A fresh identity for downtown Richardson is taking shape as new business owners move into the area.

Two major projects are underway in the Lockwood District and historic Main Street area. Both are part of the newly branded Richardson Core District, a six-hub zone that also includes Richardson Heights and the Interurban, Spring Valley and China Town areas.

Spearheading the projects are the city and a team of private developers who hope to create a cohesive look and feel for the district. A key part of that effort is bringing in tenants who fit the bill for what they envision as the next Deep Ellum or Lower Greenville.

“Richardson lacks a walkable district where people can spend hours and be entertained,” said Manasseh Durkin, president of Durkin Properties LLC, one of the primary developers behind the revitalization projects. “Our hope is that the Core District fills that void.”

Over the next few months, residents can expect to see new businesses open and more buildings undergo renovations. While there is still much progress to be made, the city and developers said they hope this movement will spur further activity in the district.

Main Street

The renewal of Main Street dates back to 2009, when the city identified the area as one of six redevelopment zones. Rezoning efforts followed in 2015 and 2016, which opened up greater flexibility for private developers.

Durkin said his involvement in the Main Street project happened organically. He had just opened an office off Main and quickly noticed surrounding properties that could be bought and renovated.

However, there were hurdles in getting a large-scale revitalization project off the ground. The area was home to nearly a hundred different property owners, which made a cohesive effort difficult.

“The ownership was very fractured,” he said. “Our goal was to kind of be able to get a mass together where we could make a difference.”

Before long, Durkin said, he owned a dozen buildings across the Lockwood and Main Street areas. He has since brought in several new tenants, including wedding cooperative The Darling Co. and Staycation Coffee.

“Part of what I love about the Richardson Core District is that I feel at home,” said The Darling Co. founder Laci Coker, who moved to the Dallas area from a small town in East Texas. “All the small businesses are supporting each other, and that, to me, is what it’s all about.”

Staycation Coffee, which is set to open in January, will seek to push the boundaries of a normal coffee shop by becoming a gathering place for the community, co-owner Corbin Bahcall said. A backyard event space will host concerts, tiny weddings, business gatherings and community movie nights, he said.

Three additional vacant properties that could accommodate multiple businesses will undergo renovations in the coming months, Durkin said. Several potential tenants have shown interest in the district, and he said he believes having more attractive options will help get some of those deals off the ground.

“We are going to gut them and rip off the ugly facades,” Durkin said. “Hopefully, that will kick that area off.”

Some of these projects have been slow-moving because of the road construction happening along Main, Durkin said. The city is about three quarters of the way through $21 million worth of infrastructure improvements and should be finished by March, Deputy City Manager Don Magner said.

Also gaining momentum is the forthcoming Gateway to Core Richardson, a 14.5-acre, mixed-use development at the northeast corner of Main and US 75 that will include townhomes, apartments, shops and restaurants.

Supply chain disruptions have slowed the project, but construction of utilities and on streets around the property should begin in early 2021, said Paris Rutherford, president of Catalyst Urban Development, the project’s developer.

Lockwood District

Just across Central Expressway and north of Belt Line is the Lockwood District, an area that has served as inspiration for what is happening on and near Main.

A year ago, Lockwood Distilling, known for its small-batch spirits production, became the newest addition to the district. The business garnered immediate attention and has kept up its momentum through the pandemic. Support from Richardson locals has played an integral role in Lockwood’s success, owner Evan Batt said.

“The community has been absolutely tremendous; I can’t imagine a better location from a community standpoint,” he said.

At the western edge of the district is Durkin’s most recent project, a two-tenant building that will soon house Monkey King Noodle Co. and Greenville Avenue Pizza Company, also known as GAPCo.

GAPCo owner Sammy Mandell III said he searched for months to find a third location for his Dallas-based business. He said he eventually settled on the Lockwood District in part because of the inviting environment created by Lockwood Distilling and Communion Neighborhood Cooperative.

“It just had that synergy,” he said. “All the signs were there pointing to, ‘This is the one,’” he said.

Batt said he is a firm believer that a rising tide lifts all ships and that welcoming new businesses to the district will have the collective benefit of elevating the area’s overall visibility.

“We want this to be a respected area where great businesses are,” he said. “We say, ‘Bring them on.’ ”

What the future holds

The Core District is bisected by US 75, which is advantageous in some ways but makes connecting the various hubs difficult.

“The good thing is you have a highway with 250,000 cars going to see the area every day,” Durkin said. “The bad thing is that it cuts the area in half.”

The goal is to eventually provide an easy way for people to visit different parts of the district on foot, he said. Possible solutions include shuttles or improved lighting and pedestrian crossings underneath the overpass.

Support from locals is driving success in the Lockwood District, but Durkin said he also hopes that enhancing the Core District will motivate Richardson’s robust daytime workforce to patronize businesses in the evening.

“We want them to stay,” he said. “We want them to spend money here.”