in Dallas.”

Getto-Aikens said retailers get a taste of a new development by knowing first which restaurants a development has attracted. “Retailers want to know if this is a place for my brand, and one way they can tell is from the restaurants.”

Top restaurants announced last summer for Legacy West include True Food Kitchen; Tommy Bahama Island, a combination store, restaurant and bar; and Lombardi family restaurants Taverna, Bistro 31 and Toulouse. Shake Shack, a hamburger restaurant that New Yorkers line up for, has signed a lease, and Masinter said a top-brand steakhouse that he can’t name yet also plans to open there.

“Once you have a slate of restaurants, retailers understand what your project is about,” Masinter said.

Old-style thinking

Ross Conway, a leading designer at architectural design firm Gensler, which designed Legacy West, explained some of the ideas behind the new mixed-use developments.

For a long time, “high-density development was frowned upon because we had so much land in Western cities, especially like Dallas,” Conway said. “The thinking was, why be crowded?”

Now we’re happier being closer to everything, he said. “Younger people, especially, aren’t interested in commuting an hour and a half each way.

“It’s a lifestyle that doesn’t want isolated, one-note experiences, where the only thing I can do, for example, is shop,” he said. “People want to come down from their buildings and get a cup of coffee and walk in a park and see what everyone else is doing,” Conway said.

Densely populated cities in the Northeast and in Europe have always lived this way, he said. “You go down five floors, and you’re in an exciting city environment.”

Conway is doing research on what’s missing in mixed-use developments and how to fix it. Adding a variety of daytime and evening uses makes a development “better for everyone who works, lives or visits,” he said. There’s no reason a school can’t share a parking lot with a restaurant that’s only busy at night, for example.

Some people who move to mega-mixed-use projects wind up living in smaller spaces, Conway said, “because your living room is what’s outside your doors.”

It’s a lifestyle and quality-of-life issue, he said. “When I’m an octogenarian, I might like to be downstairs in a busy coffee shop watching the 30-year-olds getting their coffee on their way to work.”

Twitter: @MariaHalkias