A major addition to Richardson’s historic downtown is slated to be fully completed by spring 2024.

The 14.5-acre Belt + Main development, located near the northeast corner of Main Street and US 75, initially broke ground last year.

According to Paris Rutherford, president of Catalyst Urban Development, the team overseeing the project, the Belt + Main development will include 15,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space, 350 multifamily units that will be available for lease, and 7,000 square feet of residential amenities.

The project is expected to open its initial parking structure in the first quarter of 2023, with additional phases expected to follow every couple of months.

Work on the Belt + Main development is part of a larger focus on revitalizing the historic downtown area of Richardson. The historic downtown, located between Greer and Phillips streets on the east side of Central Expressway, was defined in 2009 along with four other redevelopment zones that make up The Core District. Those include the Downtown, Richardson Heights, Interurban, Lockwood and Chinatown communities. The Core District has undergone significant redevelopment, with new businesses poised to be added, according to city officials.

The revitalization effort includes the completed Main Street reconstruction project and the ongoing McKinney Street the ongoing McKinney Street rehabilitation project; a series of urban parks across the street from Belt + Main; and the $80 million public safety campus for the city’s police and fire departments that opened in 2021.

Local neighborhoods are also excited to experience the effects of the remodeled historic downtown, citing the new shops and the rebuilt Main Street additions.

“Everything I hear from residents [is that] they like the updated streets and the new ‘feel’ of the Belt + Main development,” said Clinton Bell, president of the Highland Terrace Neighborhood Association.

Richardson City Manager Don Magner said the addition of Belt + Main is a “puzzle piece” in providing economic growth in the historic downtown area.

“We need that downtown area to be a place where people can live, work in and ultimately play,” Magner said.

Developing Belt + Main

Belt + Main has been in development since 2018, when it was known as the Gateway to the Core.

Pitched to the city at the same time as the Downtown infrastructure projects, Belt + Main was developed as a means of building a major residential and commercial project in the heart of historic downtown.

The residential portion of the development is set to bring around 1,000 new residents to the area, according to Rutherford.

Magner said he believes the development will serve as a proof of concept for similar mixed-use projects in Richardson.

“The project will bring new retail and amenities to the downtown area that otherwise wouldn’t have come,” Magner said. “In addition, it’s going to provide a built-in customer clientele from the residents that are going to live in the development.”

Economic growth in downtown

One of the goals of Belt + Main is to reinvigorate downtown’s economic growth, city officials said. The rebuilding of Main Street has been a city priority since 2009, Magner said.

In 2016, the city rezoned downtown to make it easier for businesses to enter, followed by passing $21 million in infrastructure projects, according to city officials. The Main Street project began in 2019 and was completed by mid-2021, while the McKinney Street project is set to last until the end of 2023.

“That’s where the new investment will need to take place and how we’ll continue to add value to the community,” Magner said.

Manasseh Durkin, Richardson Chamber of Commerce board chair, said Belt + Main will add density, which is needed for historic downtown to be vibrant and thrive.

“You need to have people down there to spend money, which is what brings in great restaurants,” he said.

Valerie Kernan, owner of SmartLooks Window & Wall Decor off of Main Street, said she believes the newly redesigned streets are going to enhance the growth opportunity for the downtown area.

“I think that the growth potential is here, we’re just waiting for those business partners to come in and commit to the downtown area,” Kernan said.

Modernizing downtown

Rutherford said Belt + Main and other downtown projects are aimed at creating walkable mixed-use districts. That is similar to what is being designed for the Richardson Innovation Quarter, a 1,200-acre industrial area east of Central Expressway also undergoing a revitalization.

“We believe in the new American model for successful cities that involves multiple ‘nodes’ of identity across the region that bring walkability and a range of things to do from the daytime into the evening,” Rutherford said.

Carless mobility is a theme for the Core district, Durkin said.

“Our hope is that people go down to that area not necessarily knowing where they’re gonna go, but they end up going to whatever’s open and spend the whole evening there,” he said. Magner said another priority in downtown’s development is ensuring the cultural identity for each community. To preserve that unique cultural identity, the city has promoted several community events in the area, including the Culture in the Core event in June and a celebration of Chinese New Year in February.

“By ... being dedicated to helping preserve and grow [those cultural neighborhoods], I believe we are honoring them and promoting them while these communities grow,” Magner said.