Note: This article was updated Nov. 6 to include additional responses from Hoque Global.
Downtowners are used to ambitious real estate projects — witness Hillwood Urban’s Victory Park proposal for an Amazon Urban Village headquarters — but nothing in recent memory compares in scale or grandiosity to the plans laid out last month by developers Hoque Global and KDC.
News of an eight- to nine-block redevelopment plan trickled out over the summer, leading to the official reveal on October 18 of the Dallas Smart District. The project hits all the bullet points city planners have come to expect from a major urban master-planned development:
- Class A office space
- Luxury residential
- Retail and hospitality
- Pedestrian-friendly open spaces
Hoque and KDC also intend to build a 78-story tower that, if realized, would become the city’s tallest skyscraper.
Mike Hoque, the entrepreneur and downtown restaurateur behind Hoque Global, got this project rolling three years ago when he began buying up — or getting under contract — the land between the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center and the Dallas Farmers Market.
The neighborhood Hoque and KDC have trained their sights on include three contiguous blocks of parking lots, a school the Dallas Independent School District already plans to close, a historic church building, and numerous old commercial buildings that aren’t worth nearly as much as the land they occupy, given the gentrification that has encircled the area.
KDC is the developer backing Epic, a mixed-use project coming to Deep Ellum that’s positioned to become the gateway into the district east of the CBD. KDC is also behind the Legacy West—JPMorgan Chase, million-square-foot campus in Plano. In 2016, Hoque joined forces with KDC and Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects to fill in the details and produce a marketable master plan.
“Both KDC and Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects are doing remarkable work with Hoque Global to launch the transformative Dallas Smart District,” Hoque said in a prepared statement.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings praised the development team for their vision and their decision to do a project within the “GrowSouth” boundary, “making it part of the downtown gateway to southern Dallas.”
The Dallas Smart District project gets its name from the team’s commitment to the use of sustainable, high-tech designs for energy and water systems, communications, security, parking, lighting, waste management and recycling, according to the developers.
Gregg Jones, a principal at Pelli Clarke Pelli, described the project as “creating the greatest collection of state-of-the-art international Class A office space in the United States.”
The project will proceed in phases, with Phase One to include:
- 600,000 to 1 million square feet of international Class A office space
- An urban grocery store to serve the 20,000 Downtown Dallas residents
- A food hall with a culinary incubator, upscale casual dining and innovative culinary concept experiences
- A boutique hotel with residences
- Park and green space with ample recreation areas, pet friendly environments with parks and bike paths
In its totality, the master plan calls for more than eight million square feet of office space. The buildings are being massed and arranged to create three distinctive, yet interconnected sections with a central node, referred to as the “jewel box,” that will act as the hub. The jewel box, a conical glass and steel structure, will be at the southeast corner of Canton and South Ervay Streets.
The conceptual site plan utilizes the east-west parallel streets of Canton and Cadiz Streets as the principal avenues for vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Illustrations also show an off-road pedestrian promenade in the block south of City Hall and the closure of Browder Street between Canton and Cadiz Streets to make room for the promenade and green spaces.
At the opposite end beside the Farmers Market, the two triangular blocks divided by Marilla Street show a tower of about 34 stories on the south block, along with an open plaza suitable for outdoor events on the north block.
The triangular blocks are immediately north of an unrelated development that is in progress; San Antonio-based Lynd Company recently acquired about half of the 1900 block of Cadiz Street (At the southwest corner of Cadiz and Harwood Streets) for a multifamily project. Hoque said they have been in conversations with Lynd and other multifamily developers about residential projects in the Dallas Smart District.
“We are certainly staying aware of their work in Farmers Market, as our neighbor,” Hoque said.
KDC will be in charge of the office space development. Hoque Global will direct the residential, retail and hospitality elements; Hoque claimed there would be an announcement soon regarding a “first of its kind” major brand coming to the district.
“Our Dallas Smart District,” Hoque said, “will provide innovation and flexibility that will endure for generations, which is exactly what major brands are seeking in their regional hub and headquarters facilities.”
There’s been no mention of a timeline, but if the Victory Park turnaround is any indication, this project will be a work in progress for the better part of the next decade. To begin, the district will need significant infrastructure improvements, including streets and utilities.
The Hoque and KDC team plans to break ground in the fourth quarter of 2018.
Under the name of Canton Cadiz Phase 1 LLC, Hoque purchased the two contiguous blocks of parking bounded by Browder, Canton, South Saint Paul and Cadiz Streets, and three-quarters of the block at the southeast corner of Canton and South Akard Streets; the remainder of the block is home to Dallas Fire Station 4.
There won’t be much controversy over the demolition of most of the buildings under contract, but the Dallas Landmark Commission is on alert over Hoque’s intentions for 910 Browder Street. The Sara Ellen and Samuel Weisfeld Center, also known as the Eagle’s Nest Cathedral for the past five years, is 105 years old, designed in 1912 by two prominent architects to be a sanctuary for the First Church of Christ-Scientist.
Weisfeld holds the mortgage note, but the church pastor, W.V. Grant, put the property up for sale because of declining membership and building maintenance costs. Weisfeld has sworn he won’t agree to a transaction that involves its demolition, but the building is not a protected landmark and the Pelli Clarke Pelli renderings show a new structure with a green roof on that location.
The Hoque response to Dallas Towers was that, “Any and all properties with historical significant to Dallas will be treated with the uptmost respect and care in the Dallas Smart District development. We work closely with the Dallas County Historical Commission, Historic Preservation at City of Dallas and the National Trust for Historical Preservation on all of our properties.”
Hoque added that in situations where a building of historic significance was removed or substantially altered, the company has a record of utilizing refurbished and recycles materials.