ARLINGTON -- A developer is seeking $2.15 million in incentives for a proposed five-story apartment complex near the University of Texas at Arlington that city officials hope will set a new standard for that type of project.The City Council is set to vote today on whether to enter into an economic development agreement with Lev Investments for the planned Sapphire project, a $41 million high-density apartment complex and parking garage.If constructed, the project would replace more than 100 aging apartment units in the area between Center and Mesquite streets and Mitchell and Hosack streets near downtown."It's an exponential increase in the value of the site," said Bruce Payne, Arlington's economic development manager.Lev Investments is seeking a grant that is the equivalent of 90 percent of the property taxes the company would expect to pay during the development's first five years. The remaining 10 percent of the taxes paid would be three times higher than what the city currently gets on the parcels, Payne said.After the deal expires, the city expects tax revenue to jump from about $9,000 to more than $200,000 annually, he said.The city has never approved a deal like this for an apartment complex, but the city doesn't have any multifamily housing that compares with the Sapphire project, Payne said.The projected average rental rate would be $1.50 per square foot. The average rate for apartments now is 80 cents per square foot, Payne said.That kind of rate could encourage other developers to tear down aging complexes elsewhere in the city, such as in the Lamar-Collins area in north Arlington, and build new multifamily housing, city officials said."It's a great project for the city. That lease rate will benchmark a new standard for the city which will allow other developers to aim at that mark," Payne said.Downtown boomDowntown Arlington has been undergoing a resurgence in recent years, largely influenced by UT Arlington.The crowning achievement is the $78 million College Park Center, a 7,000-seat arena that opened in February and will be home to volleyball, men and women's basketball, concerts, lectures, graduation ceremonies and other events, according to an economic impact study released by the university earlier this year.UT Arlington also recently completed the adjacent $82 million College Park residential and retail development, which includes a parking garage with 1,800 spaces. At least seven restaurants have opened near the campus in the past few years.Last year, the council also approved two four-story apartment complexes on West Abram Street designed to serve hundreds of students at the rapidly growing university.Not student housingLev Investments plans to tear down the Appleton Square Apartments and Center Court Apartments, both built in the 1960s, and the Center Oaks Apartments and a single-family home on the university's redeveloping eastern edge to make way for the 335-unit Sapphire complex.Under the proposed Chapter 380 agreement, the developer is seeking a $1,165,514 grant, the equivalent of 90 percent of the property taxes it would pay for the first five years. The developer is also asking Arlington for up to $650,000 for demolition and site-preparation costs and to waive up to $342,000 worth of construction-related fees.The apartments will be marketed toward university faculty and staff and other professionals, not college students.The project is expected to feature amenities such as a 5,200-square-foot clubhouse, rooftop patio, and outdoor fireplace and bicycle rentals. It also would include a 454-space parking garage."It's not student housing. It's intended for people who are out of school and are young professionals or people who want to downsize from a single-family home," Payne said. "We don't have product like this anywhere else in Arlington."If the council approves the deal, Lev Investments is expected to begin the project in early 2013.This includes material from Star-Telegram archives.Susan Schrock, 817-709-7578Twitter: @susanschrock
Arlington City Council
6:30 p.m. today at City Hall, 101 Abram St. To read the agenda, go online to arlingtontx.gov/citycouncil.