New Fort Worth bridge opens access to last areas of old Edwards Ranch

Posted Friday, Apr. 26, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH -- This afternoon, when the barricades are moved away to open traffic on the Clearfork Main Street Bridge spanning the Trinity River between Hulen Street and Bryant Irvin Road, motorists will see a vast section of the legendary 165-year-old Edwards Ranch that was never before open to the public.

The four-lane, 550-foot-long bridge provides a much-needed east-west path to ease traffic on Hulen and Bryant Irvin. But it also provides entree to prime undeveloped ranchland that has been slated for commercial development for years. Until now, access to the property was available only by a private road from Vickery Boulevard that went across the Union Pacific rail yard.

Crawford Edwards, who runs Cassco Land Co., the family-owned business set up in 1954 to develop the ranch, is excited about the 270-acre Clearfork development opened up by the bridge, which will also have a pedestrian level suspended below vehicle lanes that won't be ready until June.

This morning, Cassco is hosting an invitation-only ribbon-cutting to mark the bridge's completion. The timing, he said, is "totally coincidental."

Eight years ago today, Cassco closed its deal to donate and sell 181 acres to the city for the Texas 121 tollway project, now the Chisholm Trail Parkway. The project of the North Texas Tollway Authority, the Texas Department of Transportation and Fort Worth, formerly known as the Southwest Parkway, will open sometime next year.As he said in 2006 when the family announced plans to develop the land, all the changes are bittersweet.

Over the decades, other portions of the Edwards Ranch have been sold to commercial users and developers for projects including Hulen Mall and Trinity Commons shopping centers, as well as the Tanglewood, Overton Park, Overton Crest and Overton Woods neighborhoods.

The Edwards family always knew that the highway would go through their land, and Cass O. Edwards II, Crawford Edwards' father, had promised he'd wait on some development until the road's path was settled.

As part of the deal, the city agreed to build the bridge and Edwards Ranch Road and Clearfork Main Street. All of that work began in 2007.

"We were patient," Edwards said. "Not as patient as we ended up being, but we were patient."

Said Paxton Motheral, a Cassco vice president, "The opening of the bridge allows us to finally get access to the property and tenants are finally ready to make those commitments to come to the property. What is significant about this is it finally opens up another east-west corridor between Hulen and Bryant Irvin. It will be a huge asset to the city and residents to get back and forth between the two roads."

The city has spent $23 million on infrastructure improvements on the Edwards Ranch, including $9.8 million for the bridge. Projections call for 20,000 cars a day to cross the bridge by 2025.

Clearfork Main Street bisects about 270 acres and is divided into four quadrants for development purposes. The first phase will involve the 50-acre section south of the railroad yard and north of Clearfork Main between Edwards Ranch Road and Bryant Irvin. Cassco has already sold 8.5 acres for construction of the Forest Park Medical Center, a $140 million hospital that will open in mid-2014.

Motheral said Clearfork will have up to 2 million square feet of office space, more than 1 million square feet for shops and restaurants, and 2,500 multifamily units.

In addition to other park and green space, a 10-acre tract on the bend of the river, an area full of century-old trees, has been set aside as an event area. College football game-watching parties and weddings have already been held there, Motheral said.

Cassco has partnered with Rosewood Property Co., owned by the Caroline Rose Hunt family, as an equity partner on the first phase, Motheral said.

Bill Flaherty, Rosewood's president, in a statement said the company shares many similarities with Cassco, which is why it chose to invest in this first phase of Clearfork's development.

"It is rare to have a greenfield site in an urban core, particularly one that has been carefully protected by six generations," Flaherty said.

Cassco and Rosewood have hired StreetLights Residential in Dallas, to plan, design and oversee the construction of 398 units, a mix of town homes and loft apartments to go adjacent to the hospital, Motheral said. Construction could begin in September, with the first units available by the end of 2014 and full build-out in 2015, he said.

Woodbine Development Corp. in Dallas, a real estate company of Ray Hunt, will oversee the retail developing and UCR Urban will handle leasing of the retail space, Cassco said. The Hunts are descendants of the legendary Dallas oilman H.L. Hunt.

"We consider all three of them extremely high-end developers and very picky on the projects they get involved with," Edwards said.

Cassco is known for its conservative and well-thought-out development plans, and developing Clearfork will be nothing but the same, Motheral said.

"Focusing on one piece of the property at a time creates a sense of place, rather than a hodge-podge land sale," he said.

How the market reacts in this first phase will influence how the remaining land is developed, Motheral said.

Since announcing development plans for the last 1,000 acres in 2006, Cassco has developed single-family home lots, brought in Acme Brick's headquarters and sold some smaller tracts to about a dozen companies.

The 320-acre residential development is called Riverhills. In 2007, 58 lots were delivered to home builders, yet about a dozen remain unbuilt.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727

Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST

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