Irving business leaders discuss how amenities, entertainment are changing landscape | Corridors of Opportunity – Dallas Business Journal

Irving’s first development can be traced back to the early 1900s, when settlers J.O. Schulze and Otis Brown bought 80 acres in the area and auctioned them off in pieces as the town’s first lots.

Several decades later, Ben H. Carpenter, the mind behind Las Colinas, a master-planned development inside Irving, began pioneering the city as an employment hub.

Today, over 100,000 employees come to the city each day to work, thanks to more than 10,600 businesses, including 53 Fortune 500 companies that call Irving home.

Housing has followed, and the city’s population has grown to 240,000 residents.

Now, Irving is concentrating on expanding its entertainment offerings to continue bringing in new employers and residents. It recently opened the Toyota Music Factory, which boasts 25 restaurant and entertainment options. The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory also offers the city a concert and event venue near its convention center.

Mass transportation options have been and continue to be key to bringing people to the city, as well. Irving is located near the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport and is connected to the Dallas Area Rapid Transit train system through its Orange Line.

Another light rail station is planned for Hidden Ridge, a mixed-use development that will be home to millions of square feet of residential, retail, hotel and green space, as well as offices, including a Verizon corporate campus and a $280 million headquarters for Pioneer Natural Resources.

“We’re starting to see the transformation and development and the ability to live and work in the area,” said Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer.

Irving’s efforts are paying off. In addition to the Pioneer campus, last year the city attracted Pei Wei Asian Diner, which relocated its headquarters from Scottsdale, Arizona, to an office along North Highway 161. The restaurant chain plans to create 100 jobs, most of them new hires in North Texas.

Each business leader discussed what makes the city business- and resident-friendly at the event, sponsored by the Las Colinas Association and the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce.


Beth Bowman, president and CEO of the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce and Irving Economic Development Partnership

Hammond Perot, president and CEO of the Las Colinas Association


John J. Hedrick, Pei Wei CEO

Krista Bourne, Verizon Wireless’ south central market president

Noah Lazes, president of ARK Group, which developed the Toyota Music Factory

Bill Lucia, chairman and president of health care technology company HMS Group

Steve Van Amburgh, chairman and CEO of real estate and development firm KDC

Hedrick, on what attracted Pei Wei to Irving

“We had a lot of choices, but we felt like, as we looked at Irving, the choice became fairly simple. We wanted to move our business to a community that was designed to grow and be sustainable, just like we’re trying to grow our business at Pei Wei to be sustainable. We wanted a community with a lot of forethought on how it was developed and designed. The live-work-play aspect was very important to us, as we were going to be bringing in employees and hiring from the local community. We also really looked at the fact that the airports were close, and that amenities like the Toyota Music Factory are accessible. People today don’t want to spend their time in traffic, so having the ability to have our employee base close and having an environment we thought was friendly was very important.”

Lucia, on Irving’s talent pool and how HMS continues to develop the local workforce

“Our whole mission is to combat waste and abuse in health care … and it takes a special kind of talent. We try to partner with the colleges and universities in the area and try to do some work with Irving ISD. We want to draw on local talent as much as possible, and we think it’s a great place to attract talent. One of the main reasons we moved here (from New York in 2010) was it was way too expensive and not necessarily a business-friendly environment in Manhattan to scale a company. Since we’ve been in Texas, we’ve probably doubled in size. With 1,200 people in Las Colinas, we wanted to make sure we could now be a local community partner and work with local colleges.”

Lazes, on Toyota Music Factory and Irving’s entertainment options

“The city has 29 million square feet of office and 12,000 hotel rooms. So, Irving (was) almost double the size of a top 20 market – with no play. We saw an opportunity to come into a market of this size and create an entertainment district, alongside a city and population that wanted it. One of the things that we were really attracted to was the ability to have weekday traffic. We all know if we make an 8,000-seat concert venue, a movie theater and 25 restaurants, people will come Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but the question is, what do we do Monday through Thursday? You have this enormous weekday traffic, and that helped us make a seven-day-per-week business.”

Bourne, on Verizon’s Hidden Ridge campus

“It is a matter of bringing our employees to a community that they can get comfortable with. I’ve relocated a few times in my career, and there’s a saying that you live where you want to and work where you have to. We like both of those to be done in Irving. We believe we can create a development that will attract a workforce that will want to be there, both for work and play. And what they do to expand their lifestyle is something we think we can complement with technology, convenience and entertainment.”

Van Amburgh, on building sustainable developments in Irving

“Today, when we sit down with a big corporate tenant, the real estate and the finance and the human resources people give us pretty much a checklist of things we need to accomplish for them to say ‘yes’ to us. There are environmental issues, sensitivity to water, and making certain that parking is adequate and designed in a way that it can be converted into space that can be occupied. Today, you have to make sure you’re a lot more thoughtful and that, if there is the ability to add solar panels or other things to make companies to look more accountable, that’s what we do. Before we even put pen to paper, we generally sit down and go through sustainability initiatives to make sure they’re getting what they want.”

Responses were edited for length and clarity.

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