Clearfork developer seeks $30 million in tax breaks from Fort Worth

02/11/2014 6:19 PM

02/11/2014 6:20 PM

The developers of the Clearfork project on the legendary Edwards Ranch in southwest Fort Worth have asked the City Council for a $30 million economic incentive package to be paid out over 15 years.

Clearfork Development Co., an entity of Cassco Development Co., said the incentive is needed to fill projected gaps in development costs, according to a presentation to the City Council on Tuesday. The incentive would be paid as a Chapter 380 grant from a percentage of real and personal property tax and a portion of the city’s 1-cent sales tax.

Clearfork is a 44-acre section of 270 acres of undeveloped ranchland owned by Cassco, the family-owned business set up in 1954 to develop the ranch. Over the decades, other parts of the Edwards Ranch have been sold to commercial users and developers for projects including Hulen Mall and the Trinity Commons shopping center, as well as the Tanglewood, Overton Park, Overton Crest and Overton Woods neighborhoods, and, more recently, Riverhills.

Nine years ago, Cassco donated and sold 181 acres to the city for the Texas 121 tollway project, now known as the Chisholm Trail Parkway. The project by the North Texas Tollway Authority, the Texas Department of Transportation and Fort Worth is scheduled to open in a few months. As part of the deal, the city agreed to build a bridge and Edwards Ranch Road and Clearfork Main Street. The bridge opened in May 2013, paving the way for development of the remaining untouched ranchland.

The city has spent $23 million on infrastructure improvements on the Edwards Ranch, including $9.8 million for the bridge.

The Clearfork land will be developed in three phases for about $300 million, according to the city report. The first phase will involve $180 million of investment for at least 300,000 square feet of office space and space for shops and restaurants, as well as 300,000 square feet for multifamily use, or 395 units.

In January, Clearfork Development announced plans for a four-story, 100,000-square-foot office building with retail on the first floor, to be built by 2015. Clearfork is just west of Edwards Ranch Road and north of Clearfork Main Street.

The developers have said the first project phase will include 475,000 square feet of retail space and 392 town homes, urban efficiencies, and lofts above shops and restaurants. When completed, Clearfork will have 2 million square feet of office space, 1 million square feet of retail space and about 2,500 multifamily residences.

Under the proposed incentive agreement, the second and third phases will each be required to have at least $60 million invested in building 200,000 square feet of retail, commercial, office or multifamily space.

Clearfork Development also agrees to spend 30 percent of hard construction costs with Fort Worth contractors, spend 25 percent of hard construction costs with Fort Worth minority- and women-owned businesses, spend $200,000 annually on supply and service contracts with Fort Worth companies, and spend $100,000 annually on supply and service contracts with Fort Worth minority- and women-owned companies.

Typically, when grant money is issued on a project involving housing, the city will ask that a certain number of units be rented at below-market rates as affordable workforce housing. In this case, the developer has asked that it instead be allowed to give $79,000 a year for the next 15 years — nearly $1.2 million —to the Fort Worth Housing Finance Corp. housing trust fund. The housing corporation works to develop affordable housing.

“This is going to be a beautiful development with much-needed high-end retail in that area,” Mayor Betsy Price said. Clearfork, she said, “will benefit the entire city.”

Councilman W.B. “Zim” Zimmerman, whose district includes the Edwards Ranch, said Clearfork will be the first of many developments to result from the Chisholm Trail Parkway, which will connect downtown Fort Worth to Cleburne.

“This is kind of the official kickoff of what we expect to see as the Chisholm Trail opens up,” Zimmerman said. “We will see a tremendous amount of growth as the result of this. This is the first one out of the chute. This is a tremendous benefit for the city.”

The council will vote on the request Tuesday.

The council is also scheduled to vote on a $12 million incentive package for Wal-Mart Stores, which plans to build roads and a Wal-Mart Supercenter at the future corner of Golden Triangle and Park Vista boulevards in far north Fort Worth.

The council received a report on the request Tuesday but did not discuss the project.

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