Published October 4th, 2023 at 8:30 AM2 minute read
By Kevin Collison
A Texas firm that owns the luxury Highland Park Village shopping center in Dallas has a tentative agreement to acquire the Country Club Plaza, according to local real estate sources.
Ray Washburne and HP Village Partners, an entity with family ties to the wealthy Hunt Family, is the prospective new owner of the Plaza. The firm has a stellar reputation in Dallas as a retail operator, the sources said.
“It (Highland Park Village) has gone through a major transformation over the last five years,” one source said.
“Now, it’s an unbelievable retail destination…They’ve turned it into a super-high end place with lots of unique retailers and restaurants.”
The Plaza’s current owners, Macerich and Taubman Properties, defaulted on their $295 million loan last May. They have been working with their lender, Nuveen, on what was described as a “mutually acceptable outcome” since then.
It’s unknown how much the potential new owner has offered to purchase the Country Club Plaza.
“Word on the street is they have a substantial discount to buy it,” a source said.
A representative for HP Village Partners declined to comment today about the potential transaction. Country Club Plaza representatives could not be reached for comment.
HP Village Partners interest in the Plaza appears to be a striking match. Highland Park Village opened in 1931 and like the Plaza, which opened in 1923, was designed architecturally in a Mediterranean, Spanish-style.
It’s located in an upscale neighborhood of Dallas near Southern Methodist University. Highland Park itself is a separate community within Dallas.
The shopping center, which is a National Historic Landmark, was purchased by Washburne and his partners in 2009.
Since then, the new owners have invested substantially in the property and attracted many luxury retailers, some unique to Texas, according to reports in the Dallas press.
Highland Park Village retailers include: Akris, Alexander McQueen, Carolina Herrera, Cartier, CHANEL, Christian Louboutin, Dior, Fendi, Goyard, Harry Winston, Hermès, Jimmy Choo, Ralph Lauren, Rolex, Tom Ford, Valentino, Van Cleef and Arpels.
Washburne’s wife, Heather Hill, is a descendent of legendary Texas oil magnate H.L. Hunt, the father of Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt. She, along with Stephen Summers and Elisa Summers make up HP Village Partners, according to Dallas press reports.
“This is a high-end developer with generational wealth,” a source said. “They won’t be putting lipstick on the Plaza and kicking it out to the next buyer.”
HP Village Partners is now thoroughly researching the Plaza as part of its due diligence, including determining its needs for capital improvements to restore its aging buildings and infrastructure.
If all goes well, the purchase could be finalized by the end of the year, sources say.
If the deal goes through, it would be the third out-of-town owner for the Plaza since 1998, the year J.C. Nichols Co. ended 75 years of local ownership and sold it to North Carolina-based Highwoods.
Highwoods then sold the shopping center to Taubman and Macerich in 2016 for $660 million, a price that some local real estate professionals estimate was hundreds of millions of dollars more than the Plaza was worth.
Earlier this year, the Plaza owners challenged a $292 million valuation established by the County Board of Equalization in 2019, and the state tax commission agreed, knocking it down to $179.6 million.
Since the default on the loan last spring, supporters of the Plaza, including the newly-formed Plaza District Council, have expressed optimism a new owner would be a positive step in revitalizing the century-old landmark.
In addition to the physical challenges of the aging property, its retail lineup has lost such marquee names as Saks Fifth Avenue and Halls from its glory days as a major multi-state shopping draw, and security has become a problem.
“This sale will be huge if it’s pulled off and huge for Kansas City,” a source said.