Fort Worth Council takes another step in Stockyards historic district plan

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Tuesday night the Fort Worth City Council moved forward with plans for a process to redevelop a historic area that includes a part of the Fort Worth Stockyards, but not without some controversy. The historic district would run north to Stockyard Boulevard, Exchange Avenue on both sides of Main Street. Creating the historic district is the first step in creating a form-based code district for the area that has proven a draw for tourists and residents alike. Several members of Historic Fort Worth and others interested in historic preservation praised the council, but also requested that the historic district be enlarged. While they wanted the district enlarged, others were asking their property be removed from the district. Among those were the owners of Billy Bob’s Texas honky-tonk, one of the main draws for the area, sent a letter to the council asking the building be removed from the historic district. Brad Hickman, one of the developers in the Majestic/Hickman, said in the letter that Billy Bob’s is considering expanding the nightclub’s performance space from one that can accommodate 1,900 audience members to one that holds 5,000.

However, several speakers said Billy Bob’s should be included in the process. In June 2014, the council approved an economic incentive plan for a $175 million redevelopment plan for several properties owned by the Hickman family. The Hickman family partnered with Majestic Realty to redevelop part of the Stockyards Station, the mule barns and other properties. A redevelopment project on the mule barns is slated to begin early 2016.

The Majestic-Hickman project prompted the City Council to make zoning changes within the Stockyards and also create a design overlay district that would cover not only the Majestic-Hickman project but also the surrounding areas of the Stockyards. The Historic Stockyards Design District Task Force was in charge of drafting a document that would outline the design guidelines for the design overlay district. The task force approved a final draft of that document in September. The Majestic-Hickman group recently said it would spend $40 million to preserve the historic mule barns located along Exchange Street.

Several speakers at the council meeting were also concerned about demolition permits issued to Majestic Realty to several structures in the former Swift & Co. property. But Kerby Smith, senior vice president of Majestic Realty said “time and weather and neglect have caused a significant deterioration and disrepair to many of the structures owned by [the Majestic-Hickman partnership.]”

Ann Zadeh, who represents District 9 on the city’s southside, put forward a substitute motion that would expand the historic district, but didn’t find any support for her motion. The council then approved the historic district boundary, but council and city officials noted that this process was just beginning.

“This is not the end of the public process, it still continues,” said District 2 Councilman Sal Espino. “There will be meetings with stakeholders in December. There will be public hearings.” The plans will also be heard in public hearings by the Historic and Cultural Landmark Commission in January and the Zoning Commission after that. The council will take a final vote on the plan in March. “The Fort Worth Stockyards are Fort Worth and Fort Worth is the Stockyards,” said Espino.

Dallas could spend $2.4 million to help breathe life into dying Southwest Center Mall

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

In September, private equity investor Peter Brodsky bought most of the beleaguered Southwest Center Mall at auction — at a cost of around $13 million. And for now, Brodsky told the Dallas City Council’s  Economic Development Committee this morning, that’s “100 percent personal,” meaning he alone is investing in a dead mall the city has spent years trying to revive. “This is something that’s extremely important to me and will be done in a way that works for this community,” Brodsky said.

But Brodsky will not go it alone: The Office of Economic Development has agreed to kick in a $2.4 million grant, which will go toward acquiring other properties at the mall — likely, the vacant Dillard’s space. The committee agreed to pass along the grant proposal to the full council for a vote in January. Only one member of the committee refused to sign off: Carolyn King Arnold, who wanted more details concerning the mall’s future before agreeing to the public subsidy. Arnold, who spoke for close to 15 minutes and eventually accused committee chair Rick Callahan of cutting her off, said she wants to “stop giving city dollars to feel-good developments that just go” nowhere.

Her fellow committee members vehemently disagreed. Callahan thanked Brodsky, who was in attendance, “for your boldness in stepping up with this plan and leading this turnaround.” Casey Thomas thanked him for involving the community in discussions about its fate. Adam McGough, who once spearheaded Mayor Mike Rawlings’ GrowSouth program, said Brodsky’s involvement in Southwest Center’s redo represented “such an opportunity for GrowSouth and the entire city.” And Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Erik Wilson said, “I am hyena happy and peacock proud of what’s about to go down at Southwest Center Mall.”

Dallas City Hall’s been spending money on the former Red Bird Mall since 2009, when the council shucked out $120,000 on an Urban Land Institute study that ultimately concluded that the “mostly dead” mall could be saved if, among other things, ownership was consolidated, the city could find an interested developer and Dallas City Hall created a tax increment financing district that funneled public money into the overhaul. The TIF’s been in place since the spring of 2014, when the council voted to create the Mall Area Redevelopment Tax Increment Financing District that includes both Southwest Center and Valley View Center. And now, it has a developer. Karl Zavitkovsky, head of the city’s Office of Economic Development, told the council Monday morning his office started working with Brodsky during the auction process, and agreed to help him finance its purchase before he finally signed on the dotted line earlier this fall.

The city’s grant isn’t set in stone, though: It’s contingent on an appraiser setting the value for the piece of the mall Dallas winds up buying — either the old Dillard’s site or the vacant lot where a J.C. Penney once stood. The city would likely wind up owning the parcel outright if Brodsky’s redevelopment plans fall through and no one else steps in to take his place. Brodsky, of course, says that will not happen. He told the council he’s been meeting with community leaders over the past two months to hear their hopes and dreams for Southwest Center Mall; another larger meeting is set for December 1, according to Wilson and Thomas.

Brodsky told the council Monday morning that it’s “critical the community have a deep involvement in the re-imagining of this property,” and said he’s been told, repeatedly, it needs to have better restaurants, “quality retail,” a movie theater and, perhaps, even a supermarket. All options are on the table, but nothing’s on the immediate horizon: Omniplan Architects, which came up with the Dallas Midtown plan intended to replace Valley View and designed the 1.2-million-square-foot, $250 million expansion NorthPark Center that opened in 2006, is working on some renderings, but it’s still not even clear how much of the mall will remain standing following its redo.

Then there’s the issue of getting people to the mall: Council member Lee Kleinman told the committee Wilson and Thomas met recently with Michael Morris, head of the Regional Transportation Committee, about making sure the Southern Gateway redo addresses adding better access off Marvin D. Love Freeway and Interstate 20. “So that’s a key component recognized and acknowledged by RTC, to make sure that is funded,” said Kleinman. “And there are no tolls on that right now.” Which isn’t exactly a guarantee … Arnold refused to support spending $2.4 million on something she said was being rushed through council. She said she wouldn’t support adding a school at Southwest Center; she said she didn’t want to see any multi-family built on the mall site. She said she “didn’t see any examples of actual development I can sell to my neighborhoods, my constituents, and say, ‘We’re gonna be all right.’” And she compared the briefing and the grant and the coming vote to a “bullet train with no passengers, no conductors.”

She made it clear she would be against sending the $2.4 million grant to the council. And she did vote against it. Meanwhile, said Brodsky, there are many more public meetings to come as they sort through the suggestion box to see what Southwest Center Mall needs and what its patrons want. “We’re working with development professionals to see what’s realistic,” he said, “what’s doable and what’s not.”

Lego, TTI applying for foreign trade zone status

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Lego Systems, the North American division of the LEGO Group, plans to consolidate two distribution centers from Alliance in far north Fort Worth to a $52 million facility at the northwest corner of Interstate 35W and Northeast Loop 820, according to a city report. The site is one of two locations that the City Council is being asked to support for designation to qualify for a foreign trade zone tax exemption. The council is expected to approve letters today to the U.S. Foreign Trade Zone Board.

