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DALLAS-A show-stopping quartet of restaurants and nightclubs has Dallas on the dance card after striking a 15-year lease for Hillwood’s Victory, now within 45 days of breaking ground on a $100-million, mixed-use project.

“It was a surprise to have ended up with so many concepts out of one operator,” Jonas Woods, president of Hillwood’s Victory development, tells GlobeSt.com of the first wave of restaurant/retail announcements to debut since Ross Perot Jr. and team got back full control about four months ago. The new players in town will be Michael Morton and Scott DeGraff, a Las Vegas-based nightlife team with cutting edge concepts now only available at the Palms Casino Resort in their homeport and Chicago.

Woods says the Victory team pursued the duo, which includes the son of famed Chicago restaurateur Arnie Morton, because “they will bring something to Dallas that Dallas doesn’t have.” And that, Woods says, is a priority in filling the 300,000 sf of retail/restaurant space that will be built in Victory’s eight-building development being set on 72 acres with the $420-million American Airlines Center as the anchor.

“We’ve turned away a lot of deals because they already exist…at various locations in Dallas,” Woods says. Hillwood secured an exclusivity clause for Dallas/Fort Worth with the signing for about 45,000 sf in the W Dallas Victory hotel and residences, Woods confides. Street-level space will go to N9ne, a traditional steakhouse, and Belly, an Italian/Mediterranean dining concept to be unveiled first in Palm Springs, CA and then in Dallas. Second-floor space will hold Rain, a nightclub with state-of-the-art special effects and technology, while the 33rd floor penthouse is dedicated to the Ghostbar, an “ultra-lounge” with the glitz and glamour of Vegas that will be tailored to Dallas.

But, Woods stresses, the quartet is just the beginning of what Victory will bring to Dallas. Retail negotiations are underway to fill 180,000 sf and office talks have begun with a dozen prospects, each needing 50,000 sf or more. The plan is to break ground just months apart on the 251-room hotel with 94 condos and a 350,000-sf office building timed to deliver no later than six months apart in late 2005 and 2006. Woods says more retail announcements will be forthcoming after the holiday season ends.

Childhood friends Morton and DeGraff launched N9ne in Chicago and then took the show on the road to Vegas. Besides Victory, the pair also secured space for four venues in the $250-million casino resort hotel being built by the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in Palm Springs.

Victory’s retail leasing is being handled by David J. Levine, known in Dallas as the general partner for the West End Marketplace and a founding partner in George Lucas’ Entertainment/Retail Development group, and Edward A. de Avila, principal of Core Retail, who steered the 15-block Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, MO, and co-founder of Centertainment Inc., the wholly owned subsidiary of AMC Entertainment Inc. Hillwood’s development partners are Southwest Sports Realty, led by Tom Hicks, and Gatehouse Capital Corp., with Marty Collins as the president.

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