The first lesson in real estate (other than, of course, "location, location, location"), is don’t take anything personally. What you always need to remember is that it’s always about the money. Period.

That’s why last week’s extended and passionate discussion of the pending development options — Sam’s/Wal-Mart and JCPenney — at the former Timbercreek Apartment complex land being redeveloped by Trammell Crow took me by surprise. We don’t usually get 10 comments on one post, or have the same topic take over the most popular post list. The discussion centered around why those stores aren’t "upscale" enough for the way we want to view our neighborhood. In other words, why does NorthPark get the fancier, more prestige retailers like Macy’s and Corner Market and Apple, and we keep getting more Wal-Marts?

I’m not here to pass judgement on whether Wal-Mart is upscale enough for our neighborhood or whether moving Sam’s from its perch at Park Lane and Greenville to Abrams and Northwest Highway is a step in the right direction for our neighborhood.

I’m here instead to talk about the money.

Consider, for example, why theTimbercreek project won’t be attracting Corner Market and Macy’s: start drawing 1-, 3- and 5-mile radius circles from the center of each property. What will you find? The median family income for these circles will be considerably lower than for the same circles centered on NorthPark or Preston Center or Highland Park Village — places where the upscale retailers many residents say they want here wind up locating instead.

One more thing about the radius circles: When viewed from Los Angeles or New York or Chicago or even Bentonville, Central Expressway cutting across the middle of the radius doesn’t seem like much of a barrier to retail traffic — even though we all know that it is, and particularly for traffic traveling eastward to shop. In other words, those of us on the east side of Central willingly drive westward to shop, while those on the west side generally don’t visit shops on our side of the highway.

The big-name, high-profile national retailers don’t have anything against our neighborhood; odds are, they have no idea that the maps they’re looking at contain neighborhoods called Lake Highlands, East Dallas or Lakewood. They just see sub-par demographics, thanks to the radius circles, and that’s the end of their interest.

That’s why local retailers and businesspeople ultimately wind up populating neighborhood shopping centers — these people know Lake Highlands and Lakewood and East Dallas represent relatively high-income demographics, and they know that if they locate their businesses in the right locations within the neighborhoods, we’ll patronize them and, hopefully, help keep them in business. They don’t have the money to run radius reports and have someone analyze them; they just know the area, put their finger in the wind and open a shop.

The businesses may not be the marquee names some of us are looking for, but their owners are the ones investing in our neighborhoods. That’s why, as a whole, they deserve our support.

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