D Magazine - January 2010
Southlake Town Square Opens
By Brian Stebbins
Before the David Schwarz-designed shopping mall (and city hall) opened in 1999, the phrase “new urbanism” meant nothing to the average North Texas suburbanite. Now it has spawned imitators across the country, as people have learned to appreciate development on a human scale, with a sense of place.
Shortly before the opening of Southlake Town Square’s first phase, in March 1999, I said that I believed the grand opening would serve as a “passing of ownership” from our vision to the reality of Southlake finally having a downtown of its own. We knew we’d gotten it right when, as the barricades came down, letting the public in, children were playing in the park, throwing Frisbees, and dipping their hands into the fountain. From that moment, the community took ownership of its downtown.
Though many people considered the idea of creating a small downtown “from scratch” novel, the only novelty was the plan to do it over more than 20 years instead of more than 100 years. All downtowns have to start somewhere. I said in 1999 that within five to 10 years, when the shininess wore off and the trees had grown and the project began to show some wear, it was going to be a real head-scratcher to figure out when it was built. It didn’t take even that long. Less than two years later, a visitor walked through Town Square and remarked that it was the best renovation of a historic downtown that he had ever seen.
What we tried to create was something that allowed people to naturally come to this place and not have to think why they were coming, but provide enough destinations that when they got here, they would fulfill any of those desires. In March 1999, Southlake Town Square included about 250,000 square feet of retail and office uses. In 2009, Town Square has grown to more than 1.3 million square feet of mixed uses, including the City/County Town Hall and Library, the Southlake Post Office, a downtown Hilton Hotel, a state-of-the-art Harkins movie theater, a deep lineup of retail establishments, 26 restaurants and other food and beverage operators, and more than 250,000 square feet of office and service businesses. Retail sales in 2008 exceeded $200 million, a testament to the project’s regional draw. And we’re not done. The Town Square master plan accommodates more than 3 million square feet of mixed-use development, leaving an estimated 2 million square feet yet to be built. We’re currently planning for the next 20 years of development at Southlake Town Square.
Perhaps one of the best testimonies to Town Square’s special place in the community came in December 2008, when Forbes.com ranked Southlake the most affluent neighborhood in the country. In the writeup, Brian J.L. Berry, a dean at the University of Texas at Dallas, was quoted as saying that what separates Southlake from its white-collar counterparts is undoubtedly its town square. “It is an upscale community with an expression of that status in its town square,” Berry said. “If there is anything special about the suburb, it is that square.”
Brian Stebbins is a founding partner of Cooper & Stebbins, the developer of Southlake Town Square.
Southlake Style - December 2009