What's Next for the Design District

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Dallas-based Dunhill Partners isn’t known as a development company. But for nearly eight years, Dunhill President and Founder Bill Hutchinson had kept his eye on then-owner and friend Mike Ablon, whose PegasusAblon had spent years repositioning and reorganizing the area. Hutchinson realized the district’s potential, and threw his hat in the ring to buy it. When it acquired the Dallas Design District in November 2014, it wasn’t taking another one of its signature, commercial shopping center-style investments.

“I had watched what Mike had done with interest and amusement,” Hutchinson says. “I knew that the potential was there to create much more significant value and continue to develop the area into what could be, in my opinion, the hottest district of the city. I look at it a little bit differently than everyone else. I look at it as, the Design Center needs to stay a Design Center that focuses on the showrooms, the designers. They are the heart and soul of the district. All we’re going to do is compliment them with residential and retail and restaurants, and build around them.”

This tenet, shared by Hutchinson and Ablon—and Trammell Crow before them—has long been crucial to the Design District’s integrity as its own piece of Dallas. Ablon says that although the area has been through several distinct iterations of ownership and personality over the course of its history, its industrial and manufacturing roots have held steady. “There was this whole notion about taking it from a warehouse/industrial district to a showroom/gallery/light-manufacturing center to this multifaceted piece of city fabric that could have a living experience and a dining experience,” he says. “It kept the ethos of what it already had and held it for the future, as opposed to scrapping everything and putting in more of the same.”

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