Sundance Square is the main shopping and dining district in downtown Fort Worth, but it has been struggling to recover. Tenants sometimes blame a change in management.
FORT WORTH, Texas – Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Dr. Marie Holliday has three stores in the Sundance Square neighborhood of Fort Worth, including her dental office. Now the nearly 30-year-old tenant has been reduced to two after her perfumery went online.
“It definitely doesn’t feel the same,” she said. “I love downtown and am very sad about the way things are.”
The heart of entertainment in downtown Fort Worth doesn’t look or sound like it used to be. While new tenants like Revolver Taco or Urban Plantology have moved in, old favorites like Bird Cafe have left and vacancies have risen from 10% to 30%, according to Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
“You didn’t survive just because of the pandemic,” said Holliday.
In early 2020, just a few months before the virus led to nationwide shutdowns, the owners Ed and Sasha Bass changed property management in the district.
“It was a perfect storm,” said Holliday.
Holliday and several other renters now say they feel unsupported, and one recent, frustrating change is parking.
“Ease of parking is always critical to any restaurant or restaurant,” said Mike Micallef, President of Reata.
Reata has been in the district since 2002, and Micallef says last year’s downturn that hit shopping and entertainment districts across the country is only part of the problems Sundance Square is facing.
“COVID was definitely an issue, but I think you have to look at the landlords and how they support the various companies,” he said.
Sundance Square has phased out its often-used free valet system for $ 21 a day or $ 7 an hour.
“With Sundance’s current valet parking, it’s not affordable for the average person,” said Holliday.
There is free self-parking in parking lots and garages just a few blocks from the central square.
Now, however, the property advertises the closest to the square and Reata for $ 30 a day.
“We continue to receive complaints from customers about valet prices,” said Micallef. “Many of them just don’t want to run out of the parking lot either.”
Micallef says many guests don’t want to walk, and competing developments like Clearfork offer free parking. He says another big competitor is the University Park Village shopping district, which also has a large open lot.
The new Mule Alley development has more tenants occupying units, despite paying for parking at around $ 7-15 a day. Hotel Drover offers valet parking for $ 5 for two hours, and parking for the restaurant is free for two and a half hours.
“I think it will have a negative impact on our business,” said Micallef. “I understand valet parking might not be free, but I think if we keep it consistent with our other downtown competitors, I think that’s a great thing.”
“They won’t come that often and they definitely won’t stay that long,” said Holliday. “I feel it and some other dealers feel it.”
Since many office buildings are still not full and congresses have not returned, some tenants who want to relax also complain of a lack of help and communication.
Holliday says the previous management kept tenants informed of upcoming events, regularly asked for updates on changes, and helped promote them.
“I would hope they start listening to us and communicating with us better,” she said.
“We didn’t see a lot of support on the marketing side,” said Micallef.
The WFAA spoke to a spokesman for Sundance Square management. They declined to be interviewed for this story. The WFAA sent a list of several questions and tenant complaints, but received no response.
Sundance Square is not dead, but new urban developments offer more options for both visitors and residents of the city. Filling vacancies is just as important as avoiding new ones.
“We’re used to having a vibrant downtown,” said Holliday. “I think we just have to work together and work together more.”