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Trinity Groves Begins to Blossom

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by Natalie Yezbick

The Trinity Grove development is starting to take shape as restaurants, office and retail space, and entertainment venues begin to move to the area.

Eight years ago, Texas restaurateur Phil Romano had the idea to take a struggling West Dallas neighborhood and transform it into an entertainment and cultural destination. He joined investors Stuart Fitts and Butch McGregor to form West Dallas Investments, the company behind Trinity Groves.

Today, visitors to the base of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge will see the development beginning to take shape. Investors hope that it will become a go-to hotspot of restaurants, bars and shopping.

“We think it’s gonna be a great place for people to live, work and play,” said partner Butch McGregor.

Babb’s BBQ pairs a laid-back, rock n’ roll attitude with high-quality barbequed meats. (Credit: Natalie Yezbick)

Trinity Groves specifically refers to the front 15 acres of the developers’ parcel of land centered around Singleton Boulevard. This section of the development will house the restaurants and entertainment complexes. Several establishments have already been built, but many more will eventually take up residence in Trinity Groves, according to McGregor.

Real estate development is not foreign to founder Romano. He has established multiple restaurant chains, including Romano’s Macaroni Grill and Fuddruckers. Trinity Groves is going against the grain in the construction world, however.

“Most places build apartments first or housing, but we’re doing the opposite, bringing the entertainment and amenities to the area first,” said McGregor, the partner that first assembled the land parcels for the development.

Newly Completed Projects at Trinity Groves

The most recently completed eatery is Hofmann Hots on Singleton Boulevard, which opened with a bang. Hofmann’s itself is a brand of hot dogs, and the former president of the hot dog company was booted out just two days before the opening of the eatery in February, according to General Manager Scott Koller. Hofmann’s management, which includes Romano, plans to open more locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, but Koller said that the Trinity Groves location is their “concept prototype.”

“We have the ability to change and play around with it, see what works,” said Koller.

Hofmann Hot’s customers Olivia and Jesse Jimenez visited the packed restaurant on opening day after seeing an article about it in their local newspaper.

“It had the setting of the ‘50s and the music,” said Jesse Jimenez, who described his hot dog as “tasty.”

Each of the restaurants in Trinity Groves is an incubator project. This means entrepreneurs are able to pitch the ideas for eateries on the development’s website (www.trinitygroves.com), and the best are picked up by Romano and his team.

Not all of the restaurants in Trinity Groves were submitted via the online form, however. Many ideas come to Romano through mutual friends.

Babb’s BBQ and Blues on Bedford Street, one of the first restaurants to open in Trinity Groves, is considered an incubator project. Founder Mike Babb did not take the traditional approach to submitting his idea. He was approached by a friend at church who later connected him with Romano, according to Babb’s General Manager Mary LeCesne. Babb cooked Romano some barbeque, and Babb’s BBQ was born. The restaurant opened in late November of 2012.

All of the developments in Trinity Groves are funded in part by the partners at West Dallas Investments, except for the Four Corners Brewing Company. The brewery is the only commercial tenant in the retail area; it raised all of its own capital and is not a partnership with Romano.

One of the owners of Four Corners is Greg Leftwich, who had the idea to brew beers that pair well with the Texas cuisine and climate. When Leftwich and his friends came together to brainstorm where to build the brewery, their location off of Singleton Boulevard won out over their home neighborhood of Oak Cliff. The owners brewed their first batch of beer in October of 2012.

Trinity Groves is centered around Singleton Boulevard, which runs straight under the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge. Map Courtesy of www.trinitygroves.com

“Margaret Hunt Hill was so generous to build this beautiful bridge in our front yard,” said Leftwich, who considers the brewery to be a “mouthpiece” of Dallas culture.

Four Corners only sells kegs of its own beer, which is on the lower end of the alcohol content spectrum for craft beers with only 5.5 to 6.5 percent alcohol. Leftwich’s main bragging point about the beer is that it is made by the only brewmaster in Dallas with six medals from the Great American Beer festival.

Another establishment, 3015 at Trinity Groves, is also the first of its kind in West Dallas. In its warehouse location off Gulden Lane, 3015 hosts corporate events focused on teambuilding. Guests are assigned to teams, which then pair with a chef to create a small meal. After, the plates are judged and a meal prepared by chef Sharon Van Meter is served. 3015 also offers catering and traditional dinners for large groups.

Future Plans

Developers hope that rooftop bars, an off-Broadway musical theater, and even a cheese shop will soon open within the development.

Although the spotlight is currently on the Trinity Groves sector, the back 60 acres of land will be a mixed-use area with developments ranging from apartments to retail and office space, but the developers haven’t decided what the area will be dubbed.

“We’ll let evolve. It’ll become what it is,” said McGregor.

There is no target date for any of the construction in Trinity Groves to finish due to the ever-changing nature of the incubator concept, according to Erin Murphy, one of Trinity Groves’ leasing agents.

The Trinity Groves complex is currently zoned for industrial research but is surrounded by private residences. One concern about the development is that it will drive up home prices in the area, making it nearly impossible for low-income families to move to the neighborhood. But McGregor and his team hope that the entertainment complex will increase home values.

According to the most recent census data, McGregor said that the population in the neighborhood has decreased and wants to reverse that through Trinity Groves by “creating jobs and giving people a reason to stay over here.”

Natalie Yezbick, a member of Southern Methodist University’s Class of 2015 and Alpha Chi Omega, is a triple major in journalism, public relations and communication studies. She can be reached at nyezbick@smu.edu.

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