Programs Retail Development

Downtown is a place to start, grow and expand a business. Home to unique, independent retail establishments like The OKRA Charity Saloon and Phoenicia Specialty Foods and to local chains such as Guadalajara, Café Express and Barnaby’s Cafe, downtown is a proven market for a thriving venture!

Downtown Retail Environment

In addition to one-of-a-kinds, national retailers such as Sambuca Cafe, Flying Saucer Draught Emporium and Morton’s Steakhouse are also a perfect fit and tremendously successful. Downtown is also a draw for heavy hitters House of Blues, Forever XXI and Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar.

Although you will find retail throughout downtown, the major activity centers are located in the Market Square Park/Historic District, a quirky mix of dining and nightlife establishments; Main Street Square, home to GreenStreet; and The Shops at Houston Center, located one block away from Discovery Green Park.

Mayor's Retail Task Force

In January 2013, Mayor Annise Parker announced the formation of a Downtown Retail Task Force in cooperation with the Downtown District.  The purpose of the task force was to research all available retail opportunities and to consider physical and policy changes needed to address challenges currently impacting Downtown’s consumer appeal, ease of shopping, recruitment, commerce and ability to attract retailers. The findings and recommendations of the task force are found in the following report. 

The task force was chaired by Fred Griffin of Griffin Partners. Members included Jonathan Brinsden with Midway, owner of GreenStreet; George Levan, President of Crosspoint Properties; Doug Kelly with 1110 Main Partners LP; The Finger Companies’ Marvy Finger; Dawn Ullrich, President of Houston First Corporation; Ed Wulfe of Wulfe & Co; Xavier Pena and Deborah Keyser of the Downtown Redevelopment Authority;  and the Downtown District’s Bob Eury. Also on the task force was Andrew F. Icken, Chief Development Office of the City of Houston, who serves as liaison to the Mayor’s Office.

The task force investigated demand for Downtown shopping, reached out to existing and potential retailers, identified potential sites, identified needed public realm improvements, discussed a coordinated leasing strategy and branding of a shopping district, investigated convenient shopper parking and management of the retail area and examined ways the tunnels can further engage with street level retail.

The task force set a vision for a Downtown shopping district as: At the heart of downtown, Dallas Street is transformed into an exceptional, shopping, dining and entertainment destination with a mix of anchor and specialty retailers offering the best in national, regional and local brands.  The shopping district is a memorable and unique experience for residents, worker and visitors—a vibrant, bustling street life where people walk to destinations or stroll for pleasure, storefronts that lure shoppers inside, restaurants the provide atmosphere with scents and sounds and transit and services conveniently located.

Task force members surveyed shopping preferences of Downtown workers and central city residents, and met with stakeholders individually and in groups to gain feedback on its recommendations.

Based on its investigations, twelve recommendations were made by the task force.  The Downtown District is currently working on several of the recommendations including transforming Dallas Street, from Travis to La Branch, into a premier shopping street with new signature lighting, landscaping and wide walkways.  The District is also working with a high profile shopping consultant on a multitude of retail strategies. 

Mayor's Task Force Report, pdf

Retail Grant Program

Expanding on the diverse mix of eateries and consumer goods in downtown is a high priority for the Downtown District. Much effort has been put into positioning the Dallas Street which intersects with Main Street Square and the Historic District as key mixed-use retail zones. To assist in stimulating development in these areas, as well as the potential for catalytic retail in other Downtown neighborhoods, the Downtown District created the Retail Incentive Grant Program. The aim of the grant program is to stimulate growth and diversification of retail through tenant improvement subsidies.

Since the program was created, we have made grants to 27 projects including Greenstreet, Phoenicia Market and smaller tenants that collectively have been transformative.

Catalytic Retail Grant Program Guidelines
Catalytic Retail Grant Program Application [pdf]
Catalytic Retail Grant Program Business Plan Outline [pdf]

Contact UsContact Us

Please note that we do not provide retail brokerage services, but we do play a role as facilitator, tour guide and consultant to potential retail tenants, property owners, brokers and tenant representatives. 

Angie Bertinot