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DALLAS-The $21-million FashionCenterDallas, touted as an apparel industry first, will open doors March 25 with a three-day premiere and a new juried showing for the haute couture circuit in one million sf or practically one third of the World Trade Center.

At last count, the 600 permanent showrooms were pushing 98% occupancy for class A spaces averaging 1,000 sf. On the average, leases are being cut with three-year terms at rates of $23 per sf to $24 per sf. The buyers’ registry for the upcoming event is “up 10% over a year ago largely because of what we’re doing here as it relates to new space,” Bill Winsor, president and CEO of the Dallas Market Center, tells GlobeSt.com.

FashionCenterDallas is the 21st Century’s version of the 21-year-old International Apparel Mart, with its 1.8 million sf under review for redevelopment as the star-studded clientele readies for the move into a wholesale marketplace with the pizzaz of the most famous of international runways.

“We anticipated some loss with people moving to the World Trade Center, but we had an expansion so we took down more space than planned,” Winsor says. Construction, which began May 15, is on track for the March 25, 2004 ribbon-cutting.

FashionCenterDallas represents the “best of design” from the Lauck Group and Brand-Sayers, both in Dallas, and Rothenberg-Sawasy of Los Angeles. It will take up the 12th through 15th floors and part of the seventh and eighth in the 3.9-million-sf World Trade Center at 2100 Stemmons Freeway.

The highly publicized project’s end goal is to make Dallas the preferred “eye candy” for the fashion industry by complementing its longstanding reputation as an “editing” city, where design gurus determine what’s hot and what’s not for the next season. Showroom tenants include Dallas newcomers Marc by Marc Jacobs, Apriori by Escada, Andrea Jovine, and Disney Vintage.

A juried show, labeled the “Scene,” will be held every March, August and October to lure wholesalers to the 6.9-million-sf campus of hard and soft goods, recognized as the world’s largest mart. “It’s unparalleled space for merchandising,” Winsor says. “It’s an opportunity to do a one-stop shop…And, it’s the only market center in the world that’s investing $21 million into the apparel industry.”

The Dallas Market Center is owned by locally based Crow Holdings Inc., which also owns the three-million-sf Brussels International Trade Mart. Cindy Morris, COO for Dallas Market Center, and Winsor say Dallas with the revamped “scene” and “neighborhood approach to merchandising” is poised to surpass competitors in Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.

Dallas has “always been a leader,” Winsor adds.”This is going to take it to a whole new level. Dallas will be known as a center with every product imaginable.”

As for the old space, all that can be said is that it’s under review–except, of course, for three floors in the 400,000-sf Menwear Mart, or 2350 Stemmons as it’s now being called, that’s been leased to Children’s Medical Center of Dallas.

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