News Article | 10/31/2008

Dallas tenants finding their niche in Arts District, Victory Park

One address is edgy, and the other is artsy.

Victory woos tenants with high-energy sports events and trendy watering holes.

In another corner of downtown, the Arts District is playing a different tune with world-class cultural venues.

“Both areas have great things going for them,” said Jon Altschuler of commercial property firm Stream Realty. “The new buildings in both areas are attracting tenants.

“It’s which kind of culture you prefer, and people have different tastes.”

In the competition for office tenants and high-dollar condo buyers, Victory Park and the Arts District are two of the hottest center-city milieus. But the booming districts are developing distinct flavors.

Victory – with its American Airlines Center arena and soaring W Hotel and residential towers – is chasing a younger, 21st-century crowd.

Just a few blocks away, the decades-older Arts District is gaining international attention with construction of the Winspear Opera House and the Dallas Center for Performing Arts, which open next year.

Dallas law firm Thompson & Knight – a longtime supporter of the district and Dallas arts organizations – recently moved into the One Arts Plaza building.

“We’re right at the end of Flora Street, looking all the way up to the Museum of Art,” said Thompson & Knight’s Sam Burford. “We couldn’t be happier.”

Individual preference

Thompson & Knight considered other downtown locations but was eager to move to the Arts District. The company just received a 2008 Obelisk Award from North Texas Business for Culture and the Arts.

“We are the oldest law firm in town and have been in typical law offices before,” Mr. Burford said.

“We can envision how it is going to be to walk out the front of our building and up the street to all these facilities.”

Accounting giant Ernst & Young considered the Arts District before picking Victory for its new downtown office. The company will move almost 1,300 people there next summer.

Ernst & Young hopes its new digs will be a hit with the young professionals it courts.

“We had a chance to take our next year’s recruiting class over to Victory when they were in town, and they were all very impressed,” said Ernst & Young managing partner Clint McDonnough. “With all the great stuff Victory has going on, it will be a real benefit to us.”

Distinct, for now

Real estate brokers who represent companies in the hunt for new office space say the decision often boils down to which neighborhood offers the most perks.

“It’s just a question of which one of those areas will seem more appealing on a day-to-day basis to the tenants,” said Joel Pustmueller of Peloton Real Estate Partners.

“In the case of Thompson & Knight, the culture won out. In the case of Ernst & Young, the entertainment venues won out.”

Mr. Pustmueller said the differences in the Arts District will be more apparent when Flora Street reopens next year.

“It’s hard to understand what the Arts District is going to be like until you can walk from one event to another.”

And both areas have new buildings in the works – Two Arts Plaza in the Arts District and the Two Victory Park tower.

Construction of the park over Woodall Rodgers Freeway and continued growth in adjoining Uptown will eventually blur the lines, developers say.

“Victory wants to be the most animated urban district,” said developer John Sughrue, who’s working on the Museum Tower condos in the Arts District. “They attract a more young, urban and late-night crowd.

“We have these incredible cultural destinations that attract a more affluent and mature crowd,” he said. “At some point, everything will merge into one big urban district.”