‘Cool Little Touches Everywhere You Look’ — Stephen Summers on the Future of Knox Street
With Glittering Retail, Restaurants, and a New Hotel, Summers and Highland Park Village Management Are Helping Usher in a New Era for the NeighborhoodBY Lisa Collins Shaddock // 03.02.22
When the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway extended its tracks through Dallas in the 1880s, the city was still in its youth. On the precipice of its transformation from a rural Texas town to a major metropolis, Dallas reaped the industrial rewards brought by the railroad (referred to in short as the K-T line, or Katy) to become a bustling commercial hub. In 1922, the Highland Park, Texas Depot opened at the corner of Abbott and Knox Streets, offering passenger service to commuters and cross-country travelers in luxuriously outfitted Pullman Railway sleeper cars.
Today, this corner is still filled with palpable energy. An entry point from prestigious Highland Park to one of Dallas’ most walkable shopping and dining districts, the Knox Street area is made even more desirable thanks to its proximity to the Katy Trail — the 3.5-mile-long public park and walking trail that was formerly the Katy railroad. The amount of investment and new development in recent years indicates the neighborhood has only barely begun to scratch the surface of its potential.
The Developing Future of Knox Street in Dallas
The neighborhood’s future is being guided by a number of independent entities, including an A-Team partnership formed by Trammell Crow Company, MSD Capital, L.P. (Michael Dell’s investment arm), and The Retail Connection — which together own 12 acres of the area’s real estate. The joint venture tapped a division of Highland Park Village’s management company to oversee leasing, property management, and marketing — a move that speaks volumes about the kind of thoughtfulness and quality we can expect to see as Knox Street develops in Dallas.
Case in point? The decision to bring an Auberge Resorts Collection Hotel and Residences to anchor the new mixed-use luxury lifestyle development located along the Katy Trail, which will also include approximately 90,000 square feet of restaurants and retail, a luxury residential building, a six-story boutique office building, and a new park space. The majority of the development — set to begin construction is this year and is anticipated to be completed by 2025 — is being designed by Woods Bagot New York, which is using the Katy Trail’s rich history to inform key elements.
“Knox is a very special neighborhood already, and we want to preserve what’s great about it today but at the same time take it into the future,” says Highland Park Village managing director Stephen Summers, whose enthusiasm for the project is infectious. “Dallas is growing like crazy, and there’s insane demand from local and national groups, both restaurant and retail, to be here. It’s a standalone destination. These locations don’t become available in the United States very often.”
The Summers Effect
Of course, Summers — who oversees leasing for the development — is no stranger to once-in-a-lifetime real estate opportunities. In 2009, he and his wife Elisa Summers, along with Heather and Ray Washburne, purchased the historic Highland Park Village shopping center. Since that time, they’ve tripled sales, greatly increased the number of storefronts, and been able to command rents that are unprecedented in the southwestern United States. At the same time, the families have taken significant measures to preserve the center’s original charm, including adherence to its unique Mediterranean Spanish-style architecture designed by Marion Fooshee and James Clark in 1931, and conserving the landmark Village Theatre.
For Summers, the history is also personal: He grew up across the street from Highland Park Village, next door to his grandmother’s yellow Victorian home. “I used to cross Mockingbird to 7-Eleven to get my parents coffee and the paper,” Summers says. “From fourth grade on, they’d tell me to go put our name on the list at Mi Cocina. I’d run there, get the beeper, and run back.”
When they purchased the center a little more than a decade ago, Summers got pushback from a number of luxury brands he was pursuing as tenants. “Now, no one would consider not doing Highland Park Village,” he says.
Cool Little Touches Everywhere You Look
With word out about Knox Street, Summers is consistently fielding calls for information about the project and has already spoken to retailers and restaurant groups from New York, Paris, L.A., San Francisco, and Chicago, as well as Dallas’ top restaurateurs — many of whom Summers has quietly supported in passion projects around town.
“The demand has been kind of stunning. We could basically have the whole thing leased today, but it’s three-and-a-half years out, and we don’t know what the best restaurant group in Dallas is going to be in three years, so we want to let that play out,” he says, adding that there will be an emphasis on rooftop decks, outdoor dining, and second-floor restaurants that overlook the trail. “Maybe there’s a speakeasy in the basement … We just want there to be cool little touches everywhere you look that you can’t find anywhere else.”
While discussing the potential of Knox Street, he can’t help but share his excitement for new developments in neighboring areas, such as Fitzhugh — and, of course, Highland Park Village. “It just makes me giddy,” he says. “Our city is growing up before our eyes.”