On the east side of Dallas’ fast-evolving Knox-Henderson neighborhood, Leigh Richter continues to ponder the vibrant entertainment district that dominates the scene surrounding Potter Square.
Aside from a few bothersome, if not mundane, development issues in the area, the commercial real estate broker remains steadfast in her approach to maintaining the integrity of a single triangular area she’s managed for nearly 30 years.
“I’ve handled these properties since 1995, so it’s a constant challenge to keep it all going,” said Richter, who is an executive vice president at Dallas-based Bradford Commercial Real Estate Services. “I have one long-term tenant that moved out at the end of December. One group I’m talking to, I’m waiting for them to send me the layout so I can finalize a proposal for her. And I have a serious prospect for the North Henderson Avenue space and will likely make it work.”
The property fronts North Henderson Avenue and Willis Avenue, and a space at 5045 Willis Ave. is being renovated as part of a $216,000 project, a filing with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation shows.
“The entire building is 8,000 square feet, and we are breaking it into three spaces,” Richter told The Dallas Express.
“The Willis space is 1,518 square feet. We are spending a lot on capital improvements. Some of this space predated my involvement, so we are getting everything [up to code], including ADA, new HVAC systems, and new roofs,” she explained.
An allowable use for that lot on Willis Avenue and North Henderson Avenue is retail, but Richter said the new tenants will likely use the building for small offices.
“It cannot be anything with food or beverage,” she said. “I cannot park one more restaurant down there.”
That’s because adequate parking for the high-density area is limited or does not exist. It is just one issue limiting development options in the district.
“A lot of properties down there have changed hands over the last 10 years, and it’s become an entertainment district. We had consignment shops and backroom stuff when I first got involved in the 90s. Tristan Simon changed Henderson Avenue,” Richter said.
D Magazine reported in 2017 that Simon “single-handedly revived” Henderson Avenue, opening several restaurants under the Consilient Restaurant Group name and a private club called Sense. Simon eventually sold his interest in Consilient and, a couple of years later, opened the real estate firm Rebees.
Now, the district remains rich with restaurants, bars, retail, and single-family homes. Extensive apartment and multifamily developments have cropped up if you follow Henderson Avenue further east, and even more development is expected to hit the Henderson end of Knox-Henderson with Acadia Realty Trust’s wide-sweeping plans for the area.
“The neighborhoods around there are all historical,” Richter said. “They’ve got some protections [historical designations] and they were adamant about not having high-rise buildings in the area. So there’s a height limit on what can be built on Henderson Avenue. It is more of a neighborhood feel and the big request I have is that the city finally stop the restrictive parking codes.”
It’s those restrictions that are preventing Richter from opening a restaurant nearby.
“When I first started, I had a whole conglomeration of restaurants that were very active on the block, closer to Central, like Hibiscus,” Richter said. “And valet was parking 40% fewer cars. We are still held to the same restrictions. But things are picking up in the area, and that is good.”
The renovations at 5045 Willis Ave., with Jones Commercial Interiors of Dallas listed as the design firm on the filing, are slated for completion in January.