H&M is coming to Dallas, but it will not open a store in Lake Highlands. And neither will any other national retailer.

That’s the opinion of David Shelton, who speaks not only as a commercial real estate broker but also as a neighborhood resident.

“NorthPark is so close; the Galleria is so close. It wouldn’t ever make sense. That’s the reason Lake Highlands doesn’t have a Southlake Town Square,” Shelton says, chalking it up to our neighborhood’s vicinity to already-established projects, not to mention “demographic hurdles,” he says — “population, incomes, being the main two drivers of a decision. The Lake Highlands demographics aren’t going to stack up compared to Northwest Highway and 75, and some of the other competing intersections.”

Because of the retail meccas west of us, shopping patterns already have been created, Robert Young, says. So what our neighborhood needs to attract more retail and restaurants is some sort of major project that can attract a cluster of stores.

A Lake Highlands Town Center, perhaps?

Exactly, Young says, but the Town Center mixed-use project at Walnut Hill and Skillman is “so dependent on having a great anchor,” Young says, primarily because of the project’s location far from major thoroughfares such as I-635 and Central Expressway.

If the Town Center does get going, “it’ll go gangbusters,” says Scott Wynne, another neighborhood resident and vice president-finance for ING Clarion Partners, a real estate investment management company.

“There are no bigger copycats in the world than real estate developers. When they see stuff is successful, they follow it. If the Town Center can attract those kinds of people and be a roiling success, then other people will follow suit.”

One of the biggest deterrents for potential retailers is the “overabundance of apartments” in Lake Highlands, Wynne says.

“If you drive them around Walnut Hill and Audelia, they see all the apartments, and they kind of go, uh, that’s a big turnoff.”

But apartments have a limited lifespan, he says, maybe 30 or 40 years.

“Yeah, they’re rundown — lots of Section 8 housing and crime and code violations — but they won’t last forever, and if we have another real estate boom like we did a few years ago, you’ll start to see them come down.”

Even if national retailers won’t pay attention, however, our neighborhood does have the potential to attract new grocers and restaurants. If H-E-B or Trader Joe’s decides to move to Dallas, Lake Highlands won’t be first on their lists, but “would be on their radar and be in their market at some point in time,” Shelton says.

“There are too many people in the Lake Highlands market to ignore. With an anchor grocer concept, you’re dealing with a much different profile of customer than you are with fashion retail.”

It’s a similar scenario with restaurants, Wynne says.

“You go into Mi Cocina, you go into Mariano’s, you go into Picasso’s, and they’re packed,” he says. “I think we’re really underserved, and when you go into those places, the lines there and the people there back that up.”

Wynne is one of many neighbors convinced that a Purple Cow — the family-friendly burger joint at Preston and Royal — would do well in Lake Highlands.

“I’ve only been harping on this, well, for eight years now — as old as my oldest daughter is,” Wynne says.

Any independent restaurant like this would receive a warm welcome in our neighborhood, Wynne says, and some corporate eateries would fare well, too.
“People here don’t mind a chain restaurant, just a not a run-of-the-mill chain restaurant that’s all over the place — not the same place you’re eating at in Columbus, Ohio, or Chicago, Illinois,” Wynne says.

Ultimately, though, it will take a shift in retail mentality to change the real estate landscape in Lake Highlands.

“The retailers fall all over themselves to go into the Park Cities and North Dallas and east of Central,” Wynne says. “They just don’t seem to get it — things over here don’t fit into the square box that they have for themselves. There will have to be some pioneers, and then others will follow.”