Home developer makes pitch for The Reserve

Posted Monday, Sep. 09, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The pastures that comprise most of The Reserve, a roughly 2,600-acre triangle billed as the city’s largest remaining development opportunity, could finally start seeing some action.

A developer that owns more than 850 acres in the southern tip of the triangle is proposing upscale homes on 320 acres, just short of a mile from the intersection of U.S. 287 and Texas 360. That area would be developed with more retail-commercial uses in a future phase.

The plans were met with praise as well as concerns when the developer, Illinois-based North Rock Real Estate, and Austin-based architect TGB Partners, laid out their renderings to the City Council at a work session last week.

Although the council liked the proposed architecture for the housing and design of a scenic South Pointe Parkway that would bisect the development, some members wanted fewer small-lot houses, more assurances of high home values and space created for custom homes.

“We’re not close,” City Councilman Cory Hoffman said after the meeting. He said the next step is for the development team to “work on feedback from the council” and come back with revised plans.

Another issue is tax support. The entire deal could hinge on funding from The Reserve’s tax increment reinvestment zone (TIRZ), a property-tax generating entity created for The Reserve in 2007 based on property value growth within that geographic area.

The TIRZ tax revenues can be used to build infrastructure that will encourage development within its boundaries, which roughly are U.S. 287, Texas 360 and East Broad Street. The developers said they need funding to build the new boulevard and its landscaped medians.

Development officials estimated the cost at $12 million. The city staff has estimated $9.3 million.

“We’re not asking for free money,” said Mark Meyer, TGB’s managing principal based at its Dallas office. “We need some help with it.”

The developer bought the acreage and submitted a similar plan in 2007, just before the start of the Great Recession. The plan was shelved.

“They didn’t break ground,” said City Planning Director Felix Wong. “Then 2008 came along, and the rest is history.”

Under the new plan, South Pointe Parkway would replace Lone Star Road -- a two-lane route broken into two sections -- with a gently curving, four-lane boulevard that would run from Texas 360 to just short of U.S. 287 in the initial phase. It would retain most of the trees along a small tributary that winds near the parkway, which along with landscaping would provide a green buffer between the road and houses.

The proposal includes 915 homes, ranging roughly from $190,000 to $350,000 or more, built on lots ranging from 50 to 75 feet in width at the front property line. The subdivisions would be laid out around five tracks that the Mansfield school district has purchased for building future schools. There would be four city parks and about eight small “pocket parks” bounded by a handful of homes.

Meyer said all the houses adjacent to parks would face the green spaces, not back up to them.

“We’re not intending to bare-bones this thing,” Meyer said, defending the lot sizes and estimates of home values to council members who wanted both to be larger. “We’re not wanting to be an entry-level product,” he added. “If you’re requiring certain architectural standards to be put in, we’re not afraid of them.”

Hoffman said he believes the housing market would support starting prices of $250,000. He also pushed for space to be created for a neighborhood of custom homes that would sell for more than $500,000.

“I hear from people all the time saying there’s not a place currently with an abundance of lots where you can build custom-made homes,” Hoffman said.

The average value of homes built in Mansfield last year was $303,000, said City Manager Clayton Chandler.

The debate is far different from the one in the late 1990s, when the City Council, determined to keep Mansfield from growing into a bedroom community, rezoned what was then called the Golden Triangle solely for commercial and industrial development.

Over time, the council changed members and its collective mind about allowing residential, agreeing with experts who said the territory was too big for one type of development. The triangle was rezoned in 2005 and since then the city has focused on high-end subdivisions and mixed-use developments that feature upscale apartment buildings with retail on the first floor, Wong said.

For more than a decade, the city has enjoyed a massive buildup of retail along U.S. 287 and along East Broad Street, near Methodist Mansfield Medical Center and Texas 360.

The retail growth has, in turn, stimulated more upmarket residential growth, said Dee Davey, a Remax real estate agent who has lived in Mansfield for 37 years.

“You can’t have one without the other,” Davey said. “But one has got to come before the other.”

Davey said it’s difficult to predict how long it would take to sell as many homes as would be in South Pointe, but she cited several of Mansfield’s most prominent subdivisions that were nearly dormant for several years, then blossomed.

“Right now, everybody wants to buy a house because of the low interest rates,” she said. “By the time those houses are built, we may be in a different market.”

In South Pointe, the neighborhoods would surround a large section currently reserved for mixed-use development. But the proponents and city officials agreed a major retail project probably shouldn’t be built a half mile east from two other large retail areas, about 110 acres, planned for the current Lone Star/U.S. 287 interchange.

"You’d be cannibalizing the 110 acres," Wong said after the meeting.

For now, the focus is on making sure quality homes are built on wider lots. Hoffman said widths of 65, 75 and 90 feet are closer to what the council wants.

“This is the last vast area of Mansfield that’s undeveloped,” Hoffman said. “For the future of Mansfield, we’ve got to get this right.”

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641 Twitter: @Kaddmann

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