On Tuesday, Oct. 16, Stockyards Heritage Development Company, the group redeveloping much of the Fort Worth Stockyards officially announced M2G Ventures as the exclusive retail partner for the $175 million project.
The announcement may have caught some by surprise, but the two thirty-something twins have been cutting a path through Fort Worth real estate with a variety of ventures, from the Foundry District to the O.B. Macaroni building.
But the historic Stockyards venture, a delicate mix of honoring and continuing Fort Worth’s storied past as a rough-and-tumble Western center of commerce while taking the area forward, is without a doubt their biggest challenge.
Their involvement with the Stockyards redevelopment goes back to the early planning stages in October 2016.
At that time, the Stockyards Heritage team invited M2G Ventures to join the project to serve as the exclusive retail and restaurant partner – leveraging their expertise, industry relationships, and Texas roots to advise and curate a unique and authentic experience in the Stockyards and on Mule Alley.
“We interviewed a number of national and regional leasing teams that were interested in working with us on this landmark project and all were impressive in their own right,” said Craig Cavileer, managing partner for Stockyards Heritage Development Co. and EVP of Majestic Realty Co. “However, after meeting with Susan and Jessica and seeing their enthusiasm, energy and drive combined with their intimate knowledge of the who’s who in relevant retailers and restaurants we knew we had found what this project needed.”
Cavileer said after two meetings with the pair, he knew they were the right for the project.
“I was pretty convinced at the first meeting, but by the second I knew they were the right partner,” he said.
Founded in 2014 and led by twin sisters Jessica Miller and Susan Miller Gruppi, M2G Ventures has experience developing and redeveloping properties across town. Their largest has been the transformation of the area north of West 7th and east of University Drive now known as the Foundry District. It consists of 90,000 square feet of buildings over 6 acres and consists of retail, residential and commercial spaces.
Young and hip as they are, the sisters have not been afraid to tackle historic projects. That’s the case with the O.B. Macaroni site at 108 S. Freeway, not far from the fast-redeveloping South Main area. The pair have been working to turn the building, which dates back to 1860, into a viable commercial venture with several companies including CraftWork Coffee, Melt Ice Cream and Tex Malt.
“The redevelopment of the Horse & Mule Barns is the kind of project that we knew we wanted to work on from the beginning,” said Miller, M2G co-owner. “The concept of bringing a beloved, historic property into its new phase of life is exactly what our company is about. The impact this project will leave on our local, regional, national, and even worldwide community is unlike anything else.
“M2G Ventures is dedicated to the history and heritage of our great city and we’re committed to projects, whether we own or consult on them, that define the next chapter. We are excited and honored that Majestic Realty Co. and the Hickman Companies have entrusted us with such an incredible responsibility,” Miller said.
Following a difficult and sometimes contentious process of tax abatements and form-based codes, the Fort Worth City Council approved the $175 million Stockyards redevelopment in 2014.
Majestic Realty is leading the project along with the Hickman family, which owns 70 acres in the Stockyards. The partnership actually dates back 35 years when Majestic Realty Co.’s Ed Roski met with Hickman Investment’s Holt Hickman and the two discussed the idea of reimagining the iconic Fort Worth neighborhood.
Since then, the partnership, now known as Stockyards Heritage Development Co., has evolved to be a public/private partnership with the City of Fort Worth, which is working to upgrade the infrastructure in the area.
Phase one of the project includes $175 million worth of renovations including improvements to the Stockyards’ Exchange Avenue, and the building of an Autograph Collection 4-star boutique hotel, event barn and rustic resort, Hotel Drover, at the end of Mule Alley’s planned street of shops, eateries, creative office spaces and live-entertainment venues.
While the hotel is from Marriott, Cavileer said the Drover will reflect the area and its history and culture more than the hotel’s brand.
M2G’s challenge got a little easier in August, when Fort Worth-based Simpli.fi, a leader in localized programmatic advertising, signed a lease for 77,000 square feet of office space in the Horse and Mule Barns on Mule Alley in the Fort Worth Stockyards, relocating from its current headquarters near downtown.
JLL Executive Vice President Ryan Matthews and Vice President Matt Montague represented the tenant. Stream Realty Partners’ Seth Koschak and Tyler Maner represented the landlord.
“We were fortunate enough before we even launched to have our main creative office tenant to sign a 77,000 square foot lease bringing in 450 employees,” said Miller. “That was something we wanted to solve early on, to find that creative class of people that could embrace that cowboy culture. We’re fortunate to have that anchor for the shops and restaurants.”
Miller said the first question often asked when they try to bring in a new retailer or restaurant is what customers there are in the area. “To have that question answered before we even go out is great,” she said.
M2G Ventures say it approached the merchandising of Mule Alley by developing a retail strategy that incorporates the authenticity, creativity and signature history that makes the district a world-wide attraction.
Stockyards Heritage and M2G Ventures plan to create unique experiences in Mule Alley by focusing American heritage brands, entertainment concepts and chef-driven food and beverage spaces. The project is already 60 percent leased and is comprised of national and local brands, as well as the headquarters of the American Paint Horse Association.
Other national and local brands include: MB Mercantile & Supply, Shake Shack, Second Rodeo Brewing Co., RFD-TV/Cowboy Channel, and a new culinary concept by local chef Marcus Paslay.
The Shake Shack will be the first Fort Worth location for a hugely popular restaurant group that started as a hotdog cart in New York’s Madison Square Park in 2004 and now has more than 100 locations in the U.S.
Second Rodeo is a concept from Chef Jason Boso, best known for the popular Truck Yard in Dallas and Houston and Twisted Root restaurants throughout the Metroplex. The 12,000 square foot barn will overlook Marine Creek with a patio featuring indoor/outdoor seating under a retractable roof.
“You’re going to get to come down here in 2020 and feel like you’ve stepped into the future and stepped back in time at the same time,” said Miller.