Shopping Center Possibility In South Tyler
By CASEY MURPHY
A Dallas company is considering purchasing 80 undeveloped acres in the Cumberland Park area in south Tyler to turn it into a large shopping center filled with a mix of national and local retailers and restaurants.
Mark Whatley, broker for Burns Commercial Properties, is representing the landowner and believes that if the project goes through, it would be the largest scale commercial development Tyler has seen in 20 years.
David Wilson, of The Retail Connection, L.P., in Dallas, has been working with Bob Garrett, of Fair Oil Co. and Broadway South Development, which owns the land sandwiched between Gander Mountain and Academy Sports + Outdoors.
"We are preliminary," Wilson said of the possible development. "It is certainly speculative in nature at this point, but we are getting a lot of interest, and that's really what will drive the opportunity. If tenants respond to us and we get their approvals, we'd be able to put together a very nice tenant mix based on what we're hearing at this point."
If the land is purchased, the development -- Village at Cumberland Park -- would house a large shopping center consisting of a "big mixture" of local and national businesses, similar to the Arlington Highlands shopping center, a 725,000-square-foot project developed by The Retail Connection. It includes restaurants, entertainment, a mixture of "junior box" stores, specialty retail and office/service uses.
"You create a lifestyle element to the center, a nice park, waterways, fountains, things like that," Wilson said. "Something very attractive and ... have a mix of tenants that work to make everybody stronger.
He said they are interested in the Tyler property because his company represents a number of major national tenants interested in coming here.
"Tyler is a very good market," he said. "We're finding it to be desirable right now. The tenants who have recently come to town, both restaurants and others, have very good sales reports." He said Chuy's and BJ's Brewhouse are two examples of new businesses that saw great openings here.
Since 2004, The Retail Connection has been a tenant representation company, with about 40 brokers representing about 225 tenants and represent 23 million to 24 million square feet of retail space for lease, Wilson said.
The firm's clients, include JC Penney, Bed Bath & Beyond, buy buy Baby, The Sports Authority, Nordstrom Rack, Equinox, JoAnn's and JP Morgan Chase.
The company also represents many of the leading investment companies in the business, with 23 million square feet of retail project assignments, including more than 2 million square feet of its own developments.
The Retail Connection also develops property - buying and retrofitting existing retail space or building them from the ground up, which is what Wilson is in charge of, he said.
Wilson, 59, is the president of Connected Development Services, the division of the company that facilitates tenant-driven, ground-up development, and has worked there since 2005. He has been in the development business since 1977.
Wilson said they started looking at the Tyler property in 2007 or 2008, but the "bottom fell out" of the market. Now that they have worked their way through the downed market and see the light at the end of the tunnel, he said they believe it is time to start work on it again.
"We knew the retailers would be ready to start opening new stores," he said, "They've run out of these older relocation opportunities in most markets, especially in Texas. The retailers are starting to look around and say, 'If I'm going to keep ... growing here, we're going to have to go back to building new buildings as opposed to retrofitting older buildings where maybe tenants have gone out of business.'"
He said most of the older buildings have been retrofitted and released.
Wilson stressed that the land sale is not final.
"It's quite preliminary," he said. "We're just looking ... We're getting out there and trying to create interest."
Whatley, who is the landowner's broker and is also a Tyler city councilman, said the land is already zoned as a planned commercial district, but if the property sale were to go through, the site plan for the project would have to be approved by the Tyler City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission.
He said Simon Property Group, which owns Broadway Square Mall, had a contract on the property in 2006 and planned to turn it into a retail center, but it fell through. He said although they still have work to do with The Retail Connection to buy the property, he finds it exciting that retailers are interested in coming to Tyler. He said because it has "been dead" for the last two or three years, the new interest is encouraging.
Whatley has worked with Wilson and The Retail Connection before and he called the company's Arlington Highlands center "one of the most successful retail developments in Texas in the last five years."
Arlington Highlands is a 750,000-square-foot retail center on 80 acres fronting Interstate 20. It offers the combination of a lifestyle center and traditional power center in the DFW Metroplex, including a mix of junior anchors, local boutiques, national lifestyle retailers and more than 25 restaurants, according to www.theretailconnection.net
The Tyler land is similar in size to the Arlington project, which Wilson said has turned out to be tremendously successful, even through the downturn. He said he could see about 650,000 to 700,000 square feet of retail space if the Tyler project goes through.
"Our centers are well pre-leased," he said. "We do a lot of work with credit worthy, national-type tenants. We got through the downturn fine and now we see it as an opportunity to get out there again and get started on new development."
Whatley said the company has a relationship with and represents a lot of national retailers and are able to show them plans for a new prospective development, such as the one in Tyler, which makes it easier to put a deal together pretty quickly.
Although Whatley learned years ago that a deal is not done until it is done, he said he is encouraged at this point about what he has seen from the company's plans for the possible Tyler project. He believes they will know more about if and how the project could go within the next 90 days, he said.
Wilson said if acquired, the land would be the first property development in Tyler for the company and construction could start as early as next spring if the deal goes through.
Whatley said if the center were developed, they would want local retailers to open businesses there as well as national tenants.
"We think it's a great location, especially with the new Loop 49 coming in there," Wilson said. "We think it's really going to change the traffic pattern in Tyler to a great extent."
He said he believes many motorists will enter and exit the city at that intersection.