Neiman Marcus’ landing at Fort Worth’s Clearfork more than year in making

Rendering of Clearfork development’s retail site including just announced Neiman Marcus.

Courtesy of Clearfork

Scott Nishimura

The luxury specialty retailer Neiman Marcus will headline a 500,000-square-foot upscale, open-air retail center at the rapidly emerging Clearfork development near the Trinity River and the new Chisholm Trail Parkway.

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Neiman Marcus gives a significant boost to what Clearfork’s developers believe will be a premier site to live, work, shop and dine.

“A lot of retailers have been waiting for this announcement, that it was real,” said Crawford Edwards, a principal in Cassco Development Co., the family-owned development arm of the 7,000-acre site that was previously the Edwards Ranch and where the 270-acre Clearfork project is being developed.

Cassco announced Thursday it had entered a partnership with the international retail development company Simon to develop The Shops at Clearfork, at the southwest corner of the new Chisholm Trail Parkway and Edwards Ranch Road.

Neiman Marcus was the only retailer identified in the announcement. Edwards said he expects more announcements soon, perhaps within the next few weeks.

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“Fort Worth is just white hot right now,” Mayor Betsy Price said during a news conference called to announce the Neiman Marcus agreement and Cassco-Simon partnership.

Clearfork will be the third Fort Worth home for Neiman Marcus, which opened on Camp Bowie Boulevard 50 years ago and subsequently moved to Ridgmar Mall. Neiman Marcus will move the Ridgmar store to Clearfork.

The store will be 90,000 square feet and two stories, smaller than the 118,000-square-foot Ridgmar Mall store.

The Shops at Clearfork will include “100 high-end specialty stores, a premium luxury theater, and distinctive restaurants offering a unique dining and shopping experience for the Fort Worth community,” the developers said.

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Construction of the Neiman Marcus store and The Shops at Clearfork is scheduled to begin next spring, with a grand opening planned in February 2017.

Clearfork is one of several large developments underway in Fort Worth that will be adding new retail, office and restaurants as well as offering relocations and expansion possibilities. Just across Bryant Irvin Road is the Waterside development from Trademark Property Co. Whole Foods is scheduled to open there in spring 2016, part of 180,000 square feet of retail for that project. Still in the planning stages is the Left Bank development near West Seventh Street.

The Neiman Marcus announcement was more than a year in the making. Cassco first contacted Neiman Marcus in May 2013 about headlining the development, Edwards said in an interview. “There were rumors they were looking, and we reached out to them,” he said. “It didn’t take them long to show interest.”

Cassco contacted Simon eight months ago, David Contis, president of Simon Malls, said in an interview. Simon owns at least 10 Neiman Marcus-anchored malls, including The Domain in Austin, similar to the Clearfork concept, and is Neiman Marcus’ largest landlord. Simon also has a limited stake in Tarrant County, owning only North East Mall in Hurst. This summer, it agreed to buy the University Park Village retail center on South University Drive in Fort Worth.

Neiman Marcus is widely known in the retail industry for demanding generous deals from developments it enters.

Edwards declined to discuss terms, other than to confirm the Cassco-Simon partnership will build and own the store and lease it to Neiman Marcus.

But in response to a question about Neiman Marcus’ negotiating prowess, he said what drew the company was “a good location, and there was an incentive.”

Neiman Marcus expects the new location to help the Fort Worth store attract younger customers, while retaining its exisitng base, Karen Katz, president and CEO of the Neiman Marcus Group, said in an interview.

Customers can expect to see more technology and additions of merchandise from European vendors, Katz said.

“We are confident [the new store] will define Neiman Marcus’ modernity for today’s customer,” she said.

The planned luxury theater will be another anchor in the center, and the Cassco-Simon partnership contemplates as many as four “junior anchors” at 10,000 to 20,000 square feet apiece, Edwards said.

Contis predicted The Shops at Clearfork will generate $300 million in annual sales and create several thousand jobs.

The multiphase Clearfork plan includes 2 million square feet of office space, 1.2 million square feet of retail and 2,500 multi-family residential units.

StreetLights Residential, hired by Cassco to build the first phase of residential, broke ground earlier this year on 392 residential units adjacent to the retail. Those are scheduled to be available in summer 2015, Clearfork said.

At the time, Cassco principal Paxton Motheral told The Business Press in an interview that he expected an announcement later in the year on the first phase of retail that would closely follow the multi-family timetable.

The multifamily and retail are parts of what Cassco committed to earlier this year to secure an incentive agreement with the city. Cassco, in a City Council vote in February, obtained up to $30 million in incentives over 15 years on 44 acres of the development, the part the company is working on now.

Cassco and Simon have already boosted the planned first phase included in the incentive package.

Under it, the total investment on the 44 acres would be $300 million and occur over three phases. The first phase was originally contemplated at 600,000 square feet total, half retail and commercial office, and half 392 multi-family units. The planned 500,000-square-foot Shops at Clearfork will surpass the original plan for the first phase, Edwards said. Clearfork represents the continued development of the Edwards Ranch.

Rancher Cass Edwards II and his sister Colleen Edwards Geren – namesakes of Cassco Development – were responsible for developing the South Hulen Street corridor from Bellaire Drive to Granbury Road. The family was noted for retaining ownership of most of the commercial property to maintain consistency and quality over time, and allowing development on long-term ground leases.