Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

Developer sees Race Street property as “diamond in the rough”

Criterion Property Co.

Redevelopment is coming to another part of Fort Worth, this time on the east side.

Last Thursday, Criterion Property Co. swung a wrecking ball to remove a small two-story brick building along Race Street to make room for a 322,000-square-foot residential, office and retail development.

The River East will sit on 2.5 acres at 2900 Race St. and create an anchor for future redevelopment in the area, said Criterion’s president, Pretlow Riddick, calling the site a “diamond in the rough” at a groundbreaking ceremony. The project has been in the works for about four years since Criterion started buying up property.

Criterion, which has offices in Boston and Dallas, typically likes to do individual projects. But after researching Fort Worth, Riddick and his investors decided to do something bigger along Race Street. A year ago, Criterion broke ground on The Scenic at River East, a 276-unit town home development off Oakhurst Scenic Drive near the banks of the Trinity River. Residents have started moving in.

“We like to go to a flourishing neighborhood and find a really good site and we build a project,” Riddick said. “That’s not what we’ve undertaken in this neighborhood. When we started to do the research on Fort Worth, we were excited for the growth opportunities. There’s a lot of underutilized land and run-down buildings. We could see past that and saw land with topography and mature trees.”

The River East will have 181 apartments ranging in size from 600 square feet to 1,331 square feet. The development also will include 13,500 square feet set aside for live/work spaces for small businesses and artists. One 2,200-square-foot space has been set aside for a fitness center, Riddick said.

In addition, 4,400 square feet is earmarked for co-working space and 3,000 square feet for shops or restaurants. Residents should be able to move into the units in October 2018, the developer said.

In 2016, Criterion received a $1.3 million property tax abatement on The Scenic at River East project. Also last year, the City Council approved a tax abatement on the Race Street project as well as an Enhanced Community Facilities Agreement for $1 million in the Six Points Neighborhood Empowerment Zone for public improvements to Plumwood Street and other public connections through the project site.

Criterion also has received tax breaks from Tarrant County.

Councilwoman Ann Zadeh, whose district includes Race Street and the Six Points Urban Village centered around the Race Street commercial center located at Riverside and Belknap streets, said the project is a good example of a public-private partnership.

“It is an example of the types of things we have throughout our community that are a commitment in helping to revitalize our older neighborhoods and not to continue in a sprawling manner,” Zadeh said. “I am very fortunate to represent many of the urban villages. As a city, we were very forward-thinking having those plans in place to revitalize those corridors. Now that private partners are coming in and partnering with the city ... we are actually seeing some really positive things happening in these communities.”

Drew Kile, senior director at Institutional Property Advisors in Fort Worth, said the Race Street project will provide a great alternative for people who don’t want to live in more bustling areas of the city, such as the West Seventh Street corridor. It also provides much-needed residential units at affordable rents.

“People don’t realize how quickly Fort Worth is growing,” Kile said. “This is really a cool area.” Sandra Baker

Lidl eyes Mansfield

German discount grocer Lidl has proposed a 36,000-square-foot store on East Debbie Lane near Matlock Road that would be the fifth grocery store at that intersection.

The City Council recently had its first look at the Lidl store proposal, approving it unanimously on first reading. Council members wanted more details when the project returns for a second vote July 10.

Lidl would join Kroger, Walmart Neighborhood Market, Aldi and Sprouts at the busy East Debbie Lane and Matlock Road intersection.

Lidl is growing quickly throughout the United States with four openings planned in Virginia and North Carolina on July 13, CNBC reported. With the new openings, Lidl will have 14 locations in the United States with another 100 planned in the next year, according to CNBC. The store has 10,000 locations in 28 countries.

The Community of Hope United Methodist Church owned the land adjacent to its worship center where the grocery store would be built.

Lead pastor Jay Fraze said they originally planned a smaller strip center with multiple tenants, but changed plans when Lidl showed interest in the site.

“They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse,” Fraze said. “The company thinks there’s enough growth in the area so there will be plenty of market share.” Nicholas Sakelaris

Bell’s 525 back in air

Bell Helicopter’s 525 Relentless said Friday it received the OK from the Federal Aviation Administration to resume test flights.

The large commercial helicopter, designed to ferry up to 20 passengers such as oil and gas workers headed to offshore rigs, was grounded last July after a crash killed two test pilots.

Mitch Snyder, Bell’s president and CEO, said the company has worked with the National Transportation Safety Board and FAA since the accident and “we are confident in the resumption of flight test activity.”

Bell hopes to gain certification for the first fly-by-wire commercial helicopter next year.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko