IRVING, Texas (AP) — Just look at the photos on Google or Instagram: The most recognized landmark in Irving is the Towers at Williams Square.
The Dallas Morning News reports that’s the Las Colinas high-rise complex with the sculpture of wild mustangs out front.
Any time of the day or night, you can find visitors taking Facebook photos or selfies on the stone plaza that surrounds the horses.
Soon they’ll be romping through a park, not a field of granite, at the site about 10 miles northwest of downtown Dallas.
"When the Green Bay Packers were staying at the hotel over there, they asked if they could put cheesehead hats on all the horses — we said no," said Bill Brokaw, senior vice president with Dallas-based Hillwood, which is a partner in the project and leases and manages the four-building office development.
Built as the centerpiece for Las Colinas, the 1.4 million-square-foot high-rise complex sold for $330 million in 2015 to Apollo Global Real Estate of New York and Vanderbilt Partners of Chicago. Since then, the owners have been working to upgrade the 34-year-old Irving project and keep it competitive for business tenants.
While one phase of the mega building makeover is wrapping up, a more visible renovation of the Irving project is still ahead, including a redo of the central plaza.
"The process has been to reinforce the allure of such a trophy property and cater to the changing work environment," Brokaw said. "We are redefining this building as the iconic piece of Las Colinas."
That’s what Las Colinas founder Ben Carpenter was aiming for when he built Williams Square in the 1980s. He even named it after his brother-in-law.
Back then, most suburban North Texas office buildings were on the puny side.
Carpenter wanted a downtown-worthy skyscraper at the heart of the family’s ranch, and he turned it into one of the country’s most successful mixed-use developments.
At 26 stories, the central tower at Williams Square was the tallest building outside downtown Dallas when it opened.
Carpenter added two flanking 14-story buildings and a five-story bank to create an instant town center.
Putting a 2-acre plaza and larger-than-life mustang sculpture at the heart of Williams Square sealed the deal to create a one-of-a-kind local attraction.
The office buildings have maintained their stature through the years and are currently about 98 percent occupied.
Two major tenants, Flowserve Corp. and WeWork, just took large blocks of offices in the buildings.
But with another major business moving out of the buildings later this year — Pioneer Natural Resources — Hillwood officials are overseeing even more upgrades.
"We’ve just finished a huge new tenant lounge," Brokaw said. "It’s a 5,000-square-foot space that people now want to see in every building they look at.
"We’ve reconfigured and redone our fitness center to more than 8,000 square feet," he said. "We’ve got all the amenities anybody needs in the complex."
Bigger changes are coming at the front door.
The city of Irving is working with Williams Square’s owners on a complete revamp of the mustang plaza that will make it more like a park than a hot granite landing field. The redo will add trees, plantings and lounging spaces around the beloved mustang fountain.
"The city recognizes the potential here," said Hillwood executive vice president Ken Reese. "It will increase the retail opportunities around the plaza and mesh well with the new Water Street development across the street.
"The evolution of that plaza and the activation of our ground floor will be the biggest changes."
Gables Residential’s 14-acre Water Street project across O’Connor Boulevard from the plaza added 60,000 square feet of retail space and restaurants and 140 lakeside apartments to the neighborhood.
Water Street has quickly become one of Las Colinas’ most popular destinations.
"This is called the Urban Center, and now it really is," Brokaw said.
Beth Bowman, president of the Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce, said focus groups were asked for input to improve Williams Square.
"Transforming the paved plaza around the mustang sculpture and fountain into a refreshing gardenlike setting was a popular suggestion," Bowman said. "The enhancement of this plaza area will also complement the connectivity and vitality of the Water Street development on Lake Carolyn.
"This progress makes solid business sense," she said. "It captivates the types of companies that want the complete environment to attract and retain skilled employees, and that’s good for Irving-Las Colinas, our residents and workforce."