Richardson Emerging stronger by learning from experience

Richardson Emerging stronger by learning from experience
As the national recession sets in across the land in 2009, there are still a number of bright spots in North Texas, particularly in Richardson. What has made Richardson resilient to economic stress is our recovery from the 2001 tech downturn. Learning from that experience, Richardson emerged stronger, more diversified and better positioned to handle the current economic crisis. Now, ironically, the technology companies are among our brightest performers. 

Business and industry
AT&T’s headquarters relocation this year has already produced some positive activity, as the company transferred a 300-person customer service center from downtown Dallas to a Richardson office building at 2270 Lakeside Blvd. The move puts AT&T in a virtual tie with Nortel as the city’s largest employer with approximately 3,500 workers. Stay tuned as AT&T consolidates and deepens its presence in the North Texas area.
Fujitsu’s campus in northeast Richardson is also growing, adding a 70-person telecom manufacturing line from Europe and Japan and relocating a 350-person unit of its division that produces point-on-sale hardware and software systems for the retail industry.
The international theme has carried over to Huawei and ZTE, China-based makers of telecom hardware and software. Huawei is bolstering its 200-person presence in Richardson with marketing and business development personnel and ZTE has renewed its lease and 80-person U.S. headquarters commitment to the Telecom Corridor. Expect more local growth for both companies in 2009.

Retention important
Even the local financial services sector is expected to fare much better than national counterparts, with Bank of America (formerly Countrywide) keeping most of its 3,000-person Richardson contingent, which is responsible primarily for the servicing of existing mortgages. By the end of 2009, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas will be planning for a January 2010 occupancy of its magnificent new 1 million square foot Galatyn Park facility – the largest office campus built in DFW in nearly 20 years.
While speculative office development is on hold, that does not preclude one or two build-to-suit projects. There are plenty of superb office sites available in Richardson along the 190 and 75 corridors.

Retail and mixed-use
As the curtain goes up on 2009, mixed-use projects at 75 and Campbell (Eastside) and at Galatyn Park (The Venue) are nearing completion. Eastside has added Jersey Mike’s Subs and soon Twisted Root Burger Co. will join its present food offerings of Panera Bread and
Boudreaux’s Cajun Grill. Eastside apartment leasing is moving briskly with tenants signed for 100 of the first 124 units. Another 230 units will come online in January and the last of the total 450 units will be open by spring. At The Venue, 275 upscale, multi-family units are already 85% leased.
Demolition was completed this year for the $148 million Brick Row transit-oriented village development at the Spring Valley DART Station and Greenville Avenue, clearing the way for drainage and other infrastructure improvements. The first of what will be 500 upscale apartment units with 40,000 square feet of retail space are already staring to come out of the ground. Additional phases will include 150 townhomes and 300 condominiums.

Redevelopment strong
Remarkably, of the 10 neighborhood retail centers targeted by Richardson for redevelopment in 2004, we enter 2009 with activity on all ten, either in the planning stages or with renovations completed. The repositioning of Richardson Square at Plano Road and Belt Line from an enclosed mall to a three-anchor power center with Super Target, Sears and Lowe’s Home Improvement Store has created several additional pad site opportunities for restaurants and service retail. Bank of America is constructing a new facility on one of those pad sites and nearby, construction will be underway later this year on an 18,000 square foot Aldi’s grocery store. The European-based grocer is bringing a cost-saving dynamic to the market.
In addition to the remodels, four new centers have been built in northeast Richardson and along SH190, plus one in the Greenville Avenue/Polk Street area.

2009 and beyond
Excitement is also building at The University of Texas at Dallas, where a $20-million, 148,000 square foot, 400-bed freshman living/learning residence hall will open in the fall of 2009. UTD has $1.8 billion in campus expansion projects slated for the next decade.
Considering other Richardson accomplishments for 2008 – such as the city earning a “AAA” municipal bond rating, achieved by only 3 other cities in Texas; RISD’s distinction as the largest public school district in Texas to attain a “recognized” ranking, and Business Week’s selection of Richardson as one of the top places in the U.S. to raise children – there’s no doubt that in 2009, Richardson will continue to be an extremely attractive choice for both businesses and residents.

Collin CountyBusiness Press
January 13, 2009
By John Jacobs, Sr. VP, Economic Development
Richardson Chamber of Commerce

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