Old Town, the shopping center at Lovers and Greenville that was once one of Dallas’ favorite collection of shops and boutiques, is getting set to return to those days.
That, at least, is the hope of tenants and Lincoln Properties, which built the center in 1968 and still manages it.
“We’re trying to keep some of the charm,” says Kelsey Hayes of Lincoln Properties, “while also bringing in services that appeal to the demand that’s out there.”
To that end, new tenants have ranged from Borders Books and Music to the Austin-based Texadelphia sandwich shop to Cost Plus, a mammoth gift and furniture specialty store. A Blockbuster Video is slated to open next summer in a new corner building Lincoln will build, says Robert Wright, a retail leasing representative for Lincoln.
“We want to have a mix of national tenants while keeping our existing tenants who have been here,” he explains. “I think all the smaller guys do better when they have a larger anchor in close proximity.”
That’s something much appreciated by tenants, who have seen Old Town founder on the waves of several economic developments in the past decade. One was the economic slump that hit Dallas in the early 1990s, slowed all sorts of economic growth, and was especially devastating to independent retailers. Another was the trend away from smaller, neighborhood locations to larger, more centrally located ones among regional and national chains.
For example, a drug industry trend toward free-standing stores moved Eckerd out of many Metroplex shopping centers, including Old Town, in the last couple of years. Tom Thumb built a new store next to its old Old Town location in 1994, because today’s grocery stores need to be bigger to compete.
Still, Old Town retained several advantages. Lance Price says when he opened CD Source in Old Town in 1993, the space he rented had been vacant for about a year. To Price, a former lawyer, the surrounding demographics were a perfect fit for his new business.
“The primary CD buyers are between the ages of 18 and 35,” Price explains, noting the shopping center’s proximity to the Village and SMU. Double Daves and Cost Plus have given business a boost, says Price, who also gets a lot of overflow Borders customers.
Another boost came from the construction on North Central Expressway and the new DART rail line, says Valerie Barrett, who is president of the Greenville Avenue Area Business Association and an Old Town tenant since 1981 with Barrett Optical. The former forced motorists to detour along Greenville Avenue in front of the center, instead of driving past on the expressway, while the latter provided train stations at Lovers and Walnut Hill lanes.
Today, occupancy at Old Town is nearly 94 percent, says manager Julie Gordon. Thirty of 39 storefronts are leased in the 245,000-square-foot center, which got a new roof and parking lot in 1998.
Lincoln broke ground on the shopping center in 1968. It was filled mostly with small mom-and-pop businesses, and was intended to intended to serve residents of the adjacent Village Apartments. The expansive Village was one of Dallas’ more upscale complexes.
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