NORTH RICHLAND HILLS -- Community leaders are looking to the new City Hall as the catalyst for a major development of stores, restaurants, lofts and entertainment venues in a section of the city that has had no large-scale development for years.The city is working with Tex Merv, the California-based owner of the former North Hills Mall site, to develop this vision along Boulevard 26 and Northeast Loop 820, City Manager Mark Hindman said.The development, to be created around the new City Hall, could be worth at least $500 million, said Deborah Gagliardi of Gagliardi Architectural and Engineering Services in Arlington, which represents Tex Merv."I think this is a tremendous opportunity for North Richland Hills, especially for the area inside the loop," Hindman said.Construction on the estimated $70 million City Hall complex is scheduled to begin by November 2013 on about 12 acres of the former mall site.The 80-acre property has remained vacant since the mall closed in 2004, unable to compete with North East Mall in Hurst and other nearby shopping centers. The buildings were demolished in 2007.When the complex opens in late 2015, it will bring together about 330 city workers now scattered at buildings throughout North Richland Hills, including the current City Hall, north of 820 near Holiday Lane.Those workers, who shop and eat lunch, could help revive area retail, and they will be bolstered by visitors to City Hall, officials said."Any municipal complex is a large driver of traffic, foot traffic and vehicle traffic," said Jimmy Perdue, city director of public safety.With the plan, North Richland Hills is taking a page from other communities. Colleyville, Keller and Southlake have put city halls in planned developments with the hope of spurring business growth.But the record is mixed. Southlake Town Square has become a nationwide model for successful planned developments, while the Village at Colleyville has struggled to spark business growth.Keller has been forced to subsidize the tax district where its Town Hall was built because new tax revenue fell millions of dollars short of projections.In North Richland Hills, businesses have come and gone along Boulevard 26 since the mall closed. But the North Hills site, while along major highway corridors, never attracted a developer.Last summer, city consultant Pros Consulting recommended a driving range-entertainment center, similar to TopGolf in Dallas and Allen. But TopGolf has indicated little interest in opening a venue in this city of 63,000. TopGolf officials did not respond to requests for comment.Meanwhile, the state's expansion of 820, which is encroaching into the parking lot of the current 71,000-square-foot City Hall complex, prompted the city to seek voter approval for a new municipal complex. And the North Hills site seemed to offer the chance to spur growth as well as provide a central, accessible location, officials said.In May, voters approved $48 million in bonds to help pay for the complex. The rest of the money is expected to come primarily from city gas leases and the sale of city property after City Hall is built. The 180,000-square-foot complex will house the Municipal Court, city offices, and the police and fire departments.Southlake officials opened Southlake Town Hall, which also houses the library, in 1999. The Department of Public Safety is also at Southlake Town Square, bringing a total of 150 city workers to the development.Tarrant County also has 15 employees at Southlake Town Hall. It was all part of the vision that Town Square should be a place where people shop, eat, live and conduct government business, city spokeswoman Pilar Schank said."There was an economic development component to it," she said. "I think the success of Town Square has spoken for itself."Keller created a tax district and borrowed about $33 million to pay for Town Hall, a natatorium, a lake and other improvements, projecting that the district would generate almost $30 million in tax revenue by 2010.But it brought in only about $18 million. City officials restructured the debt but had to take money from other funds for debt payments. Town Hall has 61 employees, but the district also has 88 police employees, five court employees and up to 200 workers at the natatorium, depending on the season.In Colleyville, the business portion of the planned Village at Colleyville development has not taken off over the past decade. Restaurants, an ice cream shop and clothing boutiques have opened.But vacant storefronts are visible, including at a business building across from City Hall. The City Hall-public library complex has only 50 employees, according to city figures.North Richland Hills will have more than six times that number, with room to add 100. Officials believe that with easy access to highways, hundreds of workers housed in one complex and visitors coming and going, businesses are bound to succeed.Staff writer Susan McFarland contributed to this report.