Task Force Aimed at Adding, Enhancing Retail Options for Downtown Houston
In January of this year, Mayor Annise Parker announced the formation of a downtown Retail Task Force in cooperation with the Houston Downtown Management District. The purpose of the task force was to research all available retail opportunities and to address physical and policy enhancements that are currently suppressing downtown’s consumer appeal, ease of shopping, recruitment and commerce.
The task force is chaired by Fred Griffin of Griffin Partners. Members include the Downtown District’s Bob Eury; Jonathan Brinsden with Midway, owner of Houston Pavilions; George Levan, President of Crosspoint Properties; Doug Kelly with 1110 Main Partners LP; The Finger Companies’ Marvy Finger; Dawn Ullrich, President of Houston First Corporation; Ed Wulfe of Wulfe & Co; and Xavier Pena and Deborah Keyser of the Downtown Redevelopment Authority. Also on the task force is Andrew F. Icken, Chief Development Office of the City of Houston, who serves as liaison to the Mayor’s Office.
To better understand market demand, the task force concluded it was critical to survey the community in regards to their shopping behavior and needs.
The Downtown District distributed a 20-question online shopping survey to the community. Out of 1,776 respondents, 51.5 percent currently shop one or more times per month in downtown and 94.5 percent said that they would definitely shop downtown if the right merchandise was offered and if the stores were in the right location with appropriate shopping hours. Survey respondents also said that improvements are needed to the public realm to create a better shopping environment.
“With a shopping trade area of more than 74,000 residents within a 2-mile radius of the urban core and recent supporting retail studies, the Retail Task Force strongly believes that downtown can absorb at least another 350,000 square feet of retail, especially now with Macy’s closing,” said task force chair Fred Griffin. “In addition to the strong residential trade area, downtown also has an office population of 140,000 and more than 18 million visitors annually to sustain shopping—the key is the right stores in the right locations.”
The task force has identified potential sites for anchor retail tenants and is in the process of vetting the viability and feasibility of each site. All locations are in the area considered the “Retail Core” which is Main at Dallas and the streets adjacent including Lamar and McKinney to the north and Milam and Travis to the west. Concurrently, the task force is having discussions with national retailers to gauge interest and determine requirements for them to locate downtown.
“Increasing the amount and quality of retail downtown will enhance the economic vitality of the City,” said Mayor Annise Parker. “We want to be considered a top tier city in every way with a healthy, vibrant mixed-use downtown. This will not only increase our attractiveness as a convention and tourist destination but also support our residential initiatives and be a major tool in continuing to attract major employers into the Central Business District.”
With conclusions reached that there is market demand and viable downtown sites are potentially available, the task force has determined it is time to move to the next phase of this work. This next phase will be to do the following:
- Engage stakeholders regarding public realm issues such as parking, civility concerns, improved pedestrian and building lighting, retail building and storefront guidelines and more effective street level and anchor signage.
- Continue discussions regarding potential retail sites.
- Develop coordinated retail leasing strategy.
- Continue and expand contact with prospective retailers, both national and local.
- Examine ways the tunnel can further engage with street level retail.
We currently expect a report to be issued during the 2nd quarter of this year.
Contact: Janice Evans-Davis