TTI, a global distributor of electronic components owned by Berkshire Hathaway, wants the tax exemption on 45.8 acres in the Mercantile Center business park, where it plans a $40 million, 600,000-square-foot distribution facility. TTI bought the land, at the northwest corner of Beach Street and Meacham Boulevard, in December of 2014. At that time, it declined to disclose details about the project. Robert Sturns, Fort Worth’s interim economic development director, said the two projects are the second and third requests for tax-exemption status since the Commerce Department in 2010 approved an expansion of the foreign trade zone at Alliance to include the entire Alliance Corridor, along both sides of Interstate 35W from Denton to just south of Northeast Loop 820.

Foreign trade zones are supervised by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They are considered outside the customs territory of the U.S. for the purposes of duty payment. Duty payment on the foreign merchandise is not required until it enters the U. S. for domestic consumption. Exel, a third-party logistics company, is seeking the foreign trade zone status for the Lego facility under construction at Mark IV Parkway and Cantrell Sansom Road. The facility is scheduled to be completed in March.Exel handles U.S. distribution of Legos from Alliance locations in Roanoke and Haslet, facilities that total about 1.1 million square feet. Lego will lease the new facility from Exel. The new facility will be about 1.4 million square feet and Exel expects to have about 250 jobs there.

TTI employs about 870 workers locally. It has a warehouse in the Mercantile park, a corporate office on Northeast Parkway and a sales office on Mark IV Parkway.

Sandra Baker: 817-390-7727, @SandraBakerFWST

Hillwood plans new mixed-use development

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Hillwood Properties has unveiled plans for a major mixed-use project called Circle T that could include a corporate headquarters, a hotel, a movie theater and hundreds of apartments at the junction of Texas 114 and Texas 170. The corporate office alone could be as big as 1.6 million square feet, rivaling Southlake Town Square a few miles away. No tenant has been announced for the space, but it could have as many as 5,000 employees at full build-out, according to plans presented at a West-lake Planning and Zoning Commission workshop last week.

The Circle T concept plan also includes 750 residential units, a midrise office tower totaling 800,000 square feet and a mixed-use retail/office area with 350,000 square feet, including a specialty grocery store. The plan also calls for a 200-room hotel and several parking garages. The proposal will require zoning changes and other approvals from the commission and is on the panel’s Dec. 1 agenda.

Belk store under construction at Glade Parks development

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

More restaurants and stores will open soon at the bustling Glade Parks development, bordering Euless and Colleyville. Mike Collins, the city’s planning and development director said that construction is also underway at the Belk department store, an anchor of the 194-acre development. Work is progressing on the exterior of the building, and the contractor can also start on the interior of the building, he said. The 95,000-square-foot, $10.8 million store is scheduled to open in March.

More shops and retail continue to populate the Glade Parks development in Euless. The fire lane between Rio Grande and Brazos Boulveard was closed because of the construction of Belk and a lifestyle center. The fire lane and underground utilities will be shifted to the south and should open in March, he said.

Belk’s sits next door to Dick’s Sporting Goods in a busy stretch of the development. The city recently approved a site plan for a movie theater, but Collins said an operator hasn’t been announced. There are no details yet on the number of screens the theater will have, he said. Glade Parks, on the west side of the busy Texas 121 corridor between Cheek-Sparger and Glade roads is a mix of single-family homes, urban lofts and commercial development.

Pie Five opened its doors recently. Panera Bread, north of the Raising Canes restaurant, is supposed to open its 4,385-square-foot location by mid-November, around the time a Verizon Wireless store is also scheduled to open. A Five Guys Burgers and a Sleep Experts store are also coming to Glade Parks, but they are still under construction and opening dates haven’t been announced.

Glade Parks will also feature a public plaza/park that will connect the homes and urban lofts with the shops and restaurants. Earlier this year, the council approved creating a public improvement district to fund the creation and development of the park and a parking garage. Collins told the Star-Telegram previously that the park would be flanked by commercial buildings including restaurants with outdoor patios, and the movie theater will be nearby. Collins said that workers are grading the site for the park to install underground utilities. The same landscape architect who designed elements at Southlake Town Square would work on the design of the Glade Parks Town Center.

