2,000 apartments planned for near-south and near-west Fort Worth

Fort Worth is about to see something it hasn't seen in quite some time: thousands of new apartments.

The buildings are planned for popular neighborhoods on the near-south and near-west sides. Some are already being built, while others are awaiting financial backing. But within the next 24 months, more than 2,000 new units could be ready for renters.

Developers say that young professionals, jaded by watching their parents' homes lose value during the recession, are flocking to rental properties. In addition, it's harder to qualify for mortgages, and multifamily projects are about the only commercial lending happening right now.

"It's the right time," said Jon Donahue, a principal with CDK Realty Advisors in Dallas, a commercial real estate investment firm that has partnered with the Dallas Police and Fire Pension System to build Parkside Apartments at So7. Construction has begun on the second phase of 229 units, next to Trinity Park off West Seventh Street. The first phase was finished last summer.

The apartments will average 900 to 1,000 square feet, with rents well above $1 per square foot. They're on track to be completed in mid-2013, Donahue said. Parkside is attracting young adults who want mobility as well as empty-nesters who want to travel, he said.

Also on the near-west side:

JaGee Properties is building a five-story structure with 217 apartments at Museum Place, at West Seventh Street and University Drive.

Nearly a year ago, Cypress Equities and Columbus Realty Partners started on a second apartment building with 96 lofts averaging 922 square feet at Currie and Crockett streets. Their first project, the 345-unit Lofts at West 7th, has been nearly 100 percent leased since it opened in 2009.

Dallas-based Lang Partners is building along Lancaster Avenue at Currie, Bledsoe and Norwood streets. Two buildings will total about 300 apartments.

On the near-south side, the apartment boom is bringing construction to an area that has mostly seen the redevelopment of older buildings. Three sizable projects and some smaller ones are planned, with developers citing the nearby hospital district's 30,000-plus employment as their main draw. The new developments total more than 1,000 apartments, which will more than double the area's inventory of about 675.

Developers are looking at the area because of its easy access to downtown and its new restaurants and bars that have caught on, said Paul Paine, president of Fort Worth South, a nonprofit advocacy group.

"We've worked hard to get to this point," Paine said. "Now it's starting to fall in line. This isn't so risky anymore, like it was five years ago."

First up will likely be the 170-unit Phoenix Apartments at Broadway and College avenues, being built by Eisner Development Corp. of Fort Worth, Ventures Development Group of Baton Rouge, La., and general contractor CEI of Tennessee.

Permits are ready and the developers are waiting for the final thumbs-up from the lender, which is expected soon, said developer Stephen Eisner.

The Phoenix will have four stories and studio, one- and two-bedroom units. It will have a clubhouse with a fitness center, a business center and a pool. Rents will be about $950 a month for the average 834-square-foot unit.

"People right now aren't looking for the long-term investment, they're looking for flexibility but they want a quality residential product," Paine said.

Seneca Investments and Townsite Co. are proposing the largest and most expensive project, a three-phase $70 million, 526-unit project at Pennsylvania and Main streets. The 10-acre project, to be called High Point on South Main, recently received a $5.3 million commitment from the area's tax increment financing district. The project will renovate the 1926 former Coca-Cola bottling plant and will have offices and stores. The first phase is planned to be under construction in the fourth quarter.

"This is significant, especially with the mix of use," said Phillip Poole, principal of Townsite Co. "You're bringing in employment that doesn't exist today. You're bringing in residential with the retail, and you're creating more desirable corridors for development."

Maxim Mint, a joint venture of Gary Perkins and Jay Matthiesen, is pursuing the 3-acre Quarles lumberyard site near Park Place and Eighth avenues, and negotiating with Berkeley Place residents to build a four-story, 262-unit project in two phases.

Some residents are concerned about the proposed building's height, but most are primarily worried about traffic.

Chris Brassard, local development consultant on the Park Place project, said the developers are making concessions and figuring out how to route most apartment traffic onto Eighth Avenue.

The $30 million project will have mostly one-bedroom units, with rent at about $1,200 for an average 800-square-foot apartment. It will have two pools, a business conference center, a fitness center and as much as 10,000 square feet for shops and restaurants.

Sandra Baker, 817-390-7727

Twitter: @SandraBakerFWST