As the City of Southlake nears build-out, the community has prioritized high-profile developments on its remaining land. These efforts have paid off, but the city’s leadership has its sights on continuing the momentum.
“As far as our growth and economic development goes, what got us to the top is not necessarily going to be what keeps us at the top,” said Southlake Mayor John Huffman.
Today, 92% of Southlake has been built-out, with the major remaining tracts of land located along State Highway 114. About 31,000 people call the city home, with full population build-out expected to hit 34,000.
The community has about 300 acres slated for master-planned residential development and has seen recent success in bringing in commercial projects. Among these, the massive Carillon Parc project recently broke ground.
Carillon Parc will deliver 565,600 square feet of retail, restaurant, office and other commercial uses to Southlake. The 42-acre property was originally part of a roughly 400-acre development.
Hines developed most of the residential component of the property but decided not to develop the commercial and mixed-use components. Instead, a partnership called Carillon Crown will develop the site.
The project has been years in the making. When residents bought a house in the neighborhood during the preceding decades, they did so with the promise of a large European-style mixed-use development coming to the community. It’s taken years of effort by both city leadership and private developers to make the development a reality.
“Carillon has been a little bit snake-bit by history,” he said. “A lot of what you saw, as far as the community coming out and celebrating, was because it felt like such a huge win.”
Southlake has seen exceptional growth over the last few decades, with the community counting Sabre Corp. (Nasdaq: SABR) and TD Ameritrade as some of its top employers. The town’s office footprint is more than 4.2 million square feet, while the town’s retail footprint measures in at over 4.5 million square feet.
The Southlake Town Square development has generated foot traffic for years. While the development and others like it have made the community successful, the broader economy and the way people live and work are changing, Huffman said, and it’s up to city leadership to keep up with those changes.
“It’s our job as a city to make sure we have both a development and business climate that encourages entrepreneurs and encourages great companies to come in and build their brands and do business here,” he said. “It’s also incumbent on us to make sure the quality of life is such that people want to move their offices here and people want to move their families here.”
Huffman spoke with the Dallas Business Journal about his economic development priorities for the City of Southlake.
Tell me about some of the things you’ve done as mayor to encourage economic development.
One of the things I’ve done as mayor is put together an economic development task force of citizens who are successful in different industries, businesses and markets. They come from a variety of different backgrounds, and they can help us keep our ear to the ground as far as different deals that come through.
I would certainly love to land a corporate headquarters or two, and we have the space to do it.
What industry do you hope to attract to the city?
Financial services is a huge deal. Charles Schwab is right down the road, along with Sabre and Fidelity and some others. This is becoming a corridor that’s filled with a whole lot of financial services. We’re also going to look to attract businesses that support the financial services industry.
As far as medical, our Methodist Hospital has expanded its emergency room and that’s now fully functional. Because of that, we have a homegrown, full-service hospital. That’s going to continue to (create) opportunities to have economic development within the medical industry.
There are various other businesses and industries that support what we have going on. We also have some big tracts of land that would be very attractive to large corporate users, and that’s not going to be industry-specific.
What are your economic development priorities?
My priorities as mayor are to make sure the economic development deals that we pursue and land are good for Southlake comprehensively, setting us up for a future that is economically sustainable. That includes not only enhancing our tax base, both commercial and residential, but also adding to the character of the community without changing it.
What would you say are your constituents priorities, specifically when it comes to economic development?
My average constituent wants what anybody wants in a family-oriented community. They want a place where they can work, shop and play, where they can eat out and dine, and do so safely with a variety of awesome options.
That’s what constituents want: An excellent lifestyle and options. Part of that is having a robust small business climate, as well. My goal is to make sure the environment and the whole galaxy of development is supportive of that.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.