Groundbreaking: Skyscraper to revitalize eastern downtown

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Ground was broken on Wednesday Oct. 21 for downtown Fort Worth’s first commercial skyscraper in more than 20 years. The 25-story at 640 Taylor St. will revitalize the east side of downtown, according to Michael Bennett of Bennett Benner Partners, designers of the building.

The site, currently a parking lot, is part of a trend to get rid of surface parking lots in downtown areas, he said. The new skyscraper will include a parking garage with spaces for the Fort Worth Club and Morningstar Partners, which owns the former Star-Telegram complex at 400 W. Seventh St., adjacent to the site. The building will have 258,900 gross square feet of office space and 45,800 gross square feet of amenity floors. In addition, Bennett noted that the building will bring new energy to the east side of downtown, much like that currently seen in Sundance Square. The 12th floor, he said, will have an outdoor cafe and the 13th floor will have several high-tech meeting facilities for use by Fort Worth companies and residents. That will invite interaction with people beyond the building’s tenants, Bennett said.

Frost Bank will be the anchor and name tenant for the new tower, which is being built by the energy firm Jetta Operating Co. Anthracite Realty Partners LLC, Jetta’s affiliate, announced earlier in October that Frost Bank has signed a lease to occupy more than 73,000 square feet in the building. Frost will have a lobby-level banking facility and will move its region headquarters and other lines of business into three upper floors.

For Greg Bird, CEO of Jetta, the building is “about the people.” He says he hopes the building will be a place where “you can be your best.” For Jetta Operating Co., a privately held oil and gas exploration and production firm based in Fort Worth, the building is a public face for a company that has traditionally kept a low profile. The company, with nearly 250 employees (140 in Fort Worth), will move its corporate headquarters from the Fort Worth Club Tower into the new high-rise, which is estimated to cost more than $100 million. Jetta will occupy 70,000 square feet of space in the building.

It will be the seventh-tallest building in Fort Worth and Bennett said he expects it to become a downtown landmark. Stream Realty Partners will oversee leasing and consulting services for the new tower. Seth Koschak, Ramsey March and Tyler Maner of Stream will oversee the leasing, and Jerry Mays of Stream will provide pre-development consulting services. Frost was represented by Todd Burnette and Pat McDowell with Fort Worth-based JLL in the transaction. Balfour Beatty Construction will be the lead contractor on the building.

Plano’s Shops at Willow Bend getting a $100 million redo: hotel, office tower, entertainment

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

The Shops at Willow Bend is getting a $100 million makeover from its new owners, who say it needs major changes to reach its potential. Starwood Retail Partners bought the Plano shopping center a year ago from the original developer, Taubman Centers Inc. Major additions will include a class A office tower, a hotel and an entertainment district with six to eight restaurants. Starwood is still working on its plans for residences and another fashion anchor store.

The project will begin early next year with the razing of the 125,000-square-foot former Saks Fifth Avenue. The addition in its place will be the “architectural focal point” of the mall’s new main entrance facing east toward the Dallas North Tollway.

The first phase of the work will be completed in 2017 and the total project completed in 2019, Starwood said. The company promises the redevelopment will be highly visible from the tollway, with a “vibrant, welcoming façade that expresses a sense of arrival” for people visiting the center. “Plano is experiencing terrific growth, and our vision for Willow Bend is in step with the city’s business, shopping and entertainment plans for the future,” said Scott Wolstein, CEO of Starwood Retail Partners.

The original developer tried to make the mall into a high-priced, super luxury center that was built around Neiman Marcus, Wolstein said, but the demographics for the area are much broader than just luxury shoppers. “The demand for merchandise went beyond the initial Prada, Gucci and Armani level,” he said. “Neiman Marcus can serve that customer, and it does very well. Dillard’s, Macy’s, Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel and Apple all do extremely well.” Those tenants are all sought after by shopping center landlords, he said, and “we’re very happy to have that base in the mall. The hard work is done. “We’re going to re-energize it into the mall it could be and should be,” he said.

