The city will reimburse a developer $1 million for tearing down three aging apartment complexes near the University of Texas at Arlington to make way for more student housing.
The City Council voted 6-3 on Tuesday to approve economic development incentives for Dallas-based multifamily housing developer Maxum + Mint for its proposed Sapphire Inspired Living project. Construction for the $45 million high-density apartment complex, which is expected to house up to 760 UT Arlington students, is set to begin next month.
Once it is built, Sapphire will increase the taxable value of the 4.5-acre site by 10 times, Economic Development Manager Bruce Payne said. Besides reimbursing some of the demolition costs, the city agreed to waive up to $450,000 in development-related fees.
The 254-unit complex will be between Center and Mesquite streets and Mitchell and Hosack streets on the southeast edge of campus. Three apartment complexes and a vacant clinic have already been demolished for the new project, set to open in August 2015, developer Jay Matthiesen said Tuesday.
Though the incentives help, Matthiesen said, they are only “a drop in the bucket” to what has been spent redeveloping the site, which will also have a 700-plus space parking garage.
“In order to be competitive with the surrounding suburban markets like Frisco, McKinney and Grapevine, where there is ample land to just go move some cows and start building something, [Arlington] has been willing to help offset some of our extraordinary costs to get it back to that green pasture state where we can start from square one,” said Matthiesen, who declined to say how much was spent on demolition.
Councilwoman Lana Wolff, who represents east central Arlington, said she supports the city helping developers defray the cost of removing blighted structures in areas ripe for redevelopment.
“I just saw the drain on the city’s resources in that area — high, high crime and high code issues,” Wolff said of the low-income complexes that used to line Center and Mesquite streets. “I would drive by and there would be prostitutes standing there. I didn’t care what was going in. I drive by it now and I love it. It’s dirt. If nothing happens, we got rid of that drain.”
Wolff said she hopes the Sapphire project serves as “a pebble in the pond,” causing other redevelopment projects to spring up nearby.
Council members Charlie Parker, Kathryn Wilemon and Sheri Capehart voted against the economic development incentives.
Besides not supporting the complex because of its high density, Parker said, he believes that the developer will have no trouble making the project profitable quickly without the city’s financial support.
“They kicked the density up to 174 students per acre. Now they come to us with a different purpose, with density that is off the page and they want money … .” Parker said. “I’m not going to support that.”
Before Maxum + Mint took over the Sapphire project, Lev Investments had planned a 335-unit market-rate complex for the site that would have charged lease rates higher than elsewhere in the city.
The council supported the project and approved a first-of-its kind $2.15 million economic package for the developer. That deal was rescinded, however, after the developer was unable to secure financing and changed the project to student housing.