Inside the deal that brought Target to Oak Cliff’s Wynnewood Village
Iconic southern Dallas shopping center is having a moment
Nearly 80 years after it opened – and at the tail-end of the decline of the American mall – Wynnewood Village is getting new life in a redevelopment effort propelled by an unlikely force: Target.
The introduction of Target into the nearly 80-year-old center in southern Dallas isn’t just the driver of its revitalization; it represents a fresh direction for the retail juggernaut’s growth strategy.
In 1960, Oak Cliff’s Wynnewood Village had everything a young family could need.
Dallas’ first open-air strip mall, it was built to serve the master-planned community of Wynnewood, constructed in the image of the first modern American suburb, Levittown, New York.
The shopping center wasn’t just a grocery store flanked by infinite asphalt. It was positioned to be a true community hub. Lined with towering oaks, Wynnewood Village featured a drive-in bank, a 1,000-seat movie theater, an outpost for the once-mighty department store Montgomery Ward and the 73-room Wynnewood Hotel.
When Red Bird Mall opened in 1978 a few miles south, it spelled doom for the iconic center, and few of the aforementioned attractions survived the 1990s.
Despite the city’s historic lack of investment in southern Dallas, pride in Wynnewood persists.
In fact, Wynnewood North was voted “Best Neighborhood in Dallas” in 2012 by the Dallas Observer. But the community’s former crown jewel, Wynnewood Village, didn’t fare as well.
New York-based REIT Brixmor Property Group purchased it in 2011.
“There’s just so much density there and so much demand that really isn’t being met,” said Brixmor’s Brett Milke.
Within a 3-mile radius of the shopping center, the population is more than 160,000 with an average household income of $71,355.
It’s an inter-generational landmark for the community. When Milke speaks to people about Wynnewood Village, they regale him with nostalgic stories of learning to drive in the back parking lot or getting a first job at the center.
“We need to make sure we’re doing this right, because if we go in there and dictate what we’re putting in, it’s going to blow up in our face,” Milke said.
With input from the community, Brixmor took its first stab at redevelopment with plans that included an LA Fitness and a movie theater. At the same time, the city of Dallas prepped the site with a $4 million stormwater infrastructure project.
But, the pandemic quickly snuffed the developer’s plans. LA Fitness opened in 2020, but the theater was scrapped.
“We went back to the drawing board as Target was looking at their growth plans. It happened to click for both of us,” Milke said.
A new Target
More than 30 Target locations dot the Metroplex from Plano to Burleson.
But there are none in Dallas’ southern semi-circle cut by Interstate 30 and Loop 12.
A typical location for the retailer is like the store at the Gates of Prosper, which opened in the fast-growing suburb north of Dallas in October.
At that location, Target’s iconic logo is visible from all six lanes of University Drive and TX-289. Plus, the location is just a mile from the entrance to Dallas North Tollway.
Nestling a Target among Wynnewood Village’s oaks wasn’t an obvious choice, said Karla Smith, executive vice president at SRS Real Estate. Target has been her client since 2007.
But the pandemic era pushed Target to seek ways of meeting customers where they are: both to promote health amid a global pandemic and to better serve the store’s diverse customer base.
For example, the store beefed up its curbside pick-up program and stores’ ability to fulfill online orders as customers reduced in-person shopping. When 2020’s racial reckoning prompted companies to rethink approaches to diversity, Target was open to emphasizing inclusion when deciding where to grow. The area around Wynnwood is majority Black and Hispanic.
“It was a unique opportunity to enter into a community that Target was not previously capturing,” Smith said.
The store could open as early as August, according to a recent filing with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
‘A great tailwind’
Wynnewood’s redevelopment comes at an epic moment for DFW retail.
As investors shy away from an office market made tumultuous by remote work trends and expensive debt, they’re finding a safe and reliable refuge for capital in retail.
“The lack of new retail construction coming out of the Great Recession has been a great tailwind for owner/operators of existing retail centers like ours,” Milke said.
The dearth of inventory has pushed up asking rents. In the third quarter of 2023, they averaged $20.05 per square foot, a surge from $18.31 per square foot from the previous year, according to Partners Real Estate.
“Wynnewood Village has the added leg up of being one of the only large retail centers in this area of Oak Cliff with large developable tracts remaining,” Milke said.
The addition of Target is already providing a boost to Brixmor’s redevelopment effort, he said. If successful, could provide a template for Target’s future growth into markets like Wynnewood.
“I think Target will be well received by the market, and I hope to be able to explore opportunities in similar trade areas,” Smith said.