Housing projects promising big homes

Posted Monday, Apr. 07, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
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In what officials called strong evidence of the city’s rebound from the Great Recession, developers are bringing two major residential projects with about 2,100 mostly upscale homes to southern Mansfield.

The City Council last month signed off on a site plan for the 140-acre initial phases of the South Pointe development, which will include 442 homes, four parks and a well-treed boulevard that will provide a needed east-west connection between Texas 360 and U.S. 287.

Groundbreaking is expected in late summer on the project, which is part of an 870-acre long-range plan that could extend the development south to the intersection of the two highways.

Also in March, the council tentatively approved rezoning for 555 acres of the M3 Ranch, a planned 821-acre spread of about 1,700 homes, 40 acres of commercial businesses and 25 acres of apartments, mostly between FM 917 and South Main Street.

Both development properties are mostly in Johnson County, in far south and southwest Mansfield.

Mayor David Cook said the two project sites – which ultimately would total nearly 1,700 acres – collectively would be the largest development the council has ever approved at one time.

“I think this is an example of two quality developers recognizing there are great opportunities in the real estate market to be had in Mansfield,” Cook said.

The M3 Ranch developers – Bobby McCaslin, his son Bob McCaslin Jr. and daughter Kim McCaslin-Schlieker – and the South Pointe developer, North Rock Real Estate, are promising high-value homes that will attract plenty of buyers.

McCaslin Jr. said the plan details aren’t finished but estimated M3 homes would range in size from 2,000 to 6,000 square feet and in price from $275,000 to $800,000.

David Branch, North Rock’s land development director, said South Pointe homes would range from about 2,000 to 5,000 square feet and cost from the mid-$200,000s to $500,000. He said the first phases would take at least five or six years to build out with homes.

The prices for the lower-end homes in both developments is just below the average cost of a newly built home in Mansfield, about $300,000, which has increased by more than 50 percent in the past 10 years.

City Planning Director Felix Wong said 200 to 230 homes are built annually in Mansfield.

“And I think the trend has been toward larger homes that are closer to 3,000-plus square feet, and those homes require larger lots,” he said.

M3 Ranch is the amalgam of nine separate ranches that the McCaslins started buying in 1997, McCaslin Jr. said. Twice, rezoning requests for their proposed development of the property were rejected by the City Council. After each defeat, they reworked their plan, adding more green space, more amenities and larger and pricier houses.

“I think we have a far superior plan than anything we brought in the past,” McCaslin Jr. said.

McCaslin-Schlieker said they have not yet decided on builders for the project. But she said Dodd Creative Group of Dallas, which did marketing and branding for the 2,300-acre Viridian master-planned community in North Arlington, has been hired to create a unique identity for M3 Ranch. She used the same firm for her own mixed-use development, Shoppes and Villas di Lucca, which opened at 1601 E. Debbie Lane in northeast Mansfield last year.

She said M3 Ranch will have a sophisticated western architecture – “cowboy cool or cowboy chic” -- and that the current plan calls for more than 200 acres of green space scored with bicycling and running paths, plus “multiple” amenity centers and “a couple of resort-type swimming pools.”

North Rock has agreements to bring in three prominent builders, Plantation Homes, David Weekley Homes and American Legend Homes, to build most of the homes, Branch said.

The South Pointe development zoning and site plan initially were approved by the council in 2006, Branch said. They were back at the council last month because the site plan had expired. The council asked for a few changes, including additional larger lots for more custom homes.

The council also approved $5 million from a special taxing district to help fund about $11.5 million worth of infrastructure for the initial phases of South Pointe.

The long-range South Pointe plans have several more phases, including a 100-acre section of commercial zoning where the planned boulevard – called Lone Star Parkway -- connects to U.S. 287 just west of the Phase 2 homes.

But Branch said the next phase will contain more housing. As for the commercial phase, “Obviously that’s driven by rooftops.”

Mansfield’s housing market has continued to strengthen, according to real estate officials and market indicators.

Longtime Mansfield real estate agent Dee Davey, citing statistics from the Arlington Board of Realtors, said Mansfield houses sold faster this March than in March 2013 – 56 days on the market vs. 66 days. Prices increased slightly, to $86 per square foot from $82, in the same March comparison.

Other evidence of a seller’s market includes a reduced inventory of homes – a 2.5-month supply of homes during the year ending March 31 of this year compared with a 3.9-month supply for same period last year. Davey said any less than a six-month supply indicates a seller’s market, but she doesn’t think the two new planned developments would overload the market with supply.

“I think we can handle it,” Davey said. “I think that over the years, this is going to be extremely beneficial to the city.”

Ted Wilson, principal of Residential Strategies of Dallas, a housing analyst, said cities often find a rise in quality housing when the cheap – or “legacy” – infill lots left over from the previous housing cycle finally sell off.

“Now we have newer developments coming in at market price as opposed to discounted legacy lot prices,” Wilson said. “I think Mansfield will be excited about the quality of the housing they’ll be getting from here on.”

City Manager Clayton Chandler said the addition of more than 2,000 jobs over the past five years has help fuel home buying.

Last year the city streamlined its zoning process to make it easier, not only for the city but for builders and developers. In the new ordinance, the zoning classifications now include all the landscaping, building materials, architectural design and other standards the city wants to ensure quality development.

That allows builders and developers to see those requirements early in the process, where they can decide whether they want to pursue zoning before spending time and money. If they want to seek rezoning and they can meet all the criteria, they are entitled to the the rezoning and don’t have go to the council.

“I think the ordinance is tough but fair,” McCaslin-Schlieker said. “It will hold builders to a higher standard of what they can build in Mansfield.”

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

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