There was a time not long ago when a two-bedroom apartment along Lamar Boulevard commanding up to $2,400 a month in rent would have sounded absurd.
But the first phase of Arlington Commons already has 48 tenants even as construction continues.
The 353-unit complex is scheduled to be completed by April, along with a linear park that will run down the middle of Lamar where there was once just a median.
“This is truly the first pure-market-rate Class A multifamily [housing] ever built in Arlington,” said Robert Kembel, president of Nehemiah Co., which is developing the property.
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Three more phases will be built over the next nine years, creating a complex with at least 1,400 units spread over 24 acres that sit less than 2 miles northwest of AT&T Stadium.
The new construction replaces three dilapidated low-income apartment complexes — Huntington Chase, Pointe of North Arlington and Countrywood — along Lamar between Rolling Hills Country Club and Lincoln Drive.
Arlington Commons will have no low-income housing, though one unit in each phase will be dedicated to staff at Mission Arlington.
When the previous apartments were razed, Kembel said there was space available in other north Arlington apartment complexes for the displaced tenants. Nehemiah helped move 115 tenants — roughly a third of the apartments’ combined population — to other apartments. The development company also worked with Mission Arlington to move some elderly tenants who were unable to move by themselves.
Kembel said they also didn’t pursue tenants who walked away still owing rent.
“There was absentee ownership and the apartments weren’t being maintained and there were a lot of police calls,” Kembel said. “It just wasn’t a good situation. All of the old apartments that you could have bought all of them for $30,000 or $40,000 a door — now you can’t buy anything under $85,000 in this whole region. When we tore this down, there was just a bump that happened.”
To help jump-start the project, the city provided nearly $10.5 million in incentives. The project received a a 30-year, 90 percent property tax abatement.
In return, Kembel pledged a project that would help revitalize this section of north Arlington. At the time they were demolished, the three complexes had a taxable value of about $10 million.
“We told the city we would create $200 million in value,” Kembel said. “In reality, I think we’ll create closer to $300 to $400 million in value.”
On a tour through a portion of the completed first phase, Kembel showed off a fitness center, a resort-style pool and models with gleaming counter tops and high ceilings.
From the wraparound balconies of the fourth-floor penthouses, which will rent for $3,000 a month, tenants will be able to see downtown Fort Worth, AT&T Stadium or Dallas/Fort Worth Airport depending on which way the units face.
The target audience is young professionals ages 25 to 36, but Nehemiah is also seeing empty-nesters, people moving in temporarily while they build a home elsewhere and those going through a life change.
While the rents may surprise some, Kembel said the location is a strong point.
“You can get to every employment center in the Metroplex within 30 minutes even with congestion,” Kembel said. “Not many cities can claim that.”
The linear park includes converting median along Lamar and reconfiguring the boulevard to three lanes from four.
City officials have said the linear park and the loss of one westbound lane will work as a traffic-calming measure.
“I think the linear park will serve as an area where people can get together or to read a book on one of the benches or walk their dog down Lamar to Whole Foods,” said Councilman Charlie Parker, whose north Arlington district includes the new complex.
“It is the perfect example of the need to redevelop — to remove the apartment complexes that were degraded and replace them with superior apartments,” Parker said. “It’s absolutely gorgeous.”