Almost a year to the day after breaking ground on a retail development in an underserved area of southeast Fort Worth, dozens of city and community leaders and nearby residents returned to the site Friday to learn that Walmart will build one of its larger stores there.
The 180,000-square-foot Walmart Supercenter will have a grocery and pharmacy, said Renaissance Square developers, who first thought they would attract a grocer less than half that size.
"As you can see, a lot of things have happened since we last met," said Robert Smith Jr., president of Lockard Development, based in Cedar Falls, Iowa, a partner in Renaissance Square with Midland-based Moriah Real Estate Co.
Walmart will begin construction as soon it finishes a due-diligence review, engineering and the purchase of 18 acres in Renaissance Square. The development is on the site of the former Masonic Home and School along U.S. 287, between Berry Street and Vaughn and Mitchell boulevards.
"By the end of 2012, early 2013, you will be able to actually shop in this community," Smith said.
Roads and other infrastructure work have been completed at the site. In 2009, the City Council approved up to $12 million in tax breaks for the project.
The 67-acre Renaissance Square will have about 425,000 square feet of stores and restaurants, which developers say will create hundreds of jobs. The center is expected to drive other economic development and growth on the city's southeast side, a predominantly African-American area that hasn't seen much commercial development in decades.
Smith said developers also have letters of intent from national retailers and anticipate making lease announcements in the coming weeks, now that Walmart has committed to the project. The shopping center will be adjacent to Mason Heights, a residential area planned for 100 acres south of the site.
Fort Worth developer Michael Mallick bought 200 acres in 2006 from the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas, two years after the Masons voted to close the Fort Worth campus, which opened in 1899. Mallick donated the core of historic buildings of the campus to ACH Child and Family Services. In 2007, Mallick sold the land to an investment group led by Fort Worth developer Happy Baggett. In 2009, Baggett sold 67 acres to Lockard, which had earlier joined the project as a development partner.
Baggett said Friday that he has been meeting with surrounding neighborhood associations for the past year and will soon file applications needed to rezone the property. Planned are single-family houses, town houses, an apartment complex, and senior living and medical facilities, he said.
The development will resemble other high-end neighborhoods of Fort Worth, Baggett said.
Councilwoman Kathleen Hicks, whose district includes Renaissance Square, said getting a grocery store for the district has been a priority. She called the Walmart announcement "a wonderful milestone."
"Today seems like a dream to me. I can't believe how far we've come in just a couple of years."
The project met delays in completing land purchases, obtaining zoning changes and getting work started on road improvements for access to the development from U.S. 287. A $1.5 million federal grant will pay for road work that will allow southbound traffic on U.S. 287 to reach the development from Berry or Vaughn.
Smith said the opening of the new exit from the highway will coincide with the Walmart opening.
Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727