Press EXCLUSIVE: New Dallas Mart Dressing for Success

December 2003 EXCLUSIVE: New Dallas Mart Dressing for Success EXCLUSIVE: New Dallas Mart Dressing for Success
By Connie Gore
Last updated: Dec 7, 2003  12:27PM 

DALLAS-The city's newest centerpiece, Fashion Industry Gallery, will open doors Jan. 22 to women's wear buyers as they descend on Dallas for a four-day "market" to preview goods in 50,000 sf of chic boutique space in the heart of the arts district. 

Part of the Dallas showing will take place in the 270,000-sf Southwestern Plaza at 1807 Ross Ave. This year's shutdown of the International Apparel Mart at 2300 Stemmons Freeway has triggered a "range war" of sorts as part of the fashion world's tenant base follows Crow Holdings Co. into a big ticket makeover of the top two floors of the World Trade Center and the balance heads into Southwestern Plaza, 1.5 miles to the south. 

John Sughrue, president of Dallas-based Brook Partners, tells that his leasing team has cornered about 50% of the tenants from the apparel mart for the gallery's permanent showroom space while the balance are first-timers to town like TSS Sales and Findings, both of Los Angeles, and Apropo, a New York City accessories retailer. Some $5 million has been spent on retooling the first floor in the 38-year-old, former headquarters of Southwestern Life Insurance Co. 

With the 50,000-sf first phase filled by 40 tenants, Peloton Real Estate Partners' T.D. Briggs and Joel Pustmueller are courting tenants for another 50,000 sf of showrooms. Build-out is set to begin in the second quarter. Showroom space is being divvied into 1,000-sf to 1,500-sf spots at an asking rate in the mid-$20 range. Lease terms are running two to five years. The build-out plan for the Fashion Industry Gallery or FIG as it's being called also includes about 20,000 sf of trade show space intermingled with showrooms and another 20,000 sf in the basement as temporary exhibit space. 

Sughrue stresses the intent isn't to rival the World Trade Center venue, but rather create another location and perhaps even link the two with a shuttle....and maybe one day, add a third if Neiman Marcus fulfills its plan for a fashion incubator across the street from its flagship CBD store. LA, Sughrue points out has four such marts so two or three isn't out of the question for Dallas. He says FIG will limit its fashion space, following a lead set by the New Mart at 127 E. Ninth St. in Los Angeles, where there are 100 tenants and another 150 waiting in line for an opening. 

Southwestern Plaza's top floor is occupied by the Beck Group, which is underwriting a $1-million park for the undertaking. The Henry C. Beck Jr. Park is being designed as a meeting place, with water features and sculptures, to complement neighbors like the Nasher Sculpture Garden, Meyerson Symphony Hall and Dallas Museum of Art. Sughrue says the plan also includes a cafe and lounge, with the Fairmont Hotel coming in as the operator. The first phase debuts in time for the contemporary women's wear market, but the official grand opening won't take place until March. 

Sughrue says the idea took shape in May when some apparel mart tenants approached him. Brook Partners and NeXcomm Capital Partners bought the five-story building in early 2000 and planned to convert it into a telecom hotel until the market bottomed. Brook Partners now is the managing partner, with Euristates of Paris as the equity player, in a repositioning aimed at capitalizing on Dallas' reputation as a fashion center and host city for seven buyers' markets each year. 

As for the balance of the building, Pustmueller and Briggs have landed another full-floor tenant, a newcomer to Dallas that will be announced within 30 days, while they look for more large users to fill the remaining 50,000-sf floor. The team is negotiating 10-year office leases, quoting a rate of $20 per sf, plus electric.