How the Plaza at Preston Center is upping its style ante


What’s fueling the new vibe at the Plaza at Preston Center? It’s more than just round-the-clock cupcakes


The Plaza at Preston Center is upping its game. The shopping center at the southeast corner of Preston Road and Northwest Highway in University Park — on the beaten path between two top shopping destinations of Highland Park Village and NorthPark Center — has had several upgrades and new tenants in the past year, evidence of the owners’ vision for the Plaza to be more than a traditional community center with a grocery store and a public library.

The center has taken on a new air with more local and new international fashion boutiques — the revived Pockets Menswear and the women’s store Aftershock London, for example — and a new restaurant, True Food Kitchen, which adds to the high-quality fare at existing restaurants Hillstone, R+D Kitchen, Taco Diner and others.

Hillstone is typically packed with moneyed Park Cities types, who come for gourmet comfort food.

“The owners never just wanted to fill the space,” says Mike Geisler, partner at Venture Commercial Real Estate, the firm that leases the center for the Caruth family. “We tried to build a tenant mix that is more distinct.” The Caruths had already owned the land and purchased the center 15 years ago. Helping to reshape its pedestrian-friendly four blocks is a 60,000-square-foot, five-story office building, completed almost a year ago with an underground garage that frees surface parking for customers.

At the same time, more boutique owners are interested in Dallas, and many of them don’t want to be in a mall. That is offering a stream of tenant choices that simply didn’t exist in the past. The Plaza has been collecting unique retailers such as Calypso St. Barth and Sprinkles, while taking a risk with startups such as Lucky Dog Barkery. Russian fashion designer (and Southern Methodist University student) Kira Plastinina picked the center for her first U.S. Lublu boutique because she knew her sorority sisters were already shopping there.

The Plaza at Preston Center has upped its posh factor with new shops, including Lublu, which opened in August, from Russian designer (and SMU student) Kira Plastinina.

The center as a whole averages annual sales per square foot of about $650, but its fashion-boutique sales are much higher, Geisler says, with some exceeding $1,200 per square foot. That is attracting new-to-the-market tenants — as well as some from other centers. Longtime jewelry boutique Ylang 23 is moving out of Galleria Dallas and into the Plaza in January, doubling its space. Pockets Menswear reopened in the Plaza in October with new owners who were employees of Pockets founder David Smith. Andy Weil and Doug Duckworth together have 46 years of experience working with Smith, who decided to retire. (Smith’s Highland Park Village lease was bought out by Italian menswear line Ermenegildo Zegna.) Customers persuaded Weil and Duckworth to carry on the Pockets brand. “We considered other locations like Knox and south of where we were,” Weil says, “but this location was perfect for us because they’re putting a lot of money into the center and we’re close to our existing customers.”

After 28 years at Galleria Dallas, Charles and Joanne Teichman are moving their jewelry boutique, Ylang 23, to the Plaza, into bigger digs.

The Plaza is benefiting from more tourism, especially since the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center expanded with the Omni Hotel, Geisler says. “We’re getting those people who don’t want to go to a mall and are seeking more of a unique tenant mix.” Tootsies and Calypso report seeing shoppers from greater distances away in Dallas. Geisler gives Sprinkles — the Beverly Hills cupcake shop featured in the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars — partial credit. “Sprinkles still has lines out the door,” he says, “and so does the new [24-hour cupcake] ATM.”

Photographs: Mei-Chun Jau (Plaza at Preston Center sign); Jonathan Zizzo (Kira Plastinina); Ditte Isager (True Food soup); Adam Elliot (Tootsie’s); Lara Solt (Hillstone restaurant); Mei-Chun Jau (Charles and Joanne Teichman)

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