The Shops at Willow Bend opened in 2001, a month before 9-11 and the U.S. recession that followed. It already had plenty of competition in the neighborhood. Frisco’s Stonebriar Centre had opened a year earlier just a few miles up the tollway, and Preston and Park in Plano was already a major shopping district. Stonebriar added more than 100,000 square feet of space in 2014 when it got rid of its ice rink. That made room for an expansion of Forever 21 and allowed it to add H&M, James Avery, Perry’s Steakhouse and most recently a Microsoft store.

“As you can see, Stonebriar Centre continues to be the hub of North Texas retail, “ said Randy Barnett, Stonebriar’s general manager. “With 165 stores and the exciting development within a 5-mile radius of the center, Stonebriar Centre is moving forward with record-breaking sales per square foot and a near 100 percent occupancy level.”

Starwood declined to provide an occupancy rate for the Shops at Willow Bend, but general manager Justin Roche said several spaces are being filled with temporary stores for the holiday season. The Shops at Willow Bend has 125 stores and is anchored by Neiman Marcus, Dillard’s and Macy’s. Saks Fifth Avenue came later, then closed in 2010. Lord & Taylor left the market and was leveled to make way for Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware as Taubman tried to give the mall a boost as a furniture destination for new households in the region. Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams and Z Gallerie also opened in Willow Bend.

Taubman later tried to turn Willow Bend’s Saks Fifth Avenue space into new restaurants, but those plans never got off the ground. Willow Bend was one of seven shopping centers Taubman sold in 2014 for $1.4 billion. At the time, Taubman said the centers lagged the performance of the company’s other properties. The growth in Collin County is still attracting new developments.

More competition is coming from the $2 billion Legacy West project north of Willow Bend. The project being built on 250 acres next to J.C. Penney’s headquarters will house the corporate campuses of both Toyota and Liberty Mutual Insurance. Legacy West also has 280,000 square feet of retail and a 300-room Renaissance Hotel. Just west of Legacy West in The Colony is Nebraska Furniture Mart’s Grandscape. That $1.5 billion project is opening in stages with plans for hotels, offices and more retail and restaurants.

Initially, Wolstein said, the residential area between Willow Bend and Stonebriar wasn’t as developed and filled in as it is now. The increase in population density means the Collin County trade area is no longer a one-store market for retail and restaurant chains. “It used to be either/or, but now with the growth there are opportunities for retailers to be in both malls, and that gives us a stronger roster of tenants to chose from,” Wolstein said.

Theater operator wants $5 million to build 700-seat multiplex in Victory Park

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

News broke in April that Victory Park would be getting a movie theater as part of a makeover intended to get people to go to Victory Park when nothing’s happening at the American Airlines Center. This morning, the Dallas City Council’s Economic Development Committee got a closer look at the movie theater plan – including how much city money the Mexican firm Cinépolis wants from City Hall to build the luxury cineplex.

The short answer: $5 million for a $22 million project that Cinépolis officials say will be a 44,000-square-foot, 700-seat theater with a 125-space parking garage. The theater would open on in March 2018 on what’s now a surface parking lot between High Market Street and Museum Way.  By that time, it won’t be the only downtown movie theater: The Alamo Drafthouse in the Cedars is expected to open some time in 2016.

Concrete plant next to Trinity Groves finds new home, paving the way for long-rumored hotel

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

CaptureIn February 2012, when the land just west of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge was little more than a collection of vacant warehouses awaiting eateries and breweries and the promise of people, the money men behind Trinity Groves insisted the 7-acre concrete plant welcoming drivers to West Dallas wouldn’t be there forever.

Now, that promise is one vote away from being fulfilled. The city’s economic development committee unanimously agreed this morning to devote $2.5 million in city grant funds to alter a rail line so the plant can be moved three miles west to the Lone Star Industrial Park at 2900 W. Commerce St. A full council vote is expected next week. Three years ago, West Dallas Investments’ Stuart Fitts pointed to the Argos ready-mix concrete plant 600 feet from the bridge and said that one day it would be replaced with a hotel. The concrete plant just needed a new home – and money to help with the move.