Grow Desoto Marketplace

The Brookhollow Shopping Center in DeSoto, Texas, built in 1966, faced challenges common to many underperforming suburban commercial hubs. The city, which is underserved by high-quality retail, identified Brookhollow as an opportunity to create an entrepreneurial center and community gathering place.

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ASH+LIME managed the redesign of the parking lot and anchor building, planned the landscaping, wrote the zoning amendments, programmed activities, guided public outreach, reached out to media contacts, ran a successful “pitch day” event, and recommended comprehensive strategies to attract and support local entrepreneurs.

Grow DeSoto Market Place serves as an incubator space for local businesses in DeSoto, a suburb south of Dallas. The incubator operates in a unique public-private partnership, serving startups in the Best Southwest Region of the DFW area. Built in the 1960’s, the 26,000 square foot space previously housed an ACE Hardware store for many years. The DeSoto Economic Development Corporation (DEDC) worked in collaboration with the strip mall owner, incremental developer Monte Anderson, to brainstorm ways to repurpose the building. The property has now been repurposed to serve the needs of small local entrepreneurs. The marketplace has the capacity to hold 60 businesses; and as of early fall 2018, 80% of it has been leased to a variety of micro-enterprises, including restaurants, retail spaces, a full service fitness/rehabilitation center, and offices for local businesses.

The marketplace aims to serve as an affordable start up space for new and upcoming businesses to contribute to the local economy, while serving as an engaging retail environment for the community.

Location and Context

The strip mall which hosts the Grow DeSoto Market Place is located 1.8 miles west of the major thoroughfare Interstate Highway 35 East. Located on East Belt Line Road, the development is situated across the street from a church and private school. It is surrounded by a few schools, residential neighborhoods, and the DeSoto Community Outreach Center. The Grow DeSoto Market shares its parking lot with several local businesses within the strip mall, including service businesses and restaurants.

While most of the market sits inside the former ACE Hardware building, there are plans in place for a small portion of the parking lot directly north of the market’s entrance. That outdoor space has been lined with decomposed granite, and will be used as a central gathering space for food trucks and vendors. Other than the central gathering space, the relationship of the subject property to its surroundings is primarily motor-oriented, as DeSoto lacks the reliable public transit and walkable infrastructure typically associated with urbanism.

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How it works

While the building and surrounding strip are owned by developer Monte Anderson, the project came to be because of support and subsidies from the DeSoto EDC, which is partly funded by sales tax revenue. Much of the interior renovations were paid for by the EDC, and the corporation master-leases the space from Anderson. Thus far, the EDC has contributed $260,000 to the project, while the city has contributed $125,000. Once the project breaks even, Anderson and the EDC plan to split the profits 50/50.

The north end of the building consists of restaurant spaces, about 420 square feet each, with monthly rents of $1,400. The majority of the vendor stalls in the interior are already occupied by local vendors. These vendor spaces range from 105-305 square feet, and are leased monthly at $350-$750, respectively. There is one larger vendor space of 890 square feet, which is to be leased for $1,750 monthly. The spaces at the rear of the building are occupied by a fitness center and a beauty glamtique. The east side of the building, with its own separate entrance, is designated as a coworking space, including private offices, a conference room, and a resource room. The office spaces range from 50-279 square feet, and are leased monthly at $350-$750.

Each tenant pitched their ideas to the incubator’s management team. If selected, entrepreneurs will join the other marketplace vendors and receive a business space to meet their needs, with affordable rent. This membership also includes resources paid for the DeSoto EDC, including utilities, construction costs, and access to a professional marketing consultant.

With this incubator, the DEDC and Anderson provide the support for local micro-enterprises to thrive on a sturdy foundation, both financial and logistical. The benefit of the incubator marketplace model is that it can offer spaces to entrepreneurs at an affordable rate, without long-term commitments, while consolidating shared services such as operation costs and facilities. It is hoped that once these businesses outgrow their capacity at the marketplace, they can move into larger, more permanent locations in the Hampton Re-Development District, 1.5 miles north of the subject property.

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Impacts & Outcomes

Support from the community is key for the success of the marketplace. As the project progresses, Anderson and the DEDC aim to support the project’s tenants and the community, through advertising, business advice, and affordable rent prices.

Many of the marketplace’s tenants are young African-American business owners just starting out. Anderson views it as his responsibility to provide guidance to these local business owners, to help them navigate the institutional intricacies of starting a business.

Citizens of DeSoto are currently spending more in other towns than in their own town. In contrast to the large scale and commercial developments that the DEDC typically works with, the scale and focus of the marketplace are to target the growth of DeSoto by creating local jobs, engaging the community, and keeping the cashflow local, to support unique, local businesses in the town.

The market’s grand opening was on October 20, 2018, the long-term impact of the market is to be seen, the vendor spaces are almost all occupied and budding entrepreneurs are setting up shop. Already, the marketplace has provided the community with something much needed--affordable, healthy plant-based nutrition, from entrepreneur James McGee, who serves smoothies, fruit bowls and specials like jackfruit tacos at his newly opened restaurant Peace. Love. & Eatz, located immediately near the entrance of Grow DeSoto Marketplace. A new event center recently opened at the surrounding strip mall, an addition that may not have happened without the hub created by the marketplace.

suburban shopping center
revitalization

2018

 
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