A brief history of Pepper Square, Dallas’ north end shops in the midst of a zoning war

A brief history of Pepper Square, Dallas’ north end shops in the midst of a zoning war

Pepper Square, a shopping center on the northern edge of Dallas, is at the center of a brewing zoning battle.

Developer Henry S. Miller wants to redevelop the property, adding 1,550 luxury apartments along with new retail and restaurant space. More than half of the proposed apartments would be housed in a 12-story tower.

However, residents of nearby neighborhoods do not want a single unit to be built. Others have suggested that a complex of 400 units or less might be acceptable. It’s unclear if a compromise will be reached before the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on June 20.

The old commercial area has an interesting history. It developed as the area’s first neighborhoods took shape, long before D-FW’s explosive growth of the past few decades.

The parcel that is now Pepper Square belonged to Ben McCutchin’s family in the 1940s. He and his three brothers developed the shopping center in the 1970s, McCutchin said. The Dallas Morning News.

McCutchin, 78, is executive vice president of the commercial real estate firm Younger Partners.

The McCutchin family home was a two-story colonial house on 250 acres. Father McCutchin moved to Dallas from East Texas a few years before Ben was born. His father was an oilman who drilled for tycoon HL Hunt during the boom years.

A painting of the McCutchin home in the north end of Dallas. The McCutchin family owned 250 acres of land, part of which later became Pepper Square.(Courtesy of Ben McCutchin)

The McCutchins had horses and cattle on the property. They had grazing lands and grew cotton, corn and wheat.

They installed a baseball field for the neighborhood children. Ben remembers riding on the farmer’s tractor. The famous Fields family lived to the south. The McCutchins gave the city land that later became Alexis Drive. It was named after Ben’s father, Alex.

“There was nothing around Pepper Square when we built it,” McCutchin said.

The Dallas Morning News‘The archives offer a glimpse into the early days of Pepper Square.

News reported in September 1975 that construction on Pepper Square, a “200,000-square-foot garden shopping center,” would begin that fall. The McCutchin family owned the project and the Henry S. Miller Company would handle development and leasing.

There were plans for Pepper Square to eventually house more than 80 tenants. The first was grocer Tom Thumb, and the store opened in August 1977.

By October 1977, more stores were moving to Pepper Square. Direct Fashions held its grand opening sale. Dresses and pantsuits were 25% off. In March 1978, Tom and Tim Byrne were trying to start an ice cream franchise, Mom’s Ice Cream. A strangely harsh winter was causing them to have seizures.

The flood of newcomers continued and in August 1978 construction began on the second phase of the shopping center.

Some grandiose Pepper Square plans fell through. One small lake, for example, was ultimately never built, McCutchin said.

Fast forward and Henry S. Miller Commercial would purchase the first phase of Pepper Square in 1994. The company completed an eight-year, $10 million expansion in 2002, reports GlobeSt., a commercial real estate news source.

Henry S. Miller Co. sold a 49% stake to a private family trust of Dallas businessman Gerald Ford in 2015. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Plans to turn the shopping center into a mixed-use development with luxury apartments had been in the works for years when the first community meetings took place in 